I’m thinking of calling it that. I’m thinking about calling it TRIANGLE/CIRCLE and VOL and MYRIAD and AUSTERITY too. I wonder about publishing it as ERLEND GREFSRUD or FLESKEPRESTEN or maybe just DOUBLE NEGATION.
You know, since I have the Tumblr and all. Sure, strongmangames.co.uk is also a Tumblr, but I can’t in good faith start updating that site like nothing happened.
Strongman is dead. A bit of me is dead too, or at least so stunted with disappointment and exhaustion that it’s lying very, very still in a coffin and some nice people came by and emitted moisture from fleshducts situated around their photoreceptors and then they threw substrate on the haphazard assemblage of dead organisms trapping that possibly-kinda-halfish-dead part in a nice, easily stored death unit. Individualism retained. Buraucratic fixation on bygones satisfied. Alone. Under soil. Marked.
So now I’m inventing names and wondering who I am. It was good to be Strongman. There was more to Strongman than me. That helps. Makes me feel useful and productive. I don’t care that much about Me. I care about my thoughts and ideas and shit, but the Me-me, the part that’s not my diminutive contribution to the extended phenotype, that part’s not so important.
Actually that part’s kinda annoying when it is not eating, sleeping, fucking or doing drugs. That part can be very effectively instrumentalized in the off-time between eating, sleeping, fucking and doing drugs, because I am very competitive on behalf of collectives.
See, if I’m being relied on, I am reliable. Hell, I’m more than reliable. I’m close up to self-sacrificing. I care a lot. And I can sell you.
Unfortunately, I can’t sell me. I can’t vouch for my own shit. If you sit there with your little thing, and you go “uh, uh, so I spent all my spare time for the last three years making this thing, and I hope it’s good although I’m so super-sick of it I can’t tell” then I am most likely going to stop you just after “making this thing” and I ask how much time that actually means, and often “it’s, uh, like three maybe four months total, could only work in weekends and I have a wife and two children” and BAAAAAAAANG there I go, I’m suddenly quite impressed with you and what you’ve done.
I’m probably gonna break you off and tell you what you’ve done well, and you will try to tell me what you actually tried to accomplish and I’ll be all “yeah yeah that’s what you think but you made it so what do you know” which is
PERFECTLY FUCKING TRUE DUDE
let me repeat that for emphasis
P*E*R*F*E*C*T*L*Y F*U*C*K*I*N*G T*R*U*E D*U*D*E
just so you know. How come? How do I even know this?!
Because if you’re anything like a majority of people, you have failed to bring your idea to life. Or more correctly, something in you (the You-you?) has prevented you from bringing your original idea to life, and has instead helpfully, maybe kinda surreptitiously, brought the idea that idea needed to be, into life.
Know the feeling? You’ve set out to make a thing, and suddenly that thing is long gone, chased off the map by long, spindly legs and something that sounds like it’s gnashing but looks like it should clacker and in your ideas place, a weird spiderweb of criss-crossing vertices forming a pattern emerging from you-know-where.
Yes. The spider shits nets. The web emerges from its arse. That’s why I consider “pulled out of my arse” to be a perfectly good way of describing my Art and my Craft and my Process. Because like that spider, I have exactly dick point shit idea where the web came from.
I was just doing something my ganglia told me to, and there was this nice feeling around my backside and now I’m chowing on some fly, regurgitating corrosive liquids into my first guest, dissolving it, storing it for later.
(ASIDE: You wonder if you can still eat that pizza you ordered yesterday and left out overnight? Look to the animal kingdom for your answers. The question can be rephrased more simply: DO YOU HAVE DIGNITY?!)
Your three or four months of heroically dodging familial duties have likely wound up into a rickety, half-arsed web. One of those things you poke down with a broom handle and wonder if you should switch dealer because that’s not what spider webs look like.
Well, that’s what it looks like to you. Where I’m from, all spiders shit crooked. But some of the spiders have the sense to, when someone points out they shat crooked, to cock their anterior tagma and mandible-morse-clack that the web isn’t crooked, it is an exploration of the crooked.
Faced with this, most critics will carefully weigh their options, factoring in the following:
- They likely have no idea how you shat your crooked web
- They cannot begin to comprehend why you shat your crooked web
- They are unlikely to ever have shat webs of their own, although they may have drawn the occasional gossamer threads across forest paths, to the chagrin of hiking arachnophobes everywhere
- They are in awe of your discipline, wherewithal and patience
- They are aware that arachnids like you are different from arachnids like them, as your web-knitting arsepparatus yields more impressive webs than theirs do
IN OTHER WORDS, they are insecure about their own arse.
That makes them unlikely to criticize your arse.
It also means your arse can woo them.
BUT YOU BREAK THE SPELL IF YOU SUGGEST THAT YOUR ARSE, TOO, IS DYSFUNCTIONAL AND THAT THE WEB WAS MERELY AN EXPRESSION OF COSMIC ORDER MANIFESTED FROM DEEP IN THE VERY VOLTAGE OF THE WEAK FIELDS BINDING THE CHEMICALS THAT RACISTS SAY DECIDE WHO YOU ARE.
Because when I see the thing you squeezed out, I see as much my own wonder at the existence of the thing. You don’t need to tell me anything.
Of course it isn’t what you set out to do. Only the most anally retentive manage to stick to a theme. Smart spiders, like you and me, we know that any old crooked web can become an AVANT-GARDE web if we just keep our mandibles together and let the insecure observer rationalize their own weakness into proof of your strength.
* * *
Now as I was saying, I can tell you this, but I can’t do it. I understand the theory perfectly. But when I make things, I can only think of how THOROUGHLY I have failed to bring the thing I imagined to life. I see only divergences, fixed ideas like mismatched cogs creaking on haphazard spindles. I can only see the thing I have failed to bring to life.
Nevermind that the thing was impossible in the first place. It could never be. Nothing is as pristine as the barely imagined. But you’re better than that, aren’t you? You know you can make the Thing You Thought one day.
And that’s why you’re an artist and not a salesman. That’s why I’m an artist and not a salesman.
So here I am, unable to settle upon a name.
I like Pangenitor/Panphage. It’s Greek. It is kinda related to Austerity, the reason I am making this fucking thing in the first place. Well, in my narrative, my version of things. I don’t think I would have made this thing if I hadn’t been unemployed for way too long. I don’t think I would have been unemployed this long if it wasn’t for austerity.
So you can thank the Tories when VOL, no MYRIAD, ejaculates its stark majesty unto your exposed corneas and you scratch your eyes without thinking and thank god you just clipped your nails although that still leaves you with a problem …
But I can’t sell it. Hell, I can’t work out what to call myself and I can’t work out what to call it. I can’t even work out what it is any longer. A very smart and pragmatic man recently told me that I need to pick a theme and stick to it.
At first I was uncomprehending. I have a theme. I have stuck to it. The theme is circles and triangles, and motion in and interpretation of a space composed only of circles, triangles and circles formed from triangles, all rendered in different complimentaries.
That’s pretty damn comprehensive, if you ask me. And it’s called PANGENITOR/PANPHAGE because you create and destroy everything, alpha/omega, ass/mouth. That’s Greek, and Greece is tumbling into fucking NAZIDOM because they invented Democracy and got too good at it.
Or it could be VOL which is French for flying (very Continental) and can also be represented by a TRIANGLE, CIRCLE, SQUARE! But then I took out the squares. And MYRIAD was the name of the prototype, which shares very little with the final product.
The problem is that the game should be named something like the Nike logo but with a pointy tip, bursting from a sphere. Or maybe it should simply have a chime, like the one Macs have played on boot since the year dot.
I’ve struggled with the theme for a long time. I started out knowing that I was going to make a purely systemic game with no narrative trappings whatsoever, and at one point I had decided to not use any words in the entire game. No words, no numbers, just symbols.
This would allow the player to interpret and enjoy the game without little old me standing next to them, pointing to the score system, saying “now, if you look at how these numbers rise in accordance with your actions, you will discover the optimal play style — and thus the meaning of the game!”
I struck a middle ground. I designed a completely unreadable font that sits somewhere between glyph and sigil, only talking to whoever pays particular attention. The score display and the announcement splashes lose meaning. They become less likely to be what the player reads.
Maybe they can even discourage the player from trying, and I will have my cake and eat it. The worst that can be levelled at me will be “but this is poor game design”, at which point I snort derisively and declare that it isn’t a design project. It is an artwork.
Anyhoo, I consider my increasingly baroque UI elements to be part of the language of games. They’re not really there to present numbers, they are there for emphasis, a token of appreciation. A ruffle of the hair. They are …
… like running through the woods, strobing light filtered through gently rustling canopy, blinding you from a new direction with each step you take …
… the discordant note, not ruining but merely emphasizing the harmonics, jolting your pattern-matcher then reassuring it …
… the straining of musculature rippling the athlete, that which grounds and anchors the performance, proof of effort, proof of humanity …
… and stuff like that. It’s like combo counters. I don’t watch them because holy cow 69! The number 69! No, I just like them because they’re pretty, bouncing around, intricate segues and swipes, from the elaborate, screen-filling ROUND 1 FIGHT to the stark naked twin towers of Metal Gear Solid’s faithful but useless inventory.
They do something. They remind me of something. They make me feel something.
So that’s why I’ve invested tons of time in them, from inventing a stupid way to animate them in full 3d rather than flat 2d, to designing and implementing a practically unreadable typeface (making fonts, like most things, is way easier than you think) because, well, as I say you’re not really meant to read them, hun.
* * *
Once upon a time I called The Thing by a different name: Sefira. You can see signs in the code. Its another theme. There’s Sefirot and Kelipot and a bunch of David’s descendants. The game’s structure was the Tree of Life. Malkut in the middle, each successive sefira named for a different king.
Then there is my liberal interpretation of Kelipot as the Left-Hand Path, the orderly/diminishing, authoritarian magic that measures and halves and yet can never reach the target. Kelipot is the negation of Sefirot, but that does not mean it is the Tree of Death. That’d just be gauche.
Sefirot isn’t just a structurally odd heaven/hell affair (although I don’t think it’s coincidence that there are 9 circles in hell, them Christian people have always been a bunch of fierce, vindictive fuckers), but a model of the human mind. I think it reveals a lot about religion and culture, and has shown me with what passion the devil fools with the best laid plans.
I wonder if Timothy Leary intentionally made his 8 Circuit Model of the Mind a mix of mandala and Sefirot, or if it just turned out that way. I wonder if Jung and Freud intended to sound like different intonations of the same ancestral knowledge, the shamanic Truths and wyrd deep-memories of history’s Survivors, rediscovered after Protestantism discovered Catholicism’s trick and started denying-denying-denying its followers, willing them to obliviate all that made them human in servitude of that god who’s also clearly just a caricature of a ruler, a person, the secret original bossman.
I like sacred geometry. Since computer games are mostly just geometry moving about according to arcane spells that, to the trained eye, will reveal to the initiated what appears to be the secrets of the cosmos.
I like geodesics. It’s sacred geometry too, but more cultish. A response to the square. Snap the square in two and you can build circles from them. He’s all up in the little things, the devil.
But clearly what I have made has nothing to do with Judaic mysticism and psychonauts or my quite impressive repulsion from poor, wicked Christianity. At least no more than what it has to do with, say, austerity.
Which is to say that I don’t know, these were the vibrations that tensed the ribbony tendons of my spider silk. It’s what I ate, and I’m sure some of it remains in the stuff I ass-ministered. How couldn’t it?
Maybe that’s my theme?
A game, and all the things that went into it?
How I wish I could sell myself.