(interview below the break. “DS” is Dan Solberg, who interviewed me. “L” is just me, your faithful Lili)
recently killscreen featured an article on my bad stuff- leading up to this, i agreed to do an interview, but only a handful of questions actually got used ultimately. that’s about it. as i am tired of talking to or otherwise interacting with humans, i pass these questionable words onto you, the unlucky viewer…. watch out…. it’s just horrible!!
DS: OK, well first, thanks for taking the time here, I really appreciate it and I’m excited to speak with you. I wanted to start off talking a little about textures. Like, one of the main things I get from playing your games is a textural experience which is strange when you consider what texture means outside of games as a physical surface. Do you have particular goals you’re looking to achieve with the textures you create for your games?
L: I don’t know if I have a goal really… I’ve always been captivated by textures in stuff like Descent 2 or other early FPS games, where the world is dripping with these crude crunchy textures relentlessly tiled over everything, consuming the architecture like mold. Sensation of barreling down a passage coated in animating abstract diamond patterns, just drifting thru all these shapes that aren’t easy to place on any physical surrogate… But then I also think it’s really interesting when people try to parse physical locales through limited digital technology, photos of a storefront slapped onto a block and now it’s a building, blurry strange recreations you grind about in and become their own place, their own thing I guess a lot of my interest in experimenting with texture just comes from figuring out WHY I even like this stuff and how it makes things feel, how it changes things
DS: Is there something to the idea of working with digital textures as some kind of merging of texture as surface feel and as pattern that digital texture in particular afford? I’m just thinking about how some games eventually started trying this like “bump mapping” or whatever other terms for those processes are called which seemed to view the flatness of digital textures as a limitation
L: i’m a lil confused how you worded the first part :x
DS: i guess i was trying to get at how digital textures have to get across feel and pattern through visuals, as opposed to visuals and touch being possible in the real world, and if when you make textures, you’re considering both the visual pattern but also the feel, and how to convey both of those visually
L: A lot of the time I make the architecture in my games before I ever create textures- and a lot of structures and places in the things I make are little trash heaps of places in games, movies, memories, dreams… So like, I associate certain textures with those places, and all these different images and feelings and memories too, but when actually transferring that to a digital shape I’d rather play with the limitations and strangeness of technology then try to create a Photo-Realistic Totally Good version of it. Textures are really important to me in defining little handmade pocket worlds because they can be the things we see around us, but also embody something entirely different depending on the medium they’re placed in. It feels more personal, and honest, for me
DS: There’s also this idea that using a digital format you can make textures that don’t necessarily have a real-world analogue for how it’s supposed to feel, like digital noise and pixelation. I’ve read the interview you did with The Arcade Review where you talked briefly about low-poly art and the N64. And the N64 was also known for it’s blurry textures and is looked down upon by people who prioritize high-resolutions and such. But to me, these textures have a totally unique feel to them. What do you think of these so-called “ugly” low-res textures?
L: they look crunchy and delicious, i want to eat them!! but um UH- I loveeee blurry textures- realworld forms reduced and stretched, removing detail, leaving vague ideas and shapes of what it was… it feels like wandering around dream versions of places you’ve been, half-constructed foggy architecture and people and objects, existing in the context of a place you can believe, but pulled from that reality and put in its own context. I adore dioramas for similar reasons- tiny constructed worlds filled with little details that imitate what felt important about that place to the person making it
DS: Speaking of spaces and dioramas, many of your games take place in these curated spaces, and what players do in them is explore the space, look at things, and maybe pick up, collect, and move objects. There’s almost a museum-like quality to them in some ways, but usually any austerity is undercut by some other element, be it bodily fluids, a silly or creepy character, a Robert Cop 3 action figure. Is there a balance you seek to strike between player “immersion” which is sort of an expression of having the utmost respect for a space and the wink and nod of “hey this is a game, and there are a lot of goofy things in here”?
L: i guess i don’t feel like those elements are contrasting or conflicting- altho there are things i genuinely want to convey and capture, i also don’t see the strangeness of games as threatening to that… i think a lot of media treats dryness as legitimizing- like, you need to be taking this ~SERIOUSLY~ or else the hierarchy of quality resigns it to a horrid fate. i don’t want to obscure how strange and broken everything is. how things bend and move, it’s all so unrealistic but captivating and visceral but also just silly!! i love seeing people experimenting with “amateur” game tools, importing photos or drawings and just being EXCITED to be making anything, creating these personal little mythologies without too much concern about making it a product or part of some Genuine Narrative… i’d much rather be making dorky little toys with my friends than anything.
DS: You go by a few different names in credits for your games an on your website. What’s the impetus for this? And rolling off of that idea, you do more than just make games. It sort of feels like you’ve created this alternate personality and world where the work you produce all exists. There are games, but also drawings, maps, music, images, all this stuff around the edges that makes the work grounded, but grounded in this otherworldly place. Do you feel like your games exist in the same world with other games or are they having a totally separate conversation?
L: most of my games are continuations… trying to touch on stuff i didn’t in earlier pieces, or figure out what interests me about certain elements better. a lot of my game “Dark Field” is just supposed to be a variation of “Symbol” but taken from memories of indoor spaces at night instead- and “Symbol” was collage of the Mario 64 ghost level, rural highways and endless expanses, memories of half-built houses in winter, and a million other things. but at the same time i feel like these become the same thing- i always loved how in old nintendo power magazines you’d see screenshots and blurbs about the same game over time, but would change (sometimes drastically) as production went on- and for me it created a world that was separate from the end thing, but also intrinsic to where it went. the way images and excerpts of text augmented these lil zones, but also felt important on their own terms- i want to replicate that feeling. mysterious microworlds that are part of this larger thing, an incomprehensible barrage of media. in response to names, it really depends: i started using the name “cicada marionette” cuz i felt like i wasn’t anything, so i just wanted to be this faceless genderless internet ghoul. i don’t feel like just one person anyway and having different parts of myself as different characters or names makes it easier for me to tackle, i guess… these beings that embody all sorts of different things, lil floaty ghost identities that live inside me waiting for a chance to say something. lilith, that’sssss right~
DS: I’ve noticed a general trend of “lowness” in many aspects of your work: drawing from low-poly designs, low-res textures, humor that could be taken as lowbrow (piss mechanics), topographically low environments and underground spaces, you keep a relatively low profile yourself, and not to mention the perceived “low culture” status of video games as a whole. What is the importance to you of situating your work in these low and underground spaces?
L: a lot of my defining memories are alone in mazelike hospitals, long roadtrips and strange hotels, staying at psychiatric wards, forced inside with only artificial light for days… i fixate on these images a lot. i’ve always felt alien- like i’ve slipped between the cracks and am existing outside the world. to that end i feel pretty connected to things that are broken, “bad”, trashy… things that exist outside of legitimacy. a lot of being “good” just seems like posturing, being able to create things that fit within an established discourse. i wanna wallow in shadows, to be illegitimate, to create personal mythologies and secrets and dark underground tunnel systems….
DS: Oneiric Gardens seemed more physically involved than some of your other games; it had a more tangible gamefeel. The jump is very floaty and I actually felt like I could do some platforming in some of the spaces. Also there are some physics elements in the blocks you push around and the gold bars in the minecarts that shoot out. There are moments where the actions and the sounds are super satisfying. And it reminded me of something you wrote on Twitter like a month ago that you wish more games would focus on creating experiences that look and feel cool instead of trying to be so game-y. Could you speak more to that sentiment and do you feel like some of those elements in Oneiric Gardens are pushing in that direction in terms of feel?
L: Yes, definitely!!! Like, honestly more than anything i just want to be making playgrounds at this point. i always love how so many early 3d games seem equally confused and excited about prospect of THREE DEE VIDEOGAME and feel so loose and free, these self-assured junglegym worlds. things like jumping flash have so much life, the movement is so exhilarating, and the environments are so colorful and full of weird little details- but ultimately it’s mostly void of goals, it’s just exploring around this space with cute abstract graphics and sound and toying with sensation- finding the 5 Generic Goal Items feels arbitrary to the actual experience of that, for me. i feel like i’m being redundant with a lot of my answers but i genuinely just want to create strange little microworlds you can bop around in and find new ways to experience…
DS: Of all the possible creative outlets, why do you make video games?
L: because I have no regard for common decency!!
DS: Standard boring (but useful!) art interview question: what are some of your most significant artistic influences inside and outside the realm of games?
L: Mega List of Influence Things: old horror movie sets, dayglo paint, urban background noise, some kid showing me weird gameboy games in dim lobby, converted office building schools, mental hospital memories, dreams about cityscapes, memphis group, archizoom and superstudio, mall of america, airports at night, things made of clay, public access shows like The Hypnotic Eye, flowing animated films like Cat Soup, Twice Upon A Time, Night on the Galactic Railroad, playing Runescape circa 2001, quest 64, bomberman 64, pilotwings 64, a bunch of other stuff that all kinda blurs together. but honestly at this point i’m mostly just interested in games friends do, porpentine’s sim zones and thecatamites’ lil diorama games, plus others like jake clover and spudoogle are really great. i don’t really feel much connection to media right now, a lot of the importance of games for me is attached directly to others memories and locales so it’s hard to replicate, but i think there’s a lot of wonderful games being made, and am always excited to see more people making things !! yahhhh!!!
DS: Lastly, do my eyes deceive me or are you working on Crypt Worlds 2?(!) Any sort of tease you could offer as to what might be in store?
L: YES KEEP OUT EYES FOR: Crypt Underworld ~MegaGame OF 20XX~ it’s like the first one except now you can steal people’s limbs and vomit, and also you go to hell at the beginning other than that i have no clue but i think that’s a promising enough premise for starters! (BUY MY PRODUCTS)