(Another Quick Note: Hi! Pip again here. Welcome to the second part of Paws Menu’s interview. As I said before, the interview was rather long, so I decided to split it into two easily digestible chunks. Enjoy, Pip).
How would you go about trying to pair a piece of music with a scene?
There’s two answers that come to mind. First of all, if I’m working with someone else, a developer or a director, almost always I’m writing from the baseline of inhabiting their world. The process is always informed by the theme, or the feel, or moment of inspiration for a specific project. It’s a wonderful thing to bring in someone else’s vision and mix it into the cauldron.
What’s fun about my personal pieces, is that, like with Pokisfiori, I started with the song, and then built a space around it. With all my music, solo records, there is always a narrative. I just go about telling a story with the music, with the art. So, I wanted to flip that round a bit, as music often comes in late in a project (not all, but some) I wanted to start with the music, and like making the album art for a record, I made a game for the songs. I wouldn’t really call it a game, but it definitely is software.
“I love the idea of software supporting the music.”
I think, in some way, I was inspired by buying CDs in the 90’s/early 2000s where, occasionally, when you would put your CD into your computer, the CD would have some kind of weird CD menu, or UI software that would boot, and give you wallpapers or little IM icons or whatever. Also, again, things like Brian Eno’s Bloom and Radiohead’s Polyfauna, Bjork’s Biophilia inspire me. I love the idea of software supporting the music.
I’m not so sure my work quite stands tall next to those examples, but it’s that kind of stuff that I love thinking about. Games as accompaniments, games don’t have to be… anything, really. There is no definition of a ‘game’ as we think about it, as a video game. I think, since we’ve grown up with the medium, the people who I like to talk to are always curious, and seeking new ways to interpret the medium. I think Grace Bruxner’s work is a good example of this kind of ‘new-game’ which is kind of like a poem, or short story, or a chose your own adventure book. Similar to the work of Pippin Barr whom I’ve been a fan of for a long time now. His work often directly engaged with the concept of what a game is, or what various elements of games mean when disambiguated.
“In a nook of my personal work, I’m trying to, with tweezers, pick that out of the concept of a game and present a moment of stillness wholesale.”
I also love writing for games, designing games, helping during other friends and colleagues processes. I genuinely love every aspect of game making but I suppose it’s every facet that I enjoy thinking about playing with, and taking from the games I love and expanding on various techniques or my interpretation of what I liked about a moment or a sequence in a game. At the moment, I’m interested in stillness. Games that, despite their genre, can make me stop what I’m doing and just take in a moment, or a scene. In a nook of my personal work, I’m trying to, with tweezers, pick that out of the concept of a game and present a moment of stillness wholesale.
The Pokisfiori installation is gorgeously stylised through the use of negative space. What led you to this style?
Hm… I’m sure there was something that sparked it, but at the moment it escapes me. I made the game, along with Utilier Canyon, for Slow Game Jam 2017. I was bouncing between the two a lot, when I would hit a foreseen roadblock in one, I would bounce to the other and go down an entirely different aesthetic vein. Gosh, that week (or so) was crazy. Pokisfiori as it stands now, was essentially built in about three days (over a weekend.)
Pokisfiori started with the music, that is to say, the record was complete and I was poised to release, but I wanted to use the songs as the starting point for that concept of “building a game around a song(s)” as an experiment. Pokisfiori was originally 10 different levels, the first of which was the only one that looked even a little bit like what the Pokisfiori Museum Installation looks like now. It was a big black space with a pink doorway that led into that very room with “Murph’s Tower” playing, then called “Murph’s Law.” The other levels were things like a giant chasm with knee high water with three ominous giant totem shrines that each emitted a song.
Another level was a coastal scene, where you could swim a bit, and enjoy the next song that was emitting out a crater in the cliff-face. There was a little house scene, where the sky was filled with multiples of the house scene, and the music was playing from a record player. Another was just a glass museum (as in four walls and a roof made of glass) filled with the same poem by one of my friends, the poet L. E. Groves. Ultimately though, since Pokisfiori is essentially my return to making 3D games, it felt a little hodge podge with all these different weird looking levels, and all through testing, I thought “I really like the way level one looks” so, I scrapped all the rest of the levels and expanded on the aesthetic of Murph’s Law and just repeated the motif of coloured rooms.
I really love the way the colours contrast, so, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I wanted the game to not feel so disjointed, but to have a kind of through line somehow, and individuality when hearing each song, so, the void became the shell and the colours (and the objects housed in the little colourful pocket universes) were the songs, like little oysters.
How effective are digital museums in comparison to a physical museum — what is the need for them and how good are they at meeting this need?
I love the idea of expressing a space that, for all intents and purposes, are not intuitively possible for an analog for a museum in real life. I can only speak from my own experience, and choosing for Pokisfiori to be a ‘Museum Installation’ was a great exercise in what an installation would be. I don’t want to project that Pokisfiori was a ‘museum’ despite it’s name, but the form informed the function. A collection of spaces with a kind of hub space, does not a museum make. But in the realm of games, there was a clear harmony between installations in galleries to what I was doing in Pokisfiori.
“I wanted to bring the installation artist into the virtual space.”
There is a wonderful thing that happens when an artist is given an installation space in a gallery, in real life. My default referral is in the work of John Wynn (which I was fortunate enough to experience his ‘Untitled’ work at the Saatchi Gallery in London in 2010. I was very focussed on music, and narrative at that time, and walking in to his room with a tower of speakers, and an array of scattered sound sources emitting various harmonies and frequencies affected me greatly. I think, in some way, I wanted to replicate and facilitate this kind of moment within the virtual space.
To address your question more directly, ‘what is the need for them in the digital space’ is a question you could, perhaps, ask John Wynn. I believe that that kind of thinking to inhabit a physical space, in the name of art or expression, should and could (and should!) be valid to explore in the digital space.
In fact, it was the desire to recreate a king of ‘John Wynn’ space that was the very seed of the ideas of Pokisfiori as it stands today. I loved the use of space and sound, and despite the wonderful and beautiful space Wynn explored, this idea should (and could!) be explored in as simple a space as a default unity scene without much previous knowledge on how everything works in the engine.
In what we’re circling, I wanted to bring the installation artist into the virtual space. Ultimately not a novel idea, but I, personally, wanted to do something similar to what I enjoy in physical galleries. That kind of subversion of space, and sensations. As an artist, these spaces were always the most interesting to me, and to explore these ideas in a virtual space, in the first person, is an interesting analog to the kind of experience that we are presented with in our own FPS of reality.
Can you describe the standing simulators you’ve released?
The standing simulators are pretty self explanatory. They’re standing simulators. Simple moments. Kind of prototypes of an exercise in meditation and counter-meditation. I made them… I’m not sure why, I just made them, they’re based of memories from real life or memories on dreams.
I made many more than what I shared, but I liked those the most at the time. Until the others organise themselves into a suitable package, the small collection seemed a nice exercise in meditation. Both making them and in spending some time there.
The whole making process of the standing simulators was similar to free-writing, but translated into game make. Free-Association-Game-Design/Level-Design/Art-Direction/Music-Composition/and also free writing too, as per the little descriptions that underpin the browser window.
Could you recommend a book, a game and a piece of music?
Book: The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
The Glass Bead Game is a very special tome of words. The very concept of the title within the book is just a marvellous exploration in the dissonance between spirituality and literature. No spoilers.
I would like to name drop some smaller games, Grace Bruxner’s Alien Caseno, Tom Kitchen’s Emporium, literally anything by Pippin Barr… But, I mean, Overwatch is doing something super interesting outside of it’s immaculate gameplay loop and ‘playable experience’ — as someone very interested in the narrative of the world of overwatch, there is a really interesting ‘actual lore’ element that both marries with and clashed with the individual ‘hypothesised lore’ which remain totally valid until Blizzard release some kind of official film or comic or something. There’s this wonderful ambiguity in what they’re doing with Overwatch, narratively, that allows for this beautiful garden of ambiguity to flower. I’m really into it.
Music: Maren Celest
Maren Celest is an artist and photographer I adore. I think she is just wonderful, her music and photography is otherworldly, while still waiving golden tethers into our reality. I love her work and I love her as this kind of abstract artist I have never met but can only assume exists and is not just a wild hallucination. Also, Waxahatchee’s American Weekend record is amazing. Eno’s ambient series, Radiohead, the sounds of birds after a heavy rainfall during the day (and also the rainfall) I’m a musician, it’s cruel to ask me to pick a single piece of music. How about Nine Inch Nails Ghosts 13–2. Yeah, that’s probably the shortest answer.
Paws Menu is a Musician, Game Maker and everything inbetween.
I’m Pip! Find me here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I’ve written, or if you have anything you’d like me to cover.