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The Smartest Man in Gaming EXTRA!

The rest of our Jonathan Blow interview...

Page 2 of 4

XBW: In the last couple of years, the general gaming press has regarded you, Spy Party developer Chris Hecker and Minecraft creator Notch as indie gaming spokespeople. Is that fair? Do you mind that label?

JB: Well that's only because we are saying stuff. Anybody can become an indie game spokesperson. You just have to say some things that are thoughtful. Not even thoughtful, maybe, just [things that are] interesting and that aren't the same party line that everyone else is saying.
I don't feel like part of the indie community. This thing has happened called the 'indie community', and it's mostly people who have very different ideas from me. Like, for example, that the 'indie community' is a thing.

I like a lot of independent games, but a game being independent isn't what makes it interesting for me. It's just that being independent provides opportunities, for example, to take your own creative direction. And it's the taking your own creative direction that's interesting right, not being independent because a lot of indie games are not that different from mainstream games. Or they're trying to be a mainstream game on a low budget, or they are just trying to clone someone else's independent game - there are plenty of those...
If I think of myself as spokesman for anything I like to think as myself as just a forward-thinking person about games in general. Whether the way I think about games is right or not? Well I don't even claim that. I have no idea. I am an independent developer I guess, but with the budget of The Witness I'm working with plenty of independent developers would tell you, 'oh he isn't independent if he can afford to put that much money on a game.'

XBW: Through your lectures we get a good understanding of what you don't like about games. So what do you like in gaming? What excites Jonathan Blow?

JB: I don't know. I'm finding that most of these games [at E3 2011] I'm really not interested in anymore. Part of it may be age and part of it may be that I have been playing games since I was probably six years old or something. I have been playing video games for 33 years and there is only so much of the same that is interesting.
When you look at one of these games the core interactivity is, 'I'm running around shooting guys,' or, 'I'm running around killing guys with a glowing sword that reaches out 20 metres somehow.' It's always beating guys up or shooting guys. There's something about that which is a power thing or an ego boost and it doesn't do anything for me anymore. I'm not interested in that.

My life is alright as it is. I've got interesting things to think about and work on and these games are not as interesting as those things in my life. I don't need to feel like I'm cool because I'm holding a really big imaginary sword. It's only the other things in the game that are interesting, like what are the tactics that come into play and what are the modes of interactivity and how do I flow out of one into another?

There's not very much creativity in that part of the game, usually, so I just don't like playing most video games anymore. There are occasional ones I like, but would I say I'm a gamer now? Probably not, whereas maybe a long time ago I was.

XBW: Is it the gaming press's job to then point more people towards those uniquely creative offerings?

JB: Maybe, but I don't know to what degree it's the press's job. It's obviously great if the press decide to say, 'well here's interesting games that you should play'. And they do sometimes. Some very interesting indie games get a lot of press attention, more proportionately than the dollars that they sell relative to another game. But it's because they are interesting, so that's cool. There is the question of what do people want to play or what do they think they want to play or what is the institutional idea that the populous has of what they want to buy.

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