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“Words and images are our main things”: where did a game like Mothman 1966 come from? -By Fsk

It doesn’t take much of a conversation with the people behind LCB Game Studios to start recommending books. The two-man team is based in Argentina, where they create Pixel Pulp games, simple and quietly literary visual novels with that splash of shock-horror sensationalism that would have made Walter Gibson very happy. Writer and game designer Nico Saryantaris tells me he is proud of Argentina’s literary heritage. So, have I read Mariana Enriquez? I did not do it! Are the translations good? Where should I start? In turn, I recommend Maria Genza, another Argentine writer, whose Optic Nerve is a dazzling book about memory and art and life in Buenos Aires. I’ve read it once and I’m already itching to read it again. Pretty soon we are busy writing down recommendations while the Zoom call transmits nothing but images of bowed heads and quick scribbles of pen and paper on notepads. It sounds, I must admit, exactly how I imagined this conversation going.

I’d like to talk to Sarentaris and his colleague Fernando Martinez Rupel (Instagram bio: “Illustrations, pixel art, music and paranormal activity.” Perfection) after being thoroughly impressed by their game, Mothman 1966. Mothman isn’t just a videogame about the best cryptids. It’s a piece of interactive fiction that presents itself as part of an otherworldly mystery novel and long-lost CGA adventure game, brilliant four-color art and text-selection with its chunky throwback fonts just below the interface. It is a game of knowing as little as possible. Wait till night. Make some really, really bad instant coffee, preferably burn it in the process, dim the lights until the room is illuminated only by the sick sodium glow of Pentium monitors and streetlamps, and immerse yourself in this weird and wonderful thing Lose it

Oh, and I also wanted to apologize, because while I knew I liked the Mothman when I wrote about it last year, I hadn’t yet realized how much I actually loved it. Little did I know that in the months to come, it would come back to haunt me in strange moments and supersede all other games in my imagination. Its harmony! It’s a game about haunting, and it’s haunted me. It’s a game to live with an old soft-edged paperback, and it lived with me. It’s heartwarming and so clever, so carefully made. It feels like a game – that’s the only way I can say it – that breathes into our world. It’s like going to bed on a quiet night with a lit incense stick and having all kinds of intriguing, disturbing dreams.

Here’s the teaser for The Mothman 1966.

What is the matter. I replayed through the Mothman before chatting to the team and got a feel, for example, of how truly transporting the text selection interface is. You use it for everything, even the in-game solitaire version. When I first played it I thought it was cumbersome, but now I realize I completely missed the point. The game offers the players a specific way to enter its world, and everything is done through that. It is a control scheme employed as a kind of air lock.

OK, enough analogies. That’s why I got the Mothman a little wrong at first, even though I liked it. One thing I understood early on was that this kind of play had to come from a place of deep memory. is that correct?

Ruppel says, “My idea when we made these games is that I have great memories of playing PC games with my mother.” “When you grow up with your mom, I never thought of her as cool, but now when I look back, think of her as a young woman, playing videogames with her son, it’s cool.” was. And that’s one of the main purposes I have for making games. I want to bring some of that stuff back into videogames now. That’s one of the reasons I choose pixel art and that whole aesthetic. I love that Noise is like what you get in pixel art. I mix a few comic books with that.

“But I think nostalgia, that’s what I want to bring to the table, knowing what Niko can do with writing. It’s thinking about what I can bring to young people, to your home.” Pixel art games.”

“My grandfather was very fond of computers,” says Sarantaris, picking up on Rupal’s thread about the ease with which you’ve worked with people he’s worked with so closely, so intimately. “I remember most things like Spectrum, having cassettes and waiting for them to load. I remember all those games, and I remember a time when genres were ossified, and you had all these programmers making stuff so if you have any idea you can make whatever you want without them [genre] Constraints.” He pauses before refining his idea. “I love constraints, but I think they can be bad if you don’t know how to work with them. For me the eighties and seventies were like that, a zone where everything was exploding.”

2022 Best Games Mothman 1966 - CGA style, featuring a bat in turquoise with a splatter of red blood, with descriptive text below telling you to get out of your car to find it

Mothman 1966.

I wonder if this willingness to work beyond genre, to use memory and unusual art styles and personal passion became public, I wonder what makes a game like Mothman so immersive. I know we misuse the term a lot – anything with a huge map and lots of mission icons has to be immersive because hey, it drops you into the deep sea, doesn’t it? But a game like the Mothman seems to me to be a very pure and unaffected form of immersion. The dream that you see alone at night with a clear sky and a full moon. That’s how you kind of climb inside a game and then as you try to understand how it works, how it tells its story and moves from one scene to another and gets a little bit of interactivity in your way. throws up, and as you engage with it all, it feels like the ceiling seals over you and you’re right inside it. So how to convert it into question? Is there any point in making games like this, with unusual interfaces, art styles both familiar and strange, and stories that draw on a pretty lurid pulp tradition with monsters and midnight travels and secret objectives, is there any point Where does it all come together, its layers, and gives you a game that feels this rich and distinctive?

“When we started working on Pixel Pulps, we started working on another project first – it was 2018, 2019 – on a much bigger project,” Sarayantaris told me. Then came the pandemic and everything fell apart. or did “We have been working together and making games since 2012, and we only have one publishing label with one book,” explains Sarayantaris. “When all this happened with the pandemic, we decided to take a step back and just look at how good we were when we started working together. Words and images are the main things that we feel is that we can do something with it.” The previous game was a really complicated, really weird game. It got some attention and we got excited to make it, but it was bigger than what we knew we could be good at. It was probably too much.”

So both started thinking of doing something small. “Just the two of us,” says Saryantaris, picking up the pace. “We chose the interactive fiction genre, or visual novel. We’re writing pulp, and we really like alliteration, so Pixel Pulp started as a joke and then it stuck. Then we started building on that.” let start.”

Mothman 1966.

And it all fed into what would become the game. “The way we work is pure intuition,” explains Sarayantaris. “We decide something and we keep going. So here’s a beautiful thought, from an Argentine writer, one of my favorites, César Aira: If you’re going to run away from a fight, you’ve got to Not to the side, but to the front.” A pause to air that thought. “This idea of ​​running ahead! So he doesn’t fixate on his fantasies – he has editors who read what he writes, but his idea is writing every day and you write a few pages every day and after a while you have something happens.”

arms crossed. “So that’s how we work, and because we’re not editing as much, we have to write more to correct and erase — so that’s where the layers of the game come in. So maybe we’ll see a scene And maybe it sounds great, so we write it and describe it, but after a few chapters, it’s not what we thought of at the beginning, so we try to improve the scene. Let’s start by setting the background and context.” He stops again. “So that’s mainly our creative process — it’s messy, but it works for us. It’s the way we’ve been able to do a lot of things, so we’re really fond of it.”

“One of our main objectives was to have this pulp ethic, but bring it into a videogame,” Ruppel continues. “So traditional development sometimes takes one, two, three years. We love that kind of process, but we know we’ll get bored if we spend that much time on just one project. Now we’re on to our next project.” Talking about the project.” And we have three ideas and we want to build them all. To keep that kind of energy, we wanted to make the games fast. When we work, we rely on each other a lot. I do all the drawings, Niko, he does the puzzles, and writes. Once we have all of that, once we’ve done all of that, I make a pass with the videogame, play it back-to-back, and take notes: this moment of sound Need, this moment needs some kind of highlight, and start working from there. The only response I get from Nico is when something isn’t working. He’s like my guinea pig while I work. If it doesn’t feel good, I know he’s going to tell me. I think there is a flow in it. That’s what I like.”

In other words, I didn’t realize how deep pulp ethics ran. It’s not just the subject matter, but the way the games are actually built. LCB are cranking up the game. So sure, you can be Thomas Pynchon and spend a decade or more on one book, and write eight, nine, ten in total. You can be Ralph Ellison and write a novel and a half, all told, all classics. Or you could be Walter Gibson, cranking out The Shadows, fingers crooked and bleeding typewriter, every month a pulp comes out – and with it comes a livability. Process tasks filter in. Speed ​​and information become a kind of watermark.

Varney Lake is out on April 28.

And that’s it. Mothmen 1966 still feels like a new game from LCB Studios to me, but just before chatting on Zoom, I got an email about the team’s latest game, Warney Lake, coming out later this month. The Mothman was another pixelated pulp continuation from 1966 with a few threads in it, none of which should be too bad. Same CGA art, same preoccupation with solitaire variants, same love of creepy, half-sighted, whispering people. I can’t wait to turn off the lights for a night and play properly.

And that too comes from the same place. “We like the work ethic—like doing business,” says Ruppel. “Working, Nico, as a writer, as a painter, always dealing with deadlines, working with other people’s ideas, gives you that kind of practice and the ability to work fast.

“If you’re working on something you own, you take more time and take care of it like it’s something precious. I don’t like things as something precious but…” A final pause Is. How to apply it? “… as a discharge of creativity.”