Next up on the conveyor-belt of interviews that is our IGF Factor 2012 series, it’s the creator of GIRP. What does he have to say about the IGF, about the monsters from Doom, and about who the single most important game designer in the world is? Let’s find out.
RPS: Firstly, a brief introduction for those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?
Foddy: I’m Bennett Foddy. By day, I’m a philosopher at Oxford University, researching the ethics of new medical technologies and addictive drug use as well as, increasingly, videogames. By night, I make games for iOS and the web, most famously QWOP and GIRP. I got into writing games because I have an abiding love for games, and because it’s pretty easy to make them these days. I’m not exactly sure what an ‘indie game’ is, but the reason I don’t work at a big commercial studio like Ubisoft or EA is that it is a total nightmare death camp hell trip for everybody except the senior producers and directors. Everyone knows that!
RPS: Tell us about your game. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What would you change if you could?
Foddy: My game, GIRP, is a game where you haul yourself up a cliff face by holding keys on your keyboard corresponding to handholds on the cliff. I guess it has an origin in Crazy Climber, but really it was an idea that popped into my head in a cafe one day while my wife was talking and I was totally paying attention and listening to every word. The point of it as a design idea, and the successful thing about it, is that it makes an analogue of the virtual playing space (the cliff) out of the physical plane of your keyboard. And it makes a direct metaphor for holding the cliff out of holding your keyboard keys. I think most computer games have controls that are a lot more abstract than that.
RPS: What are your feelings on the IGF this year? Pleased to be nominated? Impressed by the other finalists? Anything you worry has been overlooked?
Foddy: I know there is a bit of controversy about the IGF nominees every year, but from my point of view there are a lot of amazing, genius games on the list this year, and it is a huge honour to be listed amongst them. Doug Wilson’s ‘Johann Sebastian Joust’ was the best game I played in 2011, easily blowing away every AAA game I played from every major studio. Wonderputt was made by a guy who’s been making amazing videogame visuals since the Amiga was still around. And English Country Tune is the first IGF-eligible game by Stephen Lavelle, who is probably the single most important videogame designer in the world right now.
RPS: Which game (other than your own) would you like to see take the Grand Prize this year?
Foddy: I haven’t played Fez or Dear Esther, but I can say that each of the other three games in that category would be a worthy Grand Prize winner. Like I said, though, for me it was clearly Joust. It’s infinitely deep, it’s optimally accessible, it’s original, it’s prosocial, and it will advance the form. Oh, and it’s probably the best fun I had all year.
RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene of late? What would you like to see from it in the near-future?
Foddy: I’ve often said we are enjoying a second golden age of videogame development right now. You can make games more quickly and easily than ever before by yourself or with a friend, and you can make a living doing it. Your games can be evolutions of established tropes or they can be wild reinventions of the whole concept of a videogame, and you can find an audience of hundreds of millions with something you thought up in an afternoon. It may never be this good again. And of course that means that there are people who make videogames as though they were making rubber doorstops, copying other artists’ designs wholesale or hiring third-world sweatshops to execute their ideas for a minuscule sum. I’d like to see that stuff sell a bit worse, in comparison to the best creative work. I’d like to see consumers orient to videogames as the product of auteur designers a bit more. It’s happening, I think, but gradually.
RPS: And how does the future look for you, both in terms of this game and other projects?
Foddy: I make short-form games because game design isn’t my day job, so GIRP is done and dusted for me. But I’ll continue to churn out new games as and when I have the inspiration. Try my two-player pole-vaulting game, Pole Riders!
RPS: If you could talk to the monsters in Doom, what would you ask them?
Foddy: Yikes, is Doom really still relevant? Remind me of who the characters were… I feel like there was a guy who ran at you and made your health go down, and then there was that other guy. I guess my question would be “Hey, why are you running at me and making my health go down?”. I never did work that out.