Last week I attended the pre-launch party for the new Marvel Avengers Academy game for iOS and Android, released today. Developed by TinyCo the game concept is such: The well-known and beloved characters of the Marvel Universe are in college. They are learning about their powers for the first time and trying to get a grip on things. They’re dating, they’re taking selfies, all that stuff college kids are into but with superheroes.
The storyline was written by Allen Warner , and the voice talent boasts an impressive list of talent that includes Kiernan Shipka as Spider-Woman, Colton Haynes as Thor, Alexandra Daddario as Wasp, Priyanka Chopra as Ms. Marvel, Dave Franco as Iron Man, A$AP Rocky as Falcon, Bella Thorne as Tigra, Alison Brie as Black Widow, and John Cena as Hulk. As you play the game, you unlock more characters, unleash more of their powers, and watch them evolve into the amazing superheroes you know and love.
Here’s the truth: the last game I played was Chip’s Challenge and for the most part video games bring back painful memories of being left out by my older cousins who told me I was too young to play. I went to the Marvel event with optimism. I thought this could be my awakening to gaming culture. I decided to open my heart to Marvel Avengers Academy.
Upon arriving I found myself in a darkly lit cavern known as the Teragram Ballroom in Downtown L.A. Large screens depicting the game were along the right side wall. People were lining up for the chance to be the first few to experience the game. I spoke with Kiernan Shipka who says, “The concept itself is what persuaded me to do it. But the fact that it’s Marvel, it’s these character that we know, that we love, as young adults interacting, doing all this fun stuff. That makes me so happy and I thought it was the perfect opportunity.”
I felt a kindred spirit with Shipka when she admitted she wasn’t much of a gamer growing up, “This is more of an introduction to that whole world for me, which is exciting. It’s a very cool world. It never really came my way and here I am, 16-years-old, game awakening.”
As a young Spider-Woman, Shipka describes the college age superhero as “sassy, very likable, and she’s really, really cool. She can climb up walls and do all sorts of crazy things that I wish I could do and really, I love her.”
I played the game while two folks involved in its creation stood by my side whispering sweet nothings of explanations as to what I should be doing. I opened up to them about my past gaming experience and they told me that the previous skills I’ve acquired from years of Ski Free and Rodents Revenge would prove useful in not only Avengers Academy, but also life.
After playing the game I had to momentarily escape and respite from the overstimulation of the large screens, the pumping pop music, and the cosplay fashion show that was about to commence on stage. I went to the only place with good lighting, a bathroom stall, to read my book about the lies of the Bush administration during the aftermath of 9/11. After 20 minutes of hiding I was ready to re-emerge and talk to Colton Haynes and Alexandra Daddario about the game and their experience of voicing Thor and Wasp.
Haynes is honored to be part of the cast and says, “I got a random call offering me to be part of this Marvel game and I was like, ‘Why me?’ Oh because they think I’m 6’4” and look like Liam Hemsworth. That’s not why. But I got this offer and the cast is incredible. I was like, of course I have to be a part of this.”
Haynes says he’s historically a Pokémon Snap and Mortal Kombat II kind of gamer but found Avengers Academy to possess a compelling quality that’s imperative in addictive gaming. “Thor doesn’t actually get unlocked for 90 days, so the way that they all interact — they can date, they can wear costumes that have never been introduced into the universe before, and it’s really fun because I feel like it’s a very youthful take on this. They also are working with their superpowers for the first time. So I like that you get to draw your own conclusions.”
Daddario says, “It’s very interactive and very cool. You really get to play with a lot of different characters that a lot of fans are going to have fun playing with because they’re familiar to them. It’s just a familiar world, it’s the Avengers world, and these characters are growing up so you get to deal with all the social aspects of what it’s like to be in college but also fight these epic battles.”
Daddario then became nostalgic for games of yore, like RollerCoaster Tycoon. “RollerCoaster Tycoon is so great because it’s this long-term building game and you are obsessed with building up this amazing world and that’s why it’s so addictive. And that’s what this is, you’re building up this really amazing world with really familiar characters. You’re building an Avengers superhero world.”
The storyline is also an addictive quality of Avengers Academy, as Daddario explained. “It’s more compelling and you see more and more games being turned to films because the story in these games are so compelling and so interesting and the game-play is so different from what it use to be.”
Haynes adds, “You can do what you want, it’s your adventure.”
I told him that sounded a lot like Oregon Trail.
“Yes, you should say that,” he says. “Avengers Academy is like Oregon Trail, a modern-day Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail that you want to play, not made to play. You were made to play it but you secretly loved the game. And now we’re going to make you play it.”