Episode Date: October 2, 2019
Transcribed by: William Lett

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[Music]

Trevor Strunk: Welcome to No Cartridge Audio. My name is Trevor Strunk, Hegelbon on Twitter. I feel very out of practice, because it’s been a little while since I’ve recorded one of these, which is weird. But “a little while” I guess is like two weeks, so apologies for the one week delay between these. But I’m here, I’m really happy to have on the show Kevin Snow. Goes by the @bravemule on Twitter, and we have them here to talk to us about all sorts of stuff. Kevin, thank you so much for being here.

Kevin Snow: Absolutely. I’m really excited to be here.

Trevor: So you… the way we kind of became acquainted was via this quirky, interesting, underrated game called Pathologic 2, which is a reimagining, reinventing, remastering of the original sort of cult classic Pathologic. I want to touch on this, I just want to get to this early, cause I also want to talk about all of your other work sort of in the meat of the show. But you were sort of, you were the localizer on Pathologic 2. And you were telling me why you did it; I think people would be really interested in hearing why you decided to, to get involved in localizing since it’s not usually a job you take on.

Kevin: Yeah, I’m usually like a narrative designer and writer in games. But actually, part of the reason I became a writer and narrative designer is because the original Pathologic, which came out in 2005 or so. And it’s obviously this really weird, niche – especially at the time – open-world game which in the mid-2000s was pretty unusual. Like, you know, you had some games, but the vocabulary for them, like the game design vocabulary, wasn’t really established. So you had this like, obscure, Eastern European, Russian, open-world game that was super janky, super unpolished. Like, at the time, major parts of the script were like machine translated – which I loved – gave it like this really surreal quality. Like half the time you really couldn’t even parse what was going on in the story.

And it kind of gained traction after like, over a course of years, like Rock, Paper, Shotgun did this article series with Quintin Smith where he played through the game. And that was actually how I found out about it in like 2008 or 2009, I was, like, I think I was like 18 or 19. I was in community college and I checked out the game because the article series. And I ended up loving the game so much that in undergrad I started studying Russian and Russian literature and Russian history, because I was a history major. So I took like, as many courses as I could in that department. I didn’t end up minoring in it, but I think I had the sufficient credits to, but I ended up minoring in something else just because of, you know, undergrad shit.

Trevor: I mean, the good news is from what I hear [from] minors, I mean, I should know this more because I teach part time at a college… But minors don’t really… I guess they’re sort of just vanity things. It sounds like you’ve basically you’ve over overachieved beyond any sort of minor I’ve ever heard of. [Laughs] I mean, that’s really cool. I-

One of the things I was taken by the localization in Pathologic 2, which I paid a lot more attention to after we spoke, I was really impressed by the game initially. And then after I knew that, you localized it, I decided to pay a little more attention to that. And, you know, one of the things that has struck me so much about localization to begin with is how difficult it must be. How, like, absolutely hard it is to pair together things from… you know… over translation, and then make them such that you understand the initial enough that you can produce a quality of, you know, actual cultural transmission in the new version.

And I really was, like… I got the feeling people asked me about Pathologic 2, and I tweeted about it, they were like, “Oh, is it really Russian like Pathologic 1?” And I was like, yeah, no, totally. But it doesn’t feel Russian in the way that like, Oh, I can’t relate with this at all. It just makes no sense to me. [It] totally makes sense. So did you find that narrative design helped you understand localization a little bit better? Or, put a different way, did that skill set help you with what would seem to be a sort of different skill set there?

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. Especially because so much of the reason I started making games was because of the first Pathologic, which was… like I was fascinated by how broken the story in it was essentially. But it had like this really beautiful poetic quality to how broken it was. So when I started making games, I was thinking, actually, about the processes of cultural communication and translation and localization. Because one of the earliest games I actually made was called The Domovoi, which was this Twine game based off Russian folklore about this Soviet storyteller who’s telling this story to you, the player, about this old Russian folkloric character who- they’re kind of reinterpreting for the political moment. And they’re having difficulty, as they tell the story, trying to translate the story in a way.

So it was really interesting, because after I, like I kind of ended up going full circle when I ended up working on Pathologic because I was originally making games that were kind of inspired by my love of how strange the original game was. And then I had to reinterpret the story that I thought I understood. But actually I didn’t, because at the time, I didn’t know Russian. So I wasn’t really familiar with the Russian script. And then I had to learn to read Russian better for the localization. And I ended up understanding the story in a completely different way. So as kind of, like, comparing my old understanding to my new understanding and, like, tried to retain the mood and the emotions that I had when I played it for the first time but in a way that could be parsed better, I guess.

Trevor: Yeah, definitely. I guess, like, one of the things that- I remember one of the earliest moments where I was sort of thrown off by translation, or the concept of translation – I’ve never translated anything – but the concept of it was when I was in my undergrad, and I got my degree in English. And I remember getting there, doing my undergrad and being like, oh, you know- at some point or another I was like, Oh, you know, I’m fine reading anything in translation. Like, it’s just as good. I don’t really care, like I don’t see the reason to ever learn any languages and read them in the original. You know, just something like a dumb 20-year-old would say.

And someone pointed out to me, they were like, you know it’s… really, translation is essentially rewriting. Like, it is in many ways, like, a total reimagination. And I, you know, I never knew how much I actually believed that it was akin to rewriting or not, but the very- the idea kind of struck me and stuck with me, like. Did you feel like you were rewriting at times, which isn’t to say, like, did you go off the reservation? Or like, I’m trying to get you to tell on yourself, but like, did you… did you feel like you were sort of, like, authoring Pathologic 2 as much as you were translating it?

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. And before I kind of get into the nitty-gritty detail on the work that I did, I should also mention that I worked with [localization lead Alexandra Golubeva, or] “Alphyna” who did the raw translations of a lot of the script, but also with her own creative touch and her own voice. And I also had my collaborators – Laura Michet, Bruno Dias, and Cat Manning – who… I oversaw their work and edited all of it, but they also handled large parts of the script on their own. So it’s also just established like a really collaborative process.


Trevor: That’s wonderful.

Kevin: But yeah, like, in terms of “rewriting,” that’s a perfect way of putting it because, like, especially Ice-Pick Lodge, the developers of Pathologic, they expected that when- from our earliest conversations. Actually, my writing test for the game was the character Bad Grief. And so, yeah, the reason they sent me him was because his… in the Russian script, his dialogue is steeped in like, metaphor and wordplay that is all heavily based off language that is highly specific to the Russian language and Russian history. So…

Trevor: Wow. That’s challenging.

Kevin: Yeah, yeah. And it really is. Like, he was… that character took 10 times as long to localize as any other character, because nearly every line of dialogue he had had to be rewritten in a way where it retains the mood and the feeling of the original, and also the meaning in a lot of ways, but arrived there through different language, through different words, through different sentences, through different metaphors. Like, there was a six month period where every morning when I was taking a shower, I was just turning over Russian idioms in my head, trying to come up with some way that I could communicate the same concept in English. It’s rough.

Trevor: It reminds me of how people talk about translating [Jacques] Derrida where they say it’s just hell, because every single thing he’s saying, is or could be or may be a turn of phrase in French. Like he might be making a pun, or a joke or something. And it’s like, how do you- do I focus on making this work? Do I keep it out entirely? And I, I personally agree with your approach, not that I’d be able to replicate it, but the idea of like… rewrite so the puns land. Like, that’s… the character feels very, he feels very witty. He feels very much like a wry smile kind of guy and I think that would have been lost had it just been like, “well, these are Russian idioms, we’re not gonna be able to get anything out of them.”

Kevin: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s not what Ice-Pick Lodge wanted either. Like, they wanted to give the people working, like, the localization team kind of room to creatively interpret the script. And, you know, they had to pull us back sometimes and be like, “Okay, this line is a little bit too off base for the character.” Or maybe like, we need to have a conversation about what’s going on with the script. So they were really protective of their script, which is fantastic. It was, really, I feel like it’s the perfect way to handle that kind of localization, where it’s really in-house, but the localizers still have a lot of creative freedom to kind of do their own work.

Trevor: That’s really cool. So, you know, I want to get back to Pathologic 2 eventually, because I want to talk to you more about what you love in the game, and what you loved about Pathologic 1 and all that. But I guess I feel like I would be remiss not to take this moment to also shift to your work. So you talk about all the things that you did within rewriting and the ways that you were able to craft these characters and work collaboratively. And it really does sound like kind of a perfect gaming ecosystem where in like – or game design ecosystem where it’s like everyone’s kind of working together. And it feels like the skills you brought would really lend themselves to narrative design. So as I do with many of my guests, I don’t want to tell people what your CV is. I think it’d be better if you did. So what is your- what is the rest of your career as a narrative designer look like?

Kevin: Yeah, I started off writing Dwarf Fortress fanfiction for the Something Awful forums… [Laughs]

Trevor: I mean, I can’t blame you for that. That rocks.

Kevin: …In like 2010 or so when I first, like, I got out of the military and I started going to college for the first time. And on the Something Awful forums, I started posting this Let’s Play of Dwarf Fortress. And Dwarf Fortress, if any of your listeners don’t know is like this very-

Trevor: Oh, I hope they know. But please tell them.

Kevin: Yeah, I also hope they do. But it’s this very dense, kind of procedural storytelling game. From a single creator, Tarn Adams. And his brother Zach Adams, who also helps out with the game. I met them recently; they’re like super amazing and cool, and just like the sweetest people. But what I did was I played through a session of Dwarf Fortress, like a single run, cause the game always ends in failure and defeat and your fortress being destroyed by goblins or all of your dwarves getting into a civil war or whatever. It really lends itself to kind of, you know, authored stories. And I paired that-

Trevor: It seems like so I want to say it’s very much a- I’m starting to notice a theme between your favorite games.

Kevin: [Laughs.] Yeah, exactly.

Trevor: But go ahead, sorry.

Kevin: So I paired that with artwork from my friend [Princess?] Catalinas and a musician who… Thomas Ferkol, who was one of the musicians for Homestuck at the time. And so we released this Let’s Play on the Something Awful forums, like one update a month. Sometimes we got a little delayed, but it went on for like three years before we actually finished it.

Trevor: Man, that’s so good. That’s such a forums thing too. Like, I can’t even imagine that happening outside of… I know, YouTube has stuff like that and it happens, but it feels like the best-case scenario of the forums to have something like that.

Kevin: I know, like, and then that was so specific to the Something Awful Let’s Play forums too. And really that was what got me into Pathologic in the first place too. Like that Rock, Paper, Shotgun article series from Quintin Smith was really similar to a Let’s Play; it was essentially just a published one. But yeah… after we finished that, I decided instead of, like, making fanfiction for games, I just wanted to make games.

Trevor: [Laughs.] Fair enough. Yeah.

Kevin: So I started making Twine games. I learned some JavaScript and some CSS because I didn’t know any coding or anything like that at the time – I just kind of knew writing and kind of making things and organizing a project. Like, I felt really confident at the time cause I did this… what was basically kind of a webcomic or Let’s Play. Like I did this weird thing for three years and actually finished it. I wanna finish some other things. So I started making Twine games. I made a couple of those, they usually took about six or seven months to make. And I got really involved in the interactive fiction community through that.

Trevor: So what what kind of interactive fiction were you working with? Because I know that term kind of has become capacious in a way that I always mess up on. Like it could be a visual novel, it could be something entirely different, it could be experimental games, like… What kind of interactive fiction were you involved with?

Kevin: Yeah, it’s… it’s a really dense- it’s a dense term that refers to a lot of different, like, design traditions. So I got started around what people were referring to at the time as the “Twine Revolution,” which referred to a lot of experimental, introspective games with limited branching that you could play in five to 10 minutes in your web browser. Like howling dogs, Horse Master, my father’s long, long legs – games like that. And then I started to kind of get an end road to the parser community – like Emily Short, Andrew Plotkin, creators from that design tradition – because they were taking notice of what was going on in Twine. And because I was making Twine games, and they were noticing Twine, and I became really interested in the history of their works. Obviously, that particular interactive fiction community goes back to the 1980s. But especially has been very prolific and putting out really stunning work since like, the late 1990s or so.

Trevor: That’s interesting.

Kevin: So that was really fascinating to me, because I felt like, “Oh the Twine Revolution, you know, this brand new thing; everyone is, you know, doing all this new stuff.” And then I kind of realized around 2014 or 2015, that actually all this actually goes all the way back to the 1990s. It’s just I didn’t notice because you know, this is a really niche community.

Trevor: It’s always great when like, what is old is new again, and what is new is old again. Like that’s just a- I feel like that’s something that always has to happen when you’re getting into something, especially something like Twine or something like interactive fiction. Like, you just realize- you get really confident about the thing you’re doing, and then all of a sudden you’re like, “Well, actually, no. I guess this is this is something that someone has already done…” And then you have to become confident about something else.

Kevin: Yeah. And that’s… that’s, like, really exciting when you figure that out. It’s like, “Oh, okay, so people have, like, already been talking about these problems I’m running into for over a decade.” And even have some answers to some of them already. [Laughs] Which is really nice. 

Trevor: Yeah, yeah. What I like about your story too is… you know, there’s this sense of… the sense of, sort of discovery and collaboration that really is shot through all of your design work. And it- you know, it feels… I think Twine gets a bad reputation, or maybe not anymore, because it’s not as widely used as it was in the Twine Revolution. But I remember I talked to Warren[IsDead on Twitter] about my father’s long, long leg quite a while ago. And it was sort of the same thing where Twine games get a really like bad rep, because it’s just- the idea is, “Oh, they’re lazy,” or “They’re from people who can’t make video games. They’re not actually games. It’s just a story.” And on some level, the actual act of massive collaboration like you’re describing, wherein people have stuff that they can do and stuff that they can’t do, and they rely on each other to produce this massive thing that not one of them could do on their own; like, that makes it feel less like… and I mean, I love literature, I’ve dedicated most of my life to it. But it’s different than literature, it’s more than literature in a certain way.

Kevin: Yeah, like, it’s a design tradition. And that, like, there’s bodies of work that people respond to over time, and all these authors are responding to that and also things outside of themselves and adjacent to themselves. And yeah, also, Michael’s work is amazing. I love his… I always feel like I end up shouting him out on every podcast I’m on.

Trevor: I always end up calling him Warren instead of Michael…

Kevin: It’s cause of his Twitter tag… [Laughs]

Trevor: I know… it’s WarrenIsDead and I talk to him all the time. I don’t… it’s really- it’s one of those things where, like, inevitably it’s just one of those names where you’re like, “Oh, yeah, that’s the guy I know. It’s- that person has a handle. That’s this. And that’s their name.” That’s the internet for ya…

Kevin: Michael “Michael Warren” Lutz. That’s his official name.

Trevor: Yeah, that’s right, Michael “Warren” Lutz. Yeah. And I just- I just like to call him his nickname. That’s all. Um, but yeah, no, it’s… I guess the follow-up that I should ask is, Do you consider yourself a… Do you consider yourself a designer more than a writer? Or do you consider yourself like… That’s the wrong question. Do you consider yourself part of a design tradition or part of a literary tradition? Because I could see both being the case.

Kevin: I think at this point, I kind of see myself as being part of more of the design tradition. Just because in the past couple of years, that’s what a lot of my work is focused more towards. Just because it’s what I’ve been getting hired to do. So the balance of design-to-writing ends up leaning more towards design. Not in the case of Pathologic; in that case, the design was Ice-Pick Lodge, and I was purely handling localization and editing. Which is… the design was already in place there. So that was actually kind of nice in that regard, like having a quarter of a million word script that I didn’t have to think about any design problems on.

Trevor: [Laughs] Yeah, that must have been sort of, like, a refreshing change of pace,

Kevin: Right? Yeah.

Trevor: Can you talk about some of the other games you’ve made that- like some of the things that you’ve made in the past? Things that you are working on now? I know we’ve briefly discussed some of the stuff you’re working on now. And I definitely want you to plug away on that. Like, I want to hear all about, like, what you’re- what you’ve been up to?

Kevin: Yeah. So a couple things I worked on that’ve come out… I worked on Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, which I’m still really proud of. I think that was an excellent game and I worked with some amazing people on it. And actually, everyone I worked with on Pathologic were people that I worked with Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. We we worked so well together on that game that we decided to like… essentially, when I got the position with Ice-Pick Lodge, I was like, “Okay, I need collaborators. Who do I work well with?” And we had just finished Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. So it was kind of a perfect situation.

Trevor: That’s great.

Kevin: So other than that game, I’m working right now on Signs of the Sojourner, which is like a narrative deck-builder. And it’s actually currently on Indiegogo. But instead- essentially, it’s like a card game, kind of similar to a lot of card video games. But instead of battles, you’re actually having conversations with people and the card game is a metaphor for trying to build a relationship with them and connect with them in a conversation.

Trevor: Oh, wow. So in a lot of ways, it reminds me of- I mean, do you get any sort of comparisons there to things like Undertale or that sort of like Toby Fox-ish kind of stuff where, like, conversation and restraint, were introduced? Maybe something like OFF or something like that, where it really questions, your choices to battle?

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. Like it kind of makes you rethink about the mechanics that you’re familiar with. Like the tagline that we use is “Your deck is your character,” because the cards represent certain styles of communication. And it- it leads to really interesting narrative outcomes. So there’s Sojourner. There’s also BattleCakes, which is a game I’m working on with Volcano Bean, and I’m narrative designer and co-writer on that. And it’s kind of like this RPG where you play this group of cupcakes who are trying to save the world. And it’s like a game for kids so it’s completely different from all the horror and stuff that I work on.

Trevor: It sounds fun. I mean, do you have to do you have to watch yourself where, like, it seems to me… it seems like- this is what I was sort of, like, teasing earlier. But just to make it explicit for the listeners, it seems to me that most of the games you play and most of the games that inspire you are… are… these games that kind of have a lot to do with failure? Or like ultimate failure? … Difficulty? Is that fair to say?

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. Like 100 percent.

Trevor: I can say a lot about that with Pathologic 2 as well. Like, I think we can definitely talk about that. But first question: is it difficult to write a kids game without kind of just saying, “Okay, this game is about, like, how nothing is possible and like, where- you’re going to fail?” Like, that seems like a rough kids’ game. 

Kevin: Yeah. And it would be rough, and they have to to rein me in on that a lot. And I kind of have to like, it- Fortunately I’m growing up in a time where there’s a lot of kids’ media that deals with really difficult subjects, like Steven Universe and Adventure Time. So I can kind of draw on those more for inspiration where like, you know, it’s not hokey and insincere. It’s, like, stuff that’s actually meaningful – in a way that’s less horrifying than, you know, Pathologic or any of the other things that I work on. But yeah, it is difficult sometimes; it’s like a different mindset. I have to, like, it’s like a different brain that I have to tune into for sure.

Trevor: Well, so what is it about… What is it about difficulty that draws you?

Kevin: I think it’s… I just don’t want to, like, get into a box of doing the same thing over and over again. And I’m also curious about doing stuff that’s wildly different compared to what I’m used to, so that I can kind of learn from that and pull it back into what I decided I’d enjoy. I kind of think about how, like, the Mad Max director [George Miller] also worked on Happy Feet. Like, it’s that kind of discrepancy.

Trevor: Yeah, no, that’s totally makes sense. I think, like, the… you know, the question of… so let me put it this way. One of the things I really love about Pathologic 2 and, like, a lot of people were asking me about it when I tweeted about it – or saying like- because I thought it was like ultra well-received. And I was surprised to find out that people had mixed opinions, or people hadn’t heard of it. And it just surprised me. So I was just like, “Everyone should just go play this game.” And people were like, “Well is it like… people said, ‘It’s like, so hard, like, you die so often that it kind of waste your time.'”

And I was like, I just don’t think that’s true. Like, I think it being difficult’s kind of the point. Like, it’s fun to play something that’s hard, it’s fun to play something that puts you in a situation where. Yeah, like, this whole town is extremely screwed up and extremely not going to make it and you are not the hero to fix it necessarily, not without without a lot of work. And I don’t know, like, that, in some ways that feels cathartic? And I don’t know if that’s the same for you, but there’s something about it. That just feels good to me to think about. I just want to think about that a lot.

Kevin: Yeah, it does cathartic. And I feel like that’s the one thing that I’ve been obsessed with in my career of making games, is the idea of the story continuing past failure and engaging with what failure means and what failure feels like. But it’s also the hardest thing to communicate to people who play video games, because throughout the entire design tradition of video games, like, failure means some game over. Failure means you messed up. Failure means there’s a punishment and you have to correct it and continue. Because even in challenging games like Dark Souls and series like that, failure teaches you. Whereas in something like Pathologic, failure isn’t necessarily teaching you anything. It just wants you to fail and think about what it means to fail.

Trevor: Yeah. I mean, it’s like- it’s… It was something in my last playthrough, and I was kind of teasing… I wasn’t teasing this, but I suggested it when we were chatting before the show. I stopped it when we were originally gonna record. And we recorded a little later, which was great; cause what happened was, after I stopped my run of Pathologic I was really stressed out. Because… [Laughs] I had found out I was getting to a point where everyone hated me. And it was early in the game, and everyone still hated me, or will always hate me… I’m not sure; depends on what happens I guess. But I couldn’t get anywhere to sleep. And I was like, “I need to go to sleep, or else this exhaustion’s going to kill me.” But there’s no beds, and no one trusts me. So I can’t go to sleep. And I just caught myself thinking, like, “What if I couldn’t go to sleep in real life?”

Like, this is making me think about what it would be like to just be stuck in this position where I couldn’t sleep. And it was horrifying. And it’s like something that I would never think about. And having to think about it was… I don’t know, this is trite to say, but it was, like, it was a little bit surprising. Like it was eye- opening in a way.

Kevin: Right. Yeah. Like, I think what Ice-Pick Lodge was going for there is, like, this idea that it’s not just hunger and sleep aren’t just like these meters that you kind of balance as you walk through and experience the story. But they’re an actual experience that you have to engage with.

Trevor: Yeah, and that’s like, when people are like, “Oh, you know, it’s just, it seems so hard,” I understand why people are frustrated with difficult games. And I understand why that discourse exists. But also, I think, like, if you made it easier than those wouldn’t be an experience. And that’s just such a tricky thing to balance.

Kevin: I got kind of desperate after the game came out, because of the way reviews were coming- the way that reviews were discussing it. And I think I made this tweet thread where I was like, “Okay, it’s okay to die in Pathologic. Actually, you should die over and over again, because they’re specifically like… at least 10,000 words that I had to translate that you can only see if you’re failing.” Like, there’s… there’s so many-

Trevor: Please, please fail. So my job wasn’t a waste of time. 

Kevin: Exactly. Exactly. Like there’s so many instances in Pathologic where… it’s- There are many story arcs where failure actually leads to more interesting and fleshed out outcomes than, quote unquote, “succeeding” in them would. And I think that’s a large, like, there’s not a lot of games that do that. Like usually – you get a game over, or you die and you start over. You load your last save. Whereas in Pathologic, you can’t even do that. Like, if you try to load your last save, it knows that you did that and retains the consequences for it.

Trevor: Right. I think the other thing about it is, it’s very difficult to explain a game like that. And not in a way that makes it seem like it’s insulting you.

Kevin: Yeah. It’s hard not to sound like an asshole.

Trevor: Yeah, right. Like, it’s hard to make it seem like “Oh, no, no, the game like, does not think you’re a bad person for losing.” Or, like, the game isn’t saying like, “Oh, you are a terrible hero. You know, this town needed a better hero.” It’s like the game is trying to tell you that, like, there’s not a lot of situations you’re going to succeed in period in this world. You’re just gonna have to come to terms with that.

Kevin: Yeah. And I was trying to like… I felt like I… it’s, it’s difficult because I feel like the Russian fan community for Pathologic understands the game so much differently than the English audience did. So I ended up doing, like, a lot of tweet threads after the game came out where I was kind of like, trying to bridge that barrier I guess. And Mark, the… you know, in Pathologic when you die. He’s on the theater stage and he talks shit to you about the fact that he died. And I was trying to stress to the English-playing audience that the fact that Mark is scolding you doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, it just means Mark is an asshole who… Mark is a character who has his own priorities, which is his theater production not getting fucked up. Personally, I think Mark is a piece of shitand you should do whatever he can to just piss them off at every opportunity, even if they include dying over and over again.

Trevor: Yeah, I had- like, I’m very, very careful in games like Pathologic. And in Pathologic, for not like- I want to be careful to be like a nice person as often as I can to people I’m talking to. Which is not always going to work at Pathologic, but I was not at all worried about being a jerk to Mark.

Kevin: Right. And- 

Trevor: Mark is clearly just, like, full of himself. And he’s a typical villain.

Kevin: Right. And, you know, I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone’s feelings about life and who deserves life… But it’s very difficult to keep all the characters in Pathologic alive. But if you really think about it, how many of them deserve to live anyway? [Laughs] Like, it’s a lot less stressful when you consider, you know… I don’t want to name names, but some of those characters… They- like I don’t want to play favorites either because there’s always some segment of the community who really feel strongly about a particular character, but some of them… the world might be a better place, the town might be a better place if they kind of kicked the bucket.

Trevor: Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think like, and this was something that I remember from… And I bounced off of this game very hard. And it’s a super, you know, typical triple-A game. But I remember when I got back into gaming, one of the games- like I had a break in gaming between, I don’t know, mainly during college; I didn’t game very much. And the first game system I got that was, like, properly next-gen after the PS2 was an Xbox 360. And so I was behind in a bunch of games. And one of the games I bought was Dead Rising, because I was like, “Oh, everyone seems to love this game.”

Kevin: Oh yeah, I loved that game.

Trevor: It’s a great game, like, it’s a super good game. And I bounced off of it so hard, because I was like, well, I can’t save everyone. Like, there’s someone dying, and I can’t get there because I’m just this one guy, and I can’t do it. There’re too many zombies, I’m not gonna be able to save this person at all. And I think about that all the time. Because it’s like, why should that be such a problem? Like, why should? [Laughs] Why should I want…? I wouldn’t like that in literature. I wouldn’t like it in a movie. Why does it have to be a power fantasy in a video game?

Kevin: Exactly. Yeah. And it’s… it’s tough in video games. Because when you talk about scope and everything, usually one of the first things that gets cut is, like, routes that most players won’t see. So if you haven’t route where a character dies, that I think players usually associate that with there being less narrative content. And as a narrative designer, that’s something I always stress on projects that involve a lot of this kind of, like, Last Express/ Majora’s Mask/even Dead Rising 1 kind of narrative approach to narrative design – where there’s multiple valid outcomes to narrative situations, that when the player does fail, there should be story threads that are unique for that certain path so that they don’t feel like they had an inferior experience for failing. And I feel like that’s something Pathologic in particular hones in on. That there are many routes where failing leads to more, essentially, “narrative content.”

Trevor: Yes, someone asked me to explain why, like, I didn’t mind failing in Pathologic, because I said, I was like, oh the game just opens it up for you to fail. Like it doesn’t need to punish you necessarily, in the way that like, punishment usually means in video games. And they’re like, Well why? And I was like, well, just because that’s just what’s going to happen in this town. Like you get there and it’s immediately doomed, even if you didn’t see the beginning part. Like it’s obvious that nothing good’s gonna happen here. And that opens things up to be like what’s the experience I’m going to have?

Kevin: Exactly.

Trevor: Which is not really what happens in video games too often.

Kevin: Yeah. And it’s tough, because that’s not the case in most video games, it’s really hard to explain to people that “No, no, this is the opposite of everything you’ve been taught about playing a video game.” And so it’s really easy to kind of go into this experience and die a lot and think, “Oh, I’m doing something wrong, I’m getting really frustrated,” and kind of bounce off the game before you can get a chance to get a glimpse at what it’s doing differently.

Trevor: So let me ask you… you know, one of the things we’ve talked a lot about in our conversation so far is failure. And this idea of difficulty and missing paths and all this stuff. How much of- How much of your gaming design is about recursion? Like, I don’t want to put it too much on the nose, but it seems like, especially coming from a Twine perspective, that inversion might be something that you care about. Or not “inversion,” excuse me. “Recursion,” recursion.

Kevin: Yeah, it absolutely is. Like, it’s… I feel like those are always the games that affected me the most. Like, besides Pathologic, I also reference Majora’s Mask, which is my favorite Zelda game purely from a narrative side perspective, but also the stories in that are incredible. But there’s another game I’ve been working on for a couple of yours called Southern Monsters, and it comes out early next year. I Kickstarted it in early 2017, soo it’s been a pretty long development cycle. But it’s an autobiographical game, made in Unity with ink. And it’s, like, densely interactive fiction; like it has a 120,000 words script, it has hundreds of these gorgeous illustrations from Patrick [Bonaduce], it has an original soundtrack. I- like, we’ve been working on it for a really long time. But the basic story of it is that you play this- it’s autobiographical. You play a teenager in South Arkansas, who believes in cryptids and they specifically believe in a cryptid in their town called the Boggy Creek monster. And…

Trevor: Is that a real cryptid, or is that…?

Kevin: Yeah it’s a real cryptic. There’s like a bunch of amazing documentaries about it that were released in the late ’70s and the early ’80s, like The Legend of Boggy Creek. It’s a really cheesy… actually, not to get too off-track, but the movie-

Trevor: No, there’s no off-track here!

Kevin: [Laughs] Okay, cool cool. It’s a really good movie, you should watch it. It was actually an inspiration on The Blair Witch, because it was one of the first things that merged fiction [and] horror through a documentary lens. But anyway, yeah, it’s fascinating.

Trevor: I love that. And it’s not a cryptid that I’m like… I’m thinking, Oh, you know, I know Moth Man. And I know Bigfoot, obviously, or the Chupacabra. But I’ve never heard of Boggy Creek.

Kevin: Yeah, it’s it’s pretty much a regional Bigfoot variation. Like it’s a big hairy guy.

Trevor: That’s cool.

Kevin: So it’s not too fascinating from a design perspective. But- [Laughs]

Trevor: Listen, there’s nothing not interesting about a big hairy guy.

Kevin: It’s true. It’s true. I mean, that’s what we all aspire to in our lives anyway is, like-

Trevor: Yeah, that’s what I like to think of myself as.

Kevin: -wandering around the woods, and having people spread rumors about our existence. It’s all we want.

Trevor: It would be something… I mean… I wouldn’t mind…

Kevin: [Laughs] Yeah.

Trevor: Um, but yeah, no, it’s, it’s… It’s really cool. Like, the idea of a cryptid being part- being like the center point of an interactive novel is a really cool idea. Because, of course, marrying the idea of something horrifying, with a genre that does not encourage jump scares in video games is… I think something people are not doing enough of.

Kevin: Exactly. And in Southern Monsters, the premise of it is that you play this disabled teenager in South Arkansas who moderates a forum in the mid-2000s for people who believe in the paranormal. So kind of the way you’re interacting with the game is – it’s set across five days in this teenager’s life, and it has a very similar narrative design to Majora’s Mask and Pathologic in that you have a wide range of activities that you can take part in. Like you can do research on the monster, you can leave your house and try to find the monster at night, you can moderate the message board, you can talk to your friends, you can play with your cat, you can eat snacks like peanuts and coke and moon pies and pork rinds and all the other delicacies of the American South.

And the game has this responsive narrative design that tracks everything you’re doing and generates certain narrative threads in response to it. So you can completely fail at locating what the teenager believes is the monster. Like, you can go out into the swamp and get bitten by a snake. Then you can have a conversation with your hick cousin online about getting bitten by a snake and he’ll go out into the swamp and try to kill the snake for you. Like it- All this unfolds across five days. And yeah, there’s like this recursive element to it that… I don’t know, like that’s the most direct example I think of me merging autobiography and what interests me about narrative design and video games. But that kind of Groundhog[‘s] Day, repetition really fascinates me.

Trevor: I will definitely be trying to get you on the show to talk about that when that comes out. That’s very cool.

Kevin: Hell yeah.

Trevor: Um, yeah, I think what’s fascinating about that to me is that it focuses on the element of… one of the things that stresses me out about gaming. And I think it’s something that limits my enjoyment of gaming as well. I was kind of grappling with this when I was playing Bloodstained[: Ritual of the Night], the most recent Bloodstained. And like, that’s fine; like, it’s a decent enough game. I enjoy Metroidvanias, Castlevanias, whatever you want to call them. But it’s good. It’s well-designed, but there’s like a million little things you can do. You can become just like a hypercompletist with it.

And there’s something very unsatisfying with being a hypercompletist with that game, where like, at a certain point, I was like, “Oh, I’m just gonna kill this enemy until I get every single drop it has.” And I just ended up asking myself, why am I doing this? And it’s like, well, I don’t want to miss out on anything. And I think that… that impulse is something that’s really very, very prevalent in gaming, where you don’t want to miss out on anything. And that’s what was so so good to me about Pathologic and Majora’s Mask and games like that, is that they absolutely force you to miss out on something You have to miss out on something. You can always come back, the recursion is part of it. But, like, you’re not going to be able to do everything in one go.

Kevin: Exactly. And, like, it’s freeing in a way with, like- when you have that kind of design and you… it’s… Yeah, it’s kind of like a river with multiple forks. Like you can kind of split off into different streams, but the river just kind of keeps flowing onward. And it doesn’t stop suddenly, and you can’t really go backwards and do something else. You just kind of have to continue forward no matter what happens.

Trevor: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s fantastic… I wonder, can you tell us/me a little bit about what appeals to you in terms of that kind of… I don’t know… that urge to move forward. And that defeat? I mean, it’s such a complicated dialectic – if I can use the word that I’m sure no one wants me to use, but I’ll use it anyway. It’s such a complicated dialectic in thinking about like, you know, failure and not “forced progression,” cause that makes it sound like it’s a death march, but… “acquiescence and progress.” Sort of like moving forward, despite what’s happened to us in the past. I mean, how do you sort of imagine those two things working out with each other? Because there’s plenty of games which privilege failure – thinking about not just Dark Souls, but games like Mario Maker, right? Like, where games like- people design these levels, where you absolutely are going to fail most of the time.

Or even those sort of like 8-bit homages to difficulty, like You Have to Beat the Game [Note: You Have to Win the Game] or whatever. I think those are about difficulty and failure and have no sort of redemptive arc. And it’s hard I think, it’s a tricky thing to distinguish games like that, from games like Pathologic 2 or from Southern Monsters or from Majora’s Mask. How do you see… How do you sort of imagine these games (or your ideal game or… whatever, however you want answer the question) bringing this kind of brutal and crushing failure, but also then providing some sort of salve or redemption or however you wanna imagine it?

Kevin: I think games that are structured that way are the most narratively compelling, because it allows you to tell stories that mirror experiences that we encounter in our own lives. It’s a lot different from… Like, I think of something like Skyrim, which… I love Skyrim, but when- you know, when you get out of the cave and you have 200 quest markers, and you know all that is frozen, static, until you,The Hero, kind of go over there and engage in that story that’ll play out mostly the same other than a binary choice or two. But there’s like-

Trevor: Oh yeah, and you can do it all. I don’t have to pick whether I want to be in the Thieves Guild or the Mages Guild or the warriors guild or whatever – it doesn’t matter. I could just be in all of them.

Kevin: Yeah, you can be the head of all of them. And that’s different from even Morrowind, which is actually another game that I love; in fact, I love the design of that game a lot more than Skyrim, because it deliberately makes you draw decisions between those kinds of things. Like, there’s some overlap – you can be like the head of multiple guilds – but other ones they like- they’ll just, like, kick you out the door if you come in there. And you’re like in the Morag Tong or something. Yeah.

Trevor: Yeah. {Laughs] I mean, I always- I like that more too, because it feels… It’s hard because you have to give up the power fantasy, but it feels better to have things closed off to you narratively, because of course it feels wrong if you are the head of the Black Hand or whatever it is in… the assassins guild in Skyrim or in Oblivion or whatever. And you’ve killed how many dozens of people, and then you also are just, like, beloved in town. It’s like this feels strange. Like I’m pretty sure no one would like me at this point. I’m not sure I can keep up this charade. I’m not sure I’ve done anything to keep up the charade. So having choices? Yeah, I mean that’s… I like that answer because it helps me understand why I find the “Choices Matter” tag on the Steam forums- or the Steam store so upsetting, because it’s like, not all these choices actually matter. Choices just for the sake of choice, just for the sake of stakes in and of themselves, or like characters you miss out on or whatever are… kind of worthless.

Kevin: Yeah, there’s like a big difference between choice in aesthetic and choice as a way of exploring compelling narrative outcomes.

Trevor: Yeah, I totally agree. And I think what you said about recursion,and what you said about  having to go back and assess your- assess what you’ve done. And, you know, the fact that Pathologic 2, for instance, remembers your deaths and will refer back to them or impact your playthrough the next time because of them or- you know, you can’t get away from them. That inability to cheat the system, to cheese Pathologic 2, for for lack of a better word. Like, that is it… doesn’t make it more fun necessarily, but it makes it more compelling.

Kevin: Exactly, yeah. It’s also really hard to playtest. [Laughs] That is like one downside of this.

Trevor: I bet! How do you playtest a game like that?

Kevin: So there’s a couple of really cool things you can do. Like, I’m working on Signs of the Sojourner right now – which I mentioned a little bit earlier – and that game actually has a really similar narrative design to Southern Monsters and some other things I’ve worked on, in that it has five cycles that play out about- maybe over… probably about four to six hours of play time. But the game has really dense story arcs that kind of unfold in different ways and are mutually exclusive to each other, like, in the same way that everything we’ve been talking about. You can probably see a lot of common themes between the things that I work on at this point.

Trevor: Yeah, but I like- I really like the common themes because I’ve never thought about Twine games and difficult games in the same kind of… how to say this? In the same breath before. Like they haven’t, like, come into my mind in the same way. And I’ve never really realized that, like, emotionally difficult or, difficult decisions or even something like Pathologic 2 which is difficult mechanically and decision based; like there’s a lot of that in interactive fiction. I mean, that’s not far off. 

Kevin: Yeah. Because something that Twine games do, or did, or still do really well, is psychological interiority. And, like, the choices in those feel small stakes, but usually they’re also very deeply embedded with emotional and psychological material that’s really tough to grapple with. And I think even when you kind of, like, get to this design space where you’re working in a more traditional Bioware fashion with, like, narrative outcomes and dialogue options. Like that still remains relevant.

Trevor: Definitely. So let me- I did, I did tease- You know, I dunno why I keep saying tease; it’s like my word of the night. I did kind of ingratiate you into coming on this by telling you that it is a leftist podcast, which it certainly is. I hope that hasn’t- I hope it hasn’t seemed like a right wing podcast or anything?

Kevin: Nope. I wouldn’t be on.

Trevor: But I haven’t been as explicitly leftist- Okay. Good, good, good. But I do want to ask you, politically… this question about difficulty, right? is one of the things that gets the worst possible people talking. Which is to say not the people who are upset about difficult games or want an easier game. Those people are mostly fine. But, like, people who imagine that difficulty sliders or something like that are an affront to gaming as a tradition, or like an affront to sort of their passion or whatever, right? How do you, like- what is your thought on that? Like, what is your thought on difficulty sliders, all this conversation about it? Like, you know, the idea of people who are not True Gamers or- I don’t know exactly the word to say it with just to make it seem like I’m trying to make a parody of these people – which I guess in many ways, I am. Like, how do you approach this? I mean, a) as a designer, and then b) as someone with, you know, left-wing sympathies, “as a leftist,” however you want to imagine it?

Kevin: Yeah… it’s tough because it’s complicated. And I’m going to say, straight off that I’m going to try to avoid both sides-ing this. Because I do think people who get really passionate about not having difficulty options are basically being assholes a lot of the time, because difficulty is subjective. And something else that I also really care about as a disabled person, and particularly a disabled leftist, is that accessibility and inclusion are important. And since difficulty is subjective, that means that the point of difficulty sliders isn’t to rob yourself of an experience. It’s so that players can essentially curate their own experience for themselves based off their needs and their abilities.

And it’s tough to have that conversation because you do have assholes, but there’s also some arguments that… like, of course Celeste handled it really well. And I feel like of course, Pathologic handled it really well where it had these difficulties sliders, but attached to the difficulty sliders is this kind of statement of intent from the developers where they talk about why they designed the game to be a certain way. And then they kind of give you sliders trusting you to adjust them to arrive at that experience.

Trevor: That’s really interesting. I’ve never really thought about… cause, like, one of the things I’m really interested in in my literary work, which I mean… I should say was interested. It’s not like a field that has a lot of options for people – although it comes up my video game work too – like, this question of intention, right, is so so important to me. And I never really thought about statements of intent from developers being something that could produce an understanding of difficulty before. That’s really elucidating. I think it recalls to me going to a modern art museum and seeing something that you think or someone might say, “Yeah, my kid could do that.” Or, like, what’s the comment that people say when they go to modern art museums? They go walk into MoMA and say, “This looks like something someone threw up on a canvas,” or something. And then you read the intention, right? Like one of my favorite pieces ever that I’ve seen in the gallery is Hinoki by…

[Note: Trev spends some time trying to recall the artist; this has been trimmed. Sorry.] 

Kevin: It’s, “Hinoki You Can Look It Up.”

Trevor: It’s at the Art Institute of Chicago. I can actually- I found a link so I can put it even in notes.

But it’s by… I think it’s by Robert Evans. I think that’s who it’s by.

And basically, he found this massive tree on the side of the road when he was driving through. Oh, sorry, not Robert Evans. Charles Ray. It’s Charles Ray. And his- I’ll even, I’ll just read his story.

“Ten years ago, while driving up the central coast of California, I spotted a fallen tree in a meadow just off the highway. I was instantly drawn to it. It was not only a beautiful log, but to my eyes, it was perfectly embedded in the meadow where it had fallen decades earlier. Pressure from the weather, insects, ultraviolet radiation, and gravity were evident. Total collapse appeared to be no more than a handful of years away. I was inspired to make a sculpture and studied many other logs, but I realized that I was only interested in this [particular] one.”

And so basically what he did was he wanted to make an inflatable sculpture, he thought all sorts of stuff. And he carved the log from the inside, and working his way out, basically cut the tree apart, transported it back to his studio, made silicone molds of it, and reconstructed it with… made silicone molds, made a fiberglass version, sent that to Osaka, and had a woodworker carve it into reality using Japanese cypress.

Kevin: Holy shit.

Trevor: And then that’s what’s displayed- Yeah, it’s incredible. It’s just unbelievable. I’ll link it to you. I’ll definitely remember to link this in the… Yeah, if you’re ever in Chicago, it’s marvelous. It takes up an entire room and a gallery. And it just looks like this tree. And especially, if you don’t think about it too much, like, it seems like what did you even do? Like, this isn’t anything you did. But like immediately, you start thinking like, “Well actually, the whole point of this is to make me stop and think about what actually is the idea of reconstruction? What’s the idea of representation? You know, what does artistry mean? What does archiving mean? Can you say anything? Is this the same thing as the tree that was in the meadow? Is it something different?”

And once you start getting on that track, you start thinking, “Oh, actually my kid couldn’t do this.” Because my kid if he made- if she made like, you know, if my daughter made a piece that was exactly the same as a rock outside and said, “Dad, I made a rock,” that would be cool. But I don’t think she’d be able to express Charles Ray’s intentions there. Which is the same thing as saying, if my daughter made a really hard Mario Maker level, I doubt she could express the intentions of the people from Pathologic. So that is really, really helpful to me to understand like, this isn’t going to be for everyone, but there’s a reason for that.

Kevin: Exactly. And I think what makes the statement of intent so important, not in the situation that you’re describing and also when attached to these difficulty settings, is that there was also a train of thought after Pathologic came out from people who wanted difficult sliders who were not coming from the same position that I come from – and that I believe in accessibility and people subjectively defining their own experiences in response to someone’s intent. But their position was more that “I should never feel frustrated playing a game. I should never feel bad playing a game. The game should give me options to get rid of feeling bad and feeling frustrated.” And so that was also frustrating to hear. Because when I hear that, my immediate thought is “No, no, no. That’s not the point.” Like, the misery is valid. Like that’s a valid emotion for a game or work of art to inspire in someone. And it’s okay to- for an artist to like want to inflict that consensually upon someone who is engaging with their artwork.

Trevor: I agree. Yeah. 

Kevin: So it’s really so it’s really complicated, because ostensibly I completely agree, like, with difficulty sliders as an accessibility option. And also because difficulty is subjective. But not because I think that games shouldn’t explore difficult themes or be frustrating, or, like, I feel like that’s tied in with this, just this very commercial school of thought that comes with game design where it’s very player-friendly. Like, it’s kind of the Skyrim model of, like, nothing should ever conflict. You should be the head of everything. And, you know, should just be full Hannah Montana, just have, like, every perfect life. Like, it’s just not interesting. And it’s unfortunate to me when people who play games, argue against those kinds of creative risk and games trying to invoke those kinds of emotions in people.

Trevor: Yeah, no, I agree. And I think one of the things that troubles me about that too is- I mean, from a political standpoint, a lot of the works that have been most politically revelatory to me, have also been some of the ones that have been least pleasurable in reading. Which isn’t to say, I don’t find pleasure in them after the fact. But like… there’s a Jonathan Franzen essay that I should be upfront about in saying I don’t like. [Laughs] That’s kind of not- neither here nor there, I guess. But Frazen basically talks about one of my favorite authors, William Gaddis, and says that Gaddis’s work, Gaddis’s book, The Recognitions, which is brilliant, is a much better book than his other novel – so his sort of most well known novel J R. Because J R is experimental, and a reader would have a hard time reading it. And so The Recognitions is better because it gets you Gaddis, but most people are going to be able to understand it without having trouble.

And J R, is one of the most important political books to my political development, at least. It’s brilliant. It’s super smart. It tells everything you want to know about, like, the stock market and money and the irrationality of the two. And it couldn’t do that unless it was made the way it’s made. Like with it, you know, it’s all dialogue. That’s the sort of trick that’s the hook of J R. It’s, like, I think there’s like… maybe a page worth in a 700 page piece of like, “action words”; it’s mostly just dialogue and generally unmarked dialogue. So it’s sort of hard to read. But that’s the whole point. Right? And similar to you know, other artists, Kathy Acker is a good example or, you know, provocative artists, artists that don’t want you to enjoy their films or music. Artists that that are intentionally dull… like there’s, there’s… Negative feelings are important for understanding the negative elements of the world, I think. And sometimes, it’s not okay to just like feel sympathy, but you actually have to feel the feeling itself.

Kevin: Exactly. And also, I haven’t read that essay, but I find it completely believable that Franzen has another shitty take out in the world that I haven’t read yet.

Trevor: [Laughs] Don’t read it. It’s… that’s that’s exactly the approach I would say to take to it. And it is like, I only read it for my dissertation. And I was so irritated. I had to read it because I- my intro included stuff on J R. And I was like, I gotta do the Franzen thing. And it is like 30 pages and thick. And the the only takeaway is, “I really didn’t like this extremely important and great novel, because I just couldn’t get into it. I like the one that I could get into more.” Like this this just makes me want to die.

Kevin: I should know this, but what was your dissertation on?

Trevor: Oh, you don’t have to know that. My dissertation was on 20th-century American literature. Basically, I looked at… I looked at works that tried to do, tried to produce aesthetic autonomy or political progress, or both, and failed and then sort of, like, looked at how the failure got us a little closer, you know, ever, ever closer, ever sort of, like, inching towards kind of emancipatory, revelatory literature. Is the short version. But there was a chapter on video games. And that’s where that’s where this whole thing started.

Kevin: Damn, I need to read that.

Trevor: I can link it to you if you’d like. Yeah, it’s out there somewhere. Yeah, it’s free somewhere. I didn’t publish it. But,

Kevin: It sounds incredibly relevant to, you know, the designs of thought I like.

Trevor: Sure. Yeah. Love to- love to have you read it. And that goes for anyone listening. If you want to read my dissertation, at me on Twitter, email me. I’m happy to send it out. It’s not gonna it’s not gonna make me a ton of money anyway. So it’s- I mean, it makes me zero money. It’s better if people are reading it.

Well, Kevin, I don’t want to keep you much longer because we’ve been here an hour. And that’s usually all I like to inflict upon my guests with… Your work sounds so interesting and I can’t wait to play more of it. I never- this is… gonna sound like something I do all the time, but I’ve only ever done it once and maybe I should start doing it all the time. Can you give us a recommendation of one of your games to play? And then a recommendation of… one, like, a game that people should play in order to better understand your work. Excepting Pathologic and Pathologic 2 which is sort of, like, kind of gimmes at this point.

Kevin: Yeah. So I think people should play the very substantial demo for Signs of the Sojourner there’s currently out. And if they enjoy it, they should back the game on Indiegogo. Because if that does really well in its crowdfunding campaign it’ll actually be even more narratively ambitious when it comes out. So that’s like a great way of, like, seeing my work and also making my work better in the near future. So I really recommend that one. I recommend to understand my work would be howling dogs by Porpentine that was one of the games- first games I played that made me realize I had to play video games. That I had to make video games.

Trevor: That’s great. Okay, yeah. I’ve never played that. I’ve ever played howling dogs, but I will.

Kevin: It’s really short, it’s like 20 minutes or so. And it’s beautiful.

Trevor: I love short games. I should say that- I should say, like, I’m saying this while I am working my way through my first MMO ever so of course, like, that’s a very long game. [Laughs]

Kevin: Yeah.

Trevor: But the short games have always been my favorites. I absolutely love them. I love when people have something to say and just say it. That is… oh, it’s so satisfying. Cool, okay. I will check that out; everyone else should as well. I actually- you know, it’s funny. The person I often stream with, my friend Andrew, just- I just realized the reason- I thought the reason I recognized Signs of the Sojourner was because I got an email about it. And then I realized it was because Andrew had linked me to it and said I should get the devs on as a guest. So won’t he be surprised?

Kevin: Excellent.

Trevor: Yeah, but no, no. t looks great. And there’s a yes- a very substantial demo. I’ll be playing it. I will tell everyone what I think of it as well, but, you know, you should just get it because Kevin is a wonderful storyteller.

Kevin: Thank you. I’m blushing. You can’t see it. Because this is audio but I’m blushing.

Trevor: Well, I believe you. I believe you. You wouldn’t lie about that. Well, thanks so much. Please come back anytime. I’d love to talk to you more about all this stuff. Maybe I can… Maybe I can get you on to talk about Signs of the Sojourner with me after I play it. We could do that as, like, a little behind-the-paywall thing because I really want to hear your thoughts on a game that you have not just localized but made.

But it’s been a real pleasure and I hope that the popularity of Pathologic 2 catches up to… trying to find the best way to say this… I hope it catches up as the player base starts to get a little more mature and understanding of what video games can and should do.

Kevin: I hope so too. In the meantime, I’ll keep yelling about it.

Trevor: Me too. So you are on Twitter @bravemule. Where else can people find your work?

Kevin: Bravemule.com has a bunch of links to stuff and made, a lot of which you can actually play for free I mentioned Sojourner because it has a crowdfunding campaign going on, but I also have a bunch of free games on my itch[.io] page. So you know, check out the free games too.

Trevor: They’re free, but you can always pay a little bit of money for it, you can afford it.

Kevin: True.

Trevor: Just toss a few bucks in.

Kevin: And also, like, the ones that do cost money… If anyone has ever, like people email me sometimes and say they can’t afford it, and I just give them the code to it. And it’s, like, I enjoy that too. Like I always have a clause in anything I work on that if, like, unless I don’t own the rights to it, if anyone emails me and asks for it, I just give it to them.

Trevor: [Laughs] That’s really nice. That’s like, well, yeah. I can’t help but sympathize, I’ll say that much. Well, thanks so much. And yeah, I hope to have you back soon.

Kevin: Yeah, thanks so much. Take care.

[Music]

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