In August of last year, Matajuegos sat to chat with Paolo Pedercini (of Molleindustria) about videogames and art and politics, resulting in a conversation we divided in four parts. We already published the first, second, and fourth ones. This is the third one, where we talk about the industry, the indie side, experimentation, and representation of broken systems.
Santiago Franzani: Do you make any difference between if you are indie or if you are industry, or there is something that you can say that, OK, this is the opposite, or you can gather all together to think the same way?
Paolo Pedercini: Um…
SF: Hard question?
PP: Yeah, it’s hard. When I was in Italy, I was so disconnected from the industry that, a couple of times they asked me “so what do you think about the game industry in Italy” and I said “What? There is no game industry.” (Laughs.) And then the twelve people that actually worked in the game industry were furious. And they all hung out in a forum and they were like “we’re gonna beat the shit out of this kid, what the fuck, who the fuck are you”. These few had been working shitty ports of games, or whatever, games you never heard of, because they are made in Italy. So there is that, in small countries you have this weird delusional, I think, approach in thinking. If you have been to GDC you probably just noticed that there is a continuum between industry and independent people, independent games.
SF: In the same kind of ideology.
PP: Yeah, there is the whole gradient. You can find designers, developers that are actually independent and they don’t give a shit about ever getting a real job, really, they are basically artists, and others that, might make very independent stuff, you know in a very independent way, but they are really admiring triple A games and are very respectful toward the industry, so there is a sort of position in between. And even I think more weirdly, there is a whole actual industry of games, especially in non-Western countries, that is not actually integrated with what we consider the industry. You know, all this people that make apps that maybe nobody downloads, or maybe become hits, or you know there is clones or minor games or absurd multiplayer online games that are just popular in China. You know, there is a whole industry that is actual industrially organized, that is not even part of the conversation, it’s even more marginalized in some extent than the independent. Not to mention all the independent game developers that are not, essentially that don’t identify as industry simply because they don’t have the means or are not in the geographical hotspots, they don’t get to interact with the industry, or commercial professional indies. Therefore, are like “I have no idea what the industry is”. But yeah, I think for a little bit of time, in the mid 2000s there was the independent movement was maybe presented to the word, there was a bit of posturing, a bit of posing, that was kind of like–
SF: It was contra-cultural.
PP: Yeah, it was like presented as that, right? And I think people actually believed it. “The industry is broken, this is stupid, your games are boring and always the same”.
SF: But they earned a lot of money and then became the industry.
PP: Yeah, but there was never the idea of really shaking things up. It was like–
SF: More formalism, you mean?
PP: I don’t think there was the same kind of attitude that you would have in a punk rock sort of scene. Oh, there’s MTV and that’s The Man. There was never an idea that there were two factions, ever. But it might have appeared like that from the outside, from a superficial view or from just seeing what the conversation was. But as a matter of fact, I think the narrative that it’s all part of the same industry might be more depressing in a way, but also corresponds to the material reality of, you know, relationships and tendencies and ideas.
SF: I heard that an interviewer in a video, took for granted that it’s like that and then it came another question, but you made a “mmm” face, like you didn’t really agree, or something like that.
PP: Yeah, I think, tactically, whatever it takes to, you know, to have more interesting games. If rhetorically that’s the way (laughs) to put it, I’m fine with that. Another narrative that is related is, “oh, every medium starts by being silly”. If you compare it with cinema, right? There is a moment in which cinema was a technological curiosity and then it started to have a little bit of humor it was still pretty cross entertainment. And then it became more action-based and so you have cowboy movies and stuff like that. That kind of, like actually, maps pretty well on videogames. And now you’re having the independent sort of art house thing that also comes with all the things that are like nouvelle vague or art house movies. Like the meta moment in which videogames have been around for a while, they can reference themselves, instead of being the one thing, before French nouvelle vague you never really have much movies within movies. Like, there were existing in a world almost in which movies did not exist.
SF: And maybe the evolution is more thought like a format, a mere formalism, and not in terms of content. Maybe the content is more, not so mature, like there is something that–
PP: Yeah, you can make the argument that there has been a moment of, I guess, weird experimentation in the very beginning of videogames and that some forms congeal in the same way, like the continuum idea in cinema happened, but that happened probably in the 90s. I mean, occasionally you have the game that kind of creates the new genre still, or popularizes a genre that didn’t quite have that much success, but yes, Griffith will be the Doom or Quake, they’re still iterating and maybe tweaking the content, but stay within the same formal framework.
David Marchand: Do you find yourself sometimes, struggling between the kind of polish you need to make your games engaging, and the kind of polish you want to avoid in order to represent broken systems?
PP: Yeah, well, my games are not really polished at all, but I don’t know if it’s the polish, I think it’s more the internal qualities of the game. Really, like the design of the game, I think, that’s what I was thinking about when I think about broken systems. Cause yeah, I’m always thinking Michael Brough has the milestone example, the really elegant games, the very well balanced games, but they also have a kind of weirdness, and randomness and brokenness. I think Corrypt kind of falls apart, but it’s also very good and tight to some extent, so I think that’s a good example and not really meant to represent broken systems in general.