This interview has been edited to fit (extremely roughly, so please don’t check) iambic pentameter. Alice Bell has never interviewed Nate Crowley before.
ACT VII SCENE I
ALICE: I saw some post online that said that the
Iliad and the Odyssey are fun
If you imagine Homer a GM
And all the men and women merely players.
NATE: That’s super fucking true! That has to be
A thing in the tradition of epics.
You’ve got to forget bits and make it up.
These days we haven’t got the earlier ones,
So whole bits where Homer was winging it
Will seem like they were always the story.
ALICE: Like Achilles is a player going
‘I want to attack the river’ and so
Homer is like, ‘You cannot attack it.’
And then Achilles rolls a nat 20.
NATE: See Homer as an MMO dev team.
There’s nerf patches and out of control buffs.
I think it’s Book Five of the Iliad,
The Trojans, they’re like just going berserk
And wailing on the Greeks, and so the gods,
Who are just like the dev team avatars,
Give a massive buff to Diomedes.
He just Hulks out and rips the heads off loads
Of Trojans for eight pages, and then he
Calms down again when things have levelled out
And they bring in the post patch nerfs. So there.
Games are art. The conversation’s over.
ALICE: If you can read classical art as games
There’s no reason to not do the reverse.
NATE: I guess it goes back to divergence from
Convention in the reason to play games.
My int’rest at the moment is in games
That simulate the grind of history.
ALICE: I’d like them more if they went all the way,
And just said ‘You are not special, at all.’
If every day you just got up and you
Had to farm for cabbages or something,
And hope that bandits didn’t kill you all,
And that was the whole game. And then you died.
NATE: Aw yeah! Just ‘Feudal Scum Simulator’
And there’d be quite a lot of reward there.
Because in the trad sandbox RPG,
Hunting is like walking through a small zoo
With a machine gun, mowing them all down,
Then finding out a taxidermist with
More money than he has sense in his head
Will pay you infinitely for boar scrotes.
It’s quite nice to have to struggle over
The simplest of things. There you go, that’s art.
ALICE: For sure.
NATE: So let me ask you a question.
Can you think of big commercial titles
(Since Mario Paint) about making art?
‘Cos when you pose the question are games art,
Then what about games about its making,
Maybe even attached to a franchise.
Like, what about a game from Nintendo
In which Wario has to write sonnets?
ALICE: That would be really good because I feel
Wario is quite a complex figure.
NATE: Oh there is so much going on with him.
He’s quite a counter cultural icon.
Wario is especially, I think,
Beloved to more mature audiences.
So how would you do the mechanics of
A game to construct fairly complex verse?
ALICE: Depends if the game wants you to succeed,
And if part of Wario’s struggle was
Inherently part of the game itself.
Maybe he’d, like, get better at writing
If he took time out to read some Shakespeare.
NATE: You could have different skill based mini-games
Involved in the sonnet construction too,
Like one of those weird WarioWare things;
An owl swinging above a pile of clocks
And you must feed it beans at the right time
To get the right number of syllables
To match to iambic pentameter,
Or you’re fucked and left with three syllables.
ALICE: Fuck dactyls.
NATE: The more limits you have placed on the form
The more creative you’re going to be
To create something beautiful within.
Maybe you’d just share it with your friends list.
A little icon would appear on screen:
‘Your friend Alice has made a new sonnet,
Will you critique it?’
ALICE: What would the name be?
NATE: Super Wario Poetic Expression
ALICE: So all the poems by all the players,
Are they all art in their own right as well?
NATE: They are. Extend it beyond Wario.
You could have the full Mario roster;
There’d be an element of roleplaying.
Say you were Wario, and I Bowser,
So when I had done rating your sonnet
You’d get a little cutscene of Bowser
Reading a paper and wag’ling his head
And being like ‘I think it’s good but
It could use work. I award three coins.’
And you can use those on new mini games.
That is a microtransaction system
Where the currency is peer reviewing.
It solves the microtransactions problem!
Imagine now PUBG or whatever
But you’re rewarded not based on your grind
But based on players’ appreciation.
If you’ve been a good healer or something,
Well then someone else might be like ‘fair play’.
If someone kills you most impressively
Then you might choose to reward them in turn!
ALICE: People kind of do that when they share clips
On Twitter, of the cool stuff that they’ve done.
They get likes.
NATE: That’s a microtransaction.
It could stamp out really toxic voice chat
because if you were nice you might get coins.
You see, it’s all about culture jamming
In a kind way.
ALICE: I like that idea.
Interesting concept. You should pitch it
At Jeff Kaplan from the Overwatch team.