Itch.io – https://pantagruel.itch.io/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/stretchamstrung
Official website – http://yames.info/
Q: What “title” do you prefer to name your games’ creating practice?
A: Video game development or computer game development.
Q: The reason I approached you for this interview is the strong presence of industrial/noise music elements in certain of your games. How would you define your relation with industrial/noise and game design?
A: Before I pursued game development as my main creative goal, recording and producing music was my main focus. Although I enjoyed making music and designing sounds, I began to feel like what I wanted to do could fit better in another medium. It was painful to break away from music because I had invested so much time and energy to it however I feel it needed to be done. After this I began listening to mostly noise and what could be called dark ambient music because I guess I felt like I needed to distance myself from more conventional music, or music that had more focus on traditional elements of composition and less on atmosphere, sense of mood, etc.
This was all happening around the time I made Discover My Body and so it probably greatly influenced how I thought about the sounds in the game and the particular mood I wanted to establish.
Q: Could you define the role you give music and/or noise in your games?
A: I would say the music and sounds in my games are as important as any other part of my games in establishing a world and sense of mood.
Q: Do you consider your practice as game designer as labour, or as something else (personal expression, therapeutic, emancipatory, etc.) ?
A: Most parts of making a game are laborious, especially when making a larger game, which is why I have made mostly smaller games, the proportion of creative inspiration or design or imagination or whatever you want to call it is very small when compared to the amount of work one has to do, but with a smaller game it is a little more manageable.
I’ve never understood art as personal expression or rather I have never been able to consider the things I am making of some expression of myself. I think I am interested in escapism and powerful moods and maybe unreal places that contain in them something powerful, but I don’t think of them as being mine, I think of them as something I am getting at through myself. Games are great for making worlds with their own moods and set of rules, they are like little dreams in this way. I don’t think that all my stuff stems from this desire to summon a particular mood, sometimes I think I just want to play around with concepts I’m interested in. Sometimes concepts can produce their own moods though.
Q: What is your position about the exponential increase in games published since 4-5 years? Does it have an impact on your practice?
A: At this point I am just lucky that there are people interested in the things I make. I am pretty grateful for that.
Q: Do you feel the term “video game” is still adequate or too limiting for more experimental form?
A: I think it’s fine!
Q: Video games are often considered as very self-referential as a media. Game designers often invoke other games for their own creation. Would you consider it’s true for your own practice?
I think in the sense that many of my game ideas are inspired by games I have played, yes. I especially draw a lot from older PC games that were made when many “good practices” of game design were not crystallized in a way like they are now. People were still figuring out what video games were and could become.
Q: How did you start creating games? Did you learn by yourself or followed a specific training? Would you consider your workflow as DIY?
It took me a few years of trying and failing to become confident enough with the fundamentals of programming/scripting in order to produce a few short semi-interactive experiences. Before that I made mock-ups of games I would like to make, which is a pretty common starting point from what I have seen and heard.
Like many solo developers I don’t have formal training in most of the disciplines that go into game development. By necessity we are all figuring out how to do things our own way.
Q: I understand you compose your own soundtrack for your games. Could you explain the process? For instance, does the game comes first or the sounds?
A: I think pretty early in development I try to think of a sonic palette that would go well with the mood of the game and art assets I have generated then I throw it all together in a very loose sketch of the game. A prototype for me might be one “screen” of the game with some mocked up GUI elements maybe a little animation, a simulation of what game mechanics will look like, and a few audio assets like any dietetic ambiance and non-dietetic GUI-related sounds. If that is worth building out, then I just try and keep true to the plan when making the rest of the assets.
I would love to try making a game from, or inspired by, a particular sound or sonic palette however. The idea of making a sound-world first and then laying a game over top of it is very interesting!
Q: What tools do you use to create music?
A: I have a couple hardware synthesizers, an Ensoniq ESQ-1 being a favorite, that I record into Reaper, a digital audio workstation. Sometimes I involve some hardware effects units but a lot of the work I do once I have the synths recorded is inside-the-box. A lot of the time I spend on sound design comes down to fiddling with effects processing. Most of my stuff is pretty lo-fi so I’m not often trying to preserve audio quality which is very freeing but does sometimes lead into too much tweaking and retweaking.
Q: The soundtrack of your games could easily be considered dark ambient and ritual industrial if we had to classify them in genres. Did any music inspired you to make games, or guide design choices?
A: I can’t say that dark ambient didn’t influence my games in some way as I was actively listening to a lot of dark ambient when I committed myself to making game development my primary creative pursuit in early 2020. I feel like a confluence of events led to a fascination with the aesthetic of darkness, hells, caves, night, etc. which is funny because a lot of the music I put out before this time is very playful and lighthearted, much more upbeat than any of my games.
Q: Do you have any interest in releasing music independent of games?
At this point I am too busy to do a lot of music in my free time but I still occasionally sit down and mess around with my synths for the sake of messing around with my synths.
Q: There’s a strong connection between biotechnology, horror and the occult/gnostic in your games. It also shows in the interface of Water Womb World and Discover My Body. Could you elaborate on your inspirations, considering those are themes frequently invoked in noise/industrial music?
A: It is very possible we are just drawing from the same sort of dark place or maybe we just share a similar fascination with the uncanny or with the possibility of escape from the mundane world.
The body, science, religion are common topics in horror, sci-fi, speculative fiction, because they are nexuses to a place beyond ourselves or at the forefront of some frontier of the unknown.
But sometimes I don’t even really think of my games as horror. They are often dark and not untinged with fear but also the sort of darkness they deal with could be interpreted as benign or at least too ambiguous to be understood as a threat. The main characters in Water Womb World and Discover My Body are not being coerced in any way.
Q: Glitch art also seems to be a strong part of your aesthetic. Do you see a relation between noise and glitch as a gaming experience, immersion, etc. ?
I think it is just the case that usually the most interesting part of an artistic medium is the trace of itself that is baked in with what it is conveying. I like all types of pixel art but the least interesting pixel art is usually the kind that is done so perfectly that you can’t even tell it’s pixel art.