The face of ECHOPLEX shares his experiences in front of the camera, and behind the screen
Written by Cameron Moonsamy
25 year-old Aaron Teng lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. His artistic flair has seen him taking on a spectrum of creative projects, ranging from photography to graphic design. These days he specialises in user interface design, or ‘UXUI’.
Aaron is also the lead actor in the ECHOPLEX cut scenes.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Aaron, and finding out what it was like behind the scenes of ECHOPLEX.
How did you get involved with ECHOPLEX?
At one stage, Tyron [the game director] and I worked for the same company, where I used to be a graphic designer. One day Tyron told me about ECHOPLEX and said that he thought that I would be perfect as the main character, and he asked me if I’d be interested in playing the part.
Do you have any acting experience prior to ECHOPLEX?
Not exactly, but I have worked in the film industry as a sound designer, so I’m used to being on set and watching actors in front of cameras. That did make things a bit more comfortable for me.
Did you notice any major changes between the film process for ECHOPLEX and the film process that you’ve experienced in the past?
If anything, the biggest noticeable change was Tyron’s direction. His process of directing is very different from what I’ve seen whilst working in the film industry.
What was different about Tyron’s style of directing?
Tyron has this ability to really connect with you on a personal level from seemingly ordinary interactions.
He would pinpoint exactly how I needed to look or feel in a certain scene, and would tell me to think about a certain event from my past and to play that event in the back of my mind while I was acting. Once you have something in your thoughts, your body automatically reacts to that thought.
He has a deep understanding of people, and this really helped me with portraying the character.
Are you able to relate to the engineer character in some way?
For some of the scenes I had to look quite detached. Sometimes I have experiences like that in my own life, where I just stare off into the distance. It’s not so much that I’m sad, but that I’m thinking deeply about something, and as a result I just completely switch off from reality.
I believe that you have a few tattoos as well. How did that affect shooting?
Yeah, I’ve got two half-sleeves! There were a couple of scenes where I had to wear a tank top, and the tattoos didn’t exactly fit the ‘average guy’ character of the Clonochem engineer.
At one point, we had to bring in a makeup artist, and I felt really bad for her because it took ages to cover up my tattoos. I remember asking her, “Have you ever covered up tattoos of this size before?” and she replied, “Never in my life,” with a bit of panic in her voice, as we were due to shoot within the next few minutes. A big well done to her!
What was it like seeing yourself in the game that you were playing in its early stages?[Laughs] It was so weird! I’m not going to lie – the first time I saw myself in the game, I had a huge laugh. I was, like, “Aaron, you’re a movie star! You’re going to be famous now.” It’s definitely something that I had to get used to, because I never in my life thought that I’d be acting.
Outside of work, you’re a calisthenic athlete. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
The concept behind calisthenics is to train your body with your own body weight.
Fitness is a big part of my life, and I didn’t really enjoy the conventional way of gymming, so I thought, “What if I try something slightly different, like holding my body weight?”
One day I found one of Frank Medrano’s YouTube videos, and he was doing similar things to what I was doing, but at an extremely advanced level. Basically, I had been doing similar exercises, but I didn’t know that it was called ‘calisthenics’ at the time.
Are there any benefits to calisthenics over conventional gymming?
Most definitely! Because the focus is on body weight training, little to no equipment is required, which makes it easy for everyone to learn. It’s also great, for example, for people who are travelling and might not have access to gyms.
You were one of the few players who finished the ECHOPLEX demo at the rAge Expo back in October 2016. How much has the game changed since then?
Yeah, I was actually surprised that I managed to figure out all the levels in the allotted time. [Laughs] The game has changed a lot since then! Some cool new features have been added and I really enjoyed the progressive level design. You definitely notice how the puzzles become increasingly difficult as you play through the levels.
What are your tips for first-time ECHOPLEX players?
If you’ve just started playing the game, try not to overthink the levels. Explore the levels, go through the doors, take your time figuring out what you have to do in that specific level. Fortunately there’s no limit to the amount of lives that you have, so it’s not the end of the world if the Echo catches up to you.
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