001: Jay Tholen (Hypnospace Outlaw)
An interview with video game developer Jay Tholen, creator of Dropsy and Hypnospace Outlaw
Welcome to Tune Glue, a newsletter edited by Joshua Minsoo Kim that’s run in conjunction with Tone Glow. While the latter is dedicated to presenting interviews and reviews related to experimental music, Tune Glue is a space for interviews with artists of any kind. These interviews could be with filmmakers, video game designers, perfumers, or musicians who aren’t aligned with what Tone Glow typically covers. Thanks for reading.
Jay Tholen is a Florida-raised, Brunswick-based multimedia artist and video game developer who’s best known for his games Dropsy and Hypnospace Outlaw. The latter is an internet simulator game that was originally released in 2019 for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It is now available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One and comes with a new PLUS update featuring new content. Joshua Minsoo Kim talked with Tholen via Discord on August 25th, 2020 to discuss his early experiences with the internet, the music behind Hypnospace Outlaw, his future plans, and more.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello hello!
Jay Tholen: Hello!
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Oh! You have a video setup and everything! Okay!
I’m not gonna—I can turn it off if you want, this isn’t the usual—
No, this is cool!
Okay, cool. I’m actually a little, like—maybe we should disable video because my wife is streaming, or not streaming, but watching streaming television. I’m not sure that it won’t mess with the audio, we may sound like robots or something. But we can try.
Yeah, it’s all good.
First of all, I just want to say thank you for doing this. Hypnospace Outlaw was definitely my favorite game of last year.
And it’s an exciting week!
Especially exciting because I love this game, and then Moon is coming out too.
Yeah! Moon looks good. Moon would be the game I would be pushing if I wasn’t pushing my own game (laughter). Moon is cool.
Yeah, I’m going to be pushing both for sure. I wanted to start off by asking: Do you have any friends or acquaintances that you made on the internet back in the day that you were never able to talk to again?
That’s an interesting question (thinking). Boy! I think most of the friends I made that I was actually interested in talking to I did eventually meet. When I was 13, or… when did we first get the internet… when I was 13 or 14, in the Klik! community, K-L-I-K, named after the game making software for kids. Or maybe not for kids, but it was simple.
He was in the community also, his username back then was DarklordJW (laughter). We became friends and we started our own company, which meant we made a back page and announced—never released, but announced—a game project that we were going to release, but of course none of those ever came out. One day I get a call and, as a kid who didn’t really have many… I guess it sounds pretty sad, but I didn’t have many friends that called me ever.
No that’s fine.
To hear some young person on the phone know my name—actually he said, “Is this Simdrone052?”, which was my weird first username (laughter). I’m like, “...yeah?” He asked, “Are you from Lakeland?”, which is like 20 minutes from me, and I’m like, “Who is this guy who knows my alias?” I didn’t know who it was, and then he said, “I’m Darklord!” (laughter). I wouldn’t have known his real name!
He ended up going to college about 20 minutes away from me, which was cool because he lived in another state before then. We were pretty much best friends online then. It was cool, we got to hang out, and since then we lost touch a little bit. I think I’ve met most of the people I had any kind of good friendship with. There are always people though, even now—there are always people I’d like to meet.
Of course. It’s always exciting to hear stories of friendships that were made on the internet and how those materialize in the real world. When I talk to people my age, or people who are older, they’ll often say, “How does that work out?” Though this is specifically about when we were younger, because when I tell people I have friends on the internet I’ve known for a decade and have met in real life, people will be like, “Woah, that’s crazy!”
Yeah, and it is strange. Of course, back then there was all the—I guess still—when my parents heard that I was talking to people on the internet, they would get kind of scared. In the media of course the only people who talk to your 13-year-old son are pedophiles.
Right. I want to talk a bit about Hypnospace Outlaw. There were two things I realized while playing the game, and they came up again while I was playing recently. One was how it’s so nice to be in this game and visit these random people’s pages, exploring these strangers who have their own personal lives out there in whatever way they want it to be presented. I feel like nowadays that doesn’t really exist in the same way, partially because of the homogenization of the internet through social media, how everyone has their own personal brand, and how tech companies have commodified data and everything.
There’s that, and the other thing that really stuck out to me was the realization that your other game [Dropsy], which was a straightforward point-and-click adventure, I realized Hypnospace Outlaw is kind of a point-and-click adventure too, and then it made me think about the internet as being its own point-and-click adventure!
Yeah, those were two things that resonated with me strongly while I was playing the game. The thing is, the point-and-click adventure-ness of the internet is hard to experience now because everything’s just present on a few major social media sites.
One thing about the internet of the old days was that everything had some context, some contextualization to make it easier to understand what’s happening. Maybe it’s a town—GeoCities had neighborhoods. I didn’t have the internet in the early days, between ’94 and ’98—’99 is when [my family] got it. I remember seeing in magazines websites being contextualized—it’s like TV, go to this channel, go to that channel!
People had all kinds of ways of helping you navigate whatever this is. You’re clicking these links to go to all of these different sections. It’s the same thing with people, you just have a blank page, and when people made their own personal site, it was like, “Is this a book? What is it? I don’t know.” It’s up to you to put anything on there and figure out how you’re presenting it to everyone else.
Social media did change things. Of course the internet is much more useful now I suppose, you can find what you want much more quickly, but it is far less of an adventure, as you pointed out. You don’t necessarily follow links to the unknown anymore (laughs). Unless you are an inexperienced person who’s going to get viruses (laughter), you kind of generally know how to get to what you want now.
I love the game because it’s so nostalgic for experiences that I’ve had. There’s the freeware download, and it’s a virus. Even the act of going to the different pages that you don’t know. The virtual pets. It felt really cozy! Were there specific events, anything in the game, that were inspired by anything that happened to you in real life, or were they just general nostalgic moments that you wanted to capture? Do you have any stories about you downloading a freeware virus?
Oh, for sure, a lot of those (laughter). I don’t have any specific stories about downloading stuff, but I definitely got a lot of viruses and wrecked my computer pretty quickly when I got the internet. I think in general, though, I was trying to capture that feeling. Like I said, I had a computer since like, seven. In ’99 we got the internet, but before then I was obsessed with it. I was catching whatever I could on TV about it. Any books or magazines I could find at schools, any books or magazines with pages in them—anything about the internet. The thing that stuck with me was this promise about what the internet was, which was different than what it ended up being. You see these 3D people flying around everywhere, connecting with another 3D person in Australia and you’re talking with them like, (in an Australian accent) “G’day mate!” It was like, everyone is friends now, it’s a global village. It was fascinating. It felt like a new era or something! Of course, a lot of this is marketing copy that’s trying to shape everyone’s idea of what their product is, but as a little kid it’s very effective in getting your imagination going, you know? The promise of what the internet was supposed to be was the feeling we were trying to capture.
Also as a kid, when you first get on there, you don’t know where the boundaries are really. Maybe some of those 3D things I’ve seen in marketing copy are real somewhere, and I just don’t know where to look! With Hypnospace, we’re definitely trying to capture that feeling of, like, you don’t know where the possibility space ends. Yeah, it’s an adventure game set in an operating system, but you don’t know what exactly we put in there, and what’s possible, what kind of programs you can download.
Spoilers a little bit, but after the first time skip it’s like, “Oh, everyone’s pages changed now that it’s a different time!” and at the end of the game that expands a little bit more. After you play it a while you get the idea of what’s possible, but when you’re a kid you just don’t know. There’s a little bit of magic there.
I don’t want to talk too long about this one question, but I do have a story of a person who really sort of made their way into the game from my real life. There are quite a few of those in the game, but there is one interesting one, which is the psychic. The psychic lady in the Open Eyed [Zone]—well, Corey in Teentopia, some of his journal entries were some of my real journal entries! (embarrassed laughing).
Corey’s House from the Teentopia Zone
The things where he’s like, “Put X next to where you kissed someone: at the park, in a car” and then he doesn’t put any X’s and he says, “I guess that didn’t take very long”, that was completely copy and pasted from my LiveJournal from when I was a teenager (laughter). Very bad. Some of his other content was mine too.
I’ll keep this one short: I had a job, my first real job outside of telemarketing and all that stuff, I think I was 25 or 26. It was at a place called WebStarts. It was out in the middle of nowhere in some guy’s house (laughs). That was the only place near me in Florida, in the swamp there, where they had any kind of thing like that. It was such chance that he was even out there in the middle of nowhere, near me. I went out there, and it was a WYSIWYG page builder, you drag and drop. We were known as the only one of these with a 24-hour support line, so you could call in. Technically, I guess this was still telemarketing, but I was working on computers, which I felt like was a real job. We were allowed to take commissions; if someone wanted us to help them design their website, we would quote them a price, and then the company would take a little bit from that, and we’d get a commission if they agreed.
So this person called me and wanted a whole site themed after Bewitched. Do you know Bewitched?
(laughs). So with the music in the background and everything. I mean I did it, because I kind of doubted that anyone would ever see that we were using Bewitched stuff. One strange thing though, is that she was having me log into her email and do all of her Google AdWords, and even dictating the page content over the phone. It would be an hour long call, and she would be typing her whole backstory over the phone, telling it to me.
Also, during that time she was my only client, so she had my cell phone number. She did get a little antsy if things were taking a while. When I left, the guys who were still working there—there were only three of them left, four maybe—they were asking me, “What is the deal here? Were you really typing everything she says on the phone?” I was like, “Yeah!” (laughter). I noticed I had a bunch of missed calls—I’ve always been bad about answering my phone—and I had a bunch of voice mails. I had a flip phone at the time, so there was no UI to tell me anything, and it’s easy to ignore your voicemails. So I listened to them, and she was on there telling me, “Jay Olen,” she thought my name was Jay Olen I guess—“If you do not return my call, you did me wrong, and I am going to go to church and light a candle and pray that you break your neck!” (laughter).
They eventually ended up banning her, and then I get a call where she called me a queer little gay guy! I wish I recorded that, it was weird. Anyway, I get a call from a young lady who kind of has the same accent as her (laughter). And I’m like, “Oh, this is strange.” So she says, “What did you do to my mom? You know my mom can’t read? Why are you guys taking advantage of her and charging her money, and she can’t even read!” And I thought, (mock screaming) “Now it all makes sense! Ahh!” (laughter).
Sherri Heals from the Open Eyed Zone
Then I found out all the stuff that she had told me to type was just the story of some other famous psychic, like her whole backstory. That whole experience made me really weirdly, like… you know, it’s easy to say it’s funny, but it’s very sad too. This was a person who couldn’t read who was trying to figure out how to hustle or something. I guess it was through the 1-800 number on her website that she was making most of her money. I think that was her only source of income, and just through me leaving the job and these other dudes not knowing what to do about her—and she was somewhat difficult. Maybe she was homeless, I don’t know what happened to her, you know?
That really kind of messed with me. Okay, she was very mean to me in these messages, whatever, but if you’re a very poor person and you can’t read in this world, like, I get it. You’re trying to figure out some way to survive. That, and having a database of all these websites that people made. In the page builder that they used, if you add a text element, there’s an element that says, “Double-click here to edit this text.” A lot of old folks would just keep clicking the text element, so there would be like a hundred layered text elements that would just say, “Double-click here to edit this text.” (laughter). There were so many page elements that would just say, “Double-click here to edit this text” at the top corner. All these little things like that really informed this game for sure.
When did you know that you wanted to make a game like this?
Maybe during that job, really. In 2012, 2013, I made a minigame called Hypnospace Enforcer, which was sort of picking on the “information superhighway” buzzword. You had a little car on this highway, and in between you had a little browser and you could look at what people were doing wrong online. That was the seed, that job that I had. Then, of course, was my own fondness for that era of the internet.
Slushmouth’s Guide to New Digital Music, a riff on Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music
As a music writer, one of the things that stuck out tremendously was the riff on Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music and how you had these genres like haze, and coolpunk and dirthaze and earthhaze. There’s a lot of music in this game, a lot of period-specific stuff that you’re trying to capture. Obviously there’s the newer stuff that’s trying to sound retro. I’m wondering, what were your goals in regard to the music? I know you reached out to Keith Rankin [aka Giant Claw] as well—
Which I guess didn’t work out. What was the approach you had for the music to this game, and how did you come up with your own Ishkur’s Guide with that approach?
The fake Ishkur’s Guide, there is a confession here, because I didn’t know what Ishkur’s Guide even was until halfway through development, maybe 2017 or 2018. I was not an electronic music person. My musical background pretty much starts with me being one of those annoying high school Pink Floyd, Dream Theater kids (laughter).
You know, it starts there, and it branches out a little bit (laughs). That’s where that started. I guess now I’m into electronic music. Xalavier Nelson, Jr., our narrative designer who we brought on… basically we made a giant fake internet, and I’ll answer your question, (laughs) I’ll get to it! We realized, “Gee, how are we going to put a story that develops in this giant fake internet with all of this world building?” So we brought in Xalavier Nelson, Jr., and he helped tie that all together. He sent me a link to Ishkur’s Guide, and he said, “Dude, why don’t you have one of these in there?” And I said, “Oh, this is amazing!”
I vaguely remember it, but it was lost to time in my mind. It’s of course a pretty darn big staple of the early internet. So then I did some research on it, it was a very convenient way to—a lot of the music genres are very helpful to solving two or three of the big puzzles in the game, if you understand what the genres are and which characters are most likely to be into them. That was a really good, subtle way to put hints in for these puzzles.
The genres were really there because one of the principles of this game was to mitigate it being only for people who were alive back then. I didn’t want anything to be—and SquisherZ is pretty much Pokémon, but other than that—I didn’t want anything to be such a direct reference that you had to be alive back then or you would miss the joke. I think that can really date what you’re working on too, if everything is some kind of reference to a real specific thing that you must get to think it’s funny or interesting.
That was where making our own genres started, and it was so much fun! With our sequencer, most of the samples I made, other than some of the drum machine samples, which halfway through I tried to retcon—we were gonna go all in and I was gonna synthesize my own electronic drum samples. The jazz-rock band Klyfta in the game, I started cutting out some of the kick and snare and hat samples from the Klyfta recordings, and I was going to make those our in-universe drum machine samples, and even say how those Klyfta recordings ended up on this PCM drum machine. And that’s in there a little, but we didn’t stick to it. It was too hard, and I already had some friends and contributors who were using 606s and whatever. So I didn’t want to say, “Hey, can you put in my worse samples into your songs, because of the lore?” (laughter).
So we dropped that more or less, so it’s not that pure. It was just so fun to me, because some of those genres are kind of real. Dirthaze is a little bit shoegaze, more or less. Some genres are not at all, like fungus scene. For some of those we wrote a guide, like fungus scene, the music needs to have spring reverb (laughter) and it needs to have a low synthy-drone somewhere. Possibly gurgling with a lot of filters, like doing gurgling sounds. Those were the two important things if you were going to do fungus scene, but beyond that it could be what you want. It was just fun to define things like that, and trying to get people to go by them.
With coolpunk, and just the name for it, I was thinking of seapunk, if that’s related at all. And of course I was also thinking of vaporwave a lot!
I’ve been interested in vaporwave quite a bit, more conceptually I guess than the actual music.
That’s fair. Same for me.
There are a few albums that I really do like, but I found it hard to find albums that I was really liking a lot. Maybe it would take more listens. If I don’t like something, I think I’m more ashamed that I don’t like it, because I feel like I should have given it more listens or that I’m not understanding something. So I’m not saying it’s bad, but when I started looking into it I found some YouTube video essays about vaporwave and they seemed kind of silly in some way.
Like they’re putting too much meaning into it? What do you mean by silly?
Perhaps. Maybe not too much meaning, but maybe a little—I don’t want to use the word “gatekeepy,” but maybe a little. This is this person’s idea of what it is to them, but they are expressing it in a way…
Yeah, like it’s definitive.
Definitive! Yeah. That inspired coolpunk a lot, where people just have this idea, “This is what it is. Oh, this isn’t sample based, you recorded your own instrumentation, that is no longer vaporwave.” Or whatever, who knows. And this has gone on online, and probably in life, probably forever, in terms of everything. Especially in art movements, this is the most visible place this has happened. People, throughout all time have done this.
The coolpunk and fungus scene rivalry was poking fun at that. Some of the elements were definitely—it’s more reverb heavy, pads and looped samples. They’re all taking that old Gray’s Peak Cola theme and sampling it a lot, they’re all slowing it down and messing with it. And there is some irony because there is The Chowder Man, they’re all picking on how cheesy he is at that time. There is definitely some vaporwave thing there, with music based around an old soda company. (laughter).
It’s funny how you made these genres, delineated what they were, and had this elements of people debating them. It made it feel even more like looking at actual music guides, like with these YouTube essays, as you’re saying.
That was good because it seems clever to people, but it also helped us escape from not abiding by our own rules when we were making the music sometimes (laughter). So, it’s good.
I feel ashamed a little bit because I’m maybe a little more nerdy about music than I am about computer games, it’s my main thing I like. There are five fake movies in the whole game, there are two fake TV shows in this whole game, but there are like, 150 fake bands in this game! (laughter). So it’s not very even if you really look at it.
It’s totally fine, and you could tell from playing the game that you clearly cared about music. I know you make music yourself obviously. You’re into it. It’s nice, and the music lends itself to clues that aren’t as obvious, maybe. They set up the scene, they’re an accompaniment to the game in a way that isn’t as direct. When you watch a video, there are multiple senses at work, you have to stop everything else you’re doing to watch the video. If you stumble upon a video in the game you’re going to be looking for a clue. If it’s in the music, it’s more passive and you have to ask yourself, “Okay, should I even be looking for a clue here?”
This sort of game can be very close to being an open world situation where people can just explore and do whatever. Obviously you have the Enforcer role in the game, and then this narrative that is continually moving forward. Were you inspired by other games? Were you thinking of elements from other games in order to make your game what it was, to structure it, in order to build the narrative, in order to make it feel game-like?
Yeah, originally in terms of gameplay and specifically with searching keywords, Her Story. Technically, that didn’t have many progression triggers. The only thing that happened was that you learned new words to search, and because you are inquisitive you search those new words that then lead to other new words you can search. I thought it was cool, because it’s all you uncovering it. It’s not like, “You solved case three! Here is case four!” That leaves you closer to the ultimate story climax.
Of course, we ended up implementing cases, but I think that’s because it’s still a video game. If I didn’t have to sell this, I think we probably would have released a big fake internet and you could just go find stuff in it. But, you know, I have to live on this now! (laughter). Even with what we have now, there is a post, I think in the Steam forums, someone is like, “Oh my gosh, there is so much to click on, so many buttons, so many pages, even at the start! I don’t know what to do, I have paralysis. This is not the game for me, I can’t handle it!” That’s understandable, but if we just put up an open web, people would just be like, “Well, what do I do with this?”
Another thing is, I think you have to give people a reason to care about the things in the game. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of world building that you can page through. For me, I would love something like that! But generally, people want to be led through the content more or less, to some degree, and to have a story structure with a beginning and an ending. But one day, if I’m ever free from the burden of needing money, I’ll probably just make a big fake internet!
Jay Tholen around 2001
Do you want to talk a little bit about—are you comfortable sharing any of the things that are in the update?
Yeah, sure! One thing is, there’s about 30 more minutes of Klyfta, the ’70s band, what we call a cosmic music group, but it’s sort of just prog jazz-rock instrumental music. That’s contextualized by—there was an experimental arcade machine in the late ’70s, and that was Klyfta’s final project when it was a proper band instead of just a solo act.
The conceit, the clever thing about this arcade machine is that it had eight tapes always looping inside of it, and it dynamically crossfaded between the tapes to make a dynamic soundtrack that matched the action. I photoshopped a picture of the innards of a Mellotron with the tape and a ’70s arcade machine to make this weird new thing. It’s called The ROTOR Tapes, the arcade game is called ROTOR. It’s a little more krautrock sounding, a little more rhythm focused than the other stuff. It sounds just like the ’70s. So there’s that, you can dig that up.
A lot of the stuff is a little harder to find that we put in, it’s not going to be so immediate. We also added a lot of anti-drug stuff for Counselor Ronnie, which was something I always wanted to do. Those are called “T-Nubs” that the teens are taking apparently (laughter). He has a little game. But yeah, lots of stuff! The update has no central conceit other than just adding in a lot of stuff for people who really like to dig. There were a lot of keywords where if you clicked them or searched them they’d come up with no results, so I just wanted to fill them in with more stuff to find. For more searches you can get two pages to come up, instead of zero.
That makes sense. I haven’t dug into everything yet, but I’m very excited to. Do you foresee yourself continuing to add to this even more?
Yeah, we want to add one—to me, a final goodbye update. A little bit of a more focused one, not just a lot of disparate content everywhere. The PLUS update that we’re releasing has a lot of stuff we wanted to finish for the original launch that we had to cut. That’s why it is what it is, it’s just a bunch of stuff that enhances the game, or adds to it. But this next update would be a little more story-focused. There will definitely be new music in that too. Perhaps early next year, and then we’ll talk about what the next thing is, I don’t know! (laughter).
I’m tempted, we’ve been doing this so long that I just want to jump to another fake operating system game. I think I would drop the cop thing, because it’s just such a turn-off for a lot of people. A lot of people don’t want to play as a cop, especially lately, and justifiably so. I think we’d make it more of an open internet thing somehow.
So if you would make another game you’d want to keep pursuing this fake operating system kind of mode?
As for my part—I don’t want to speak for our coder or anyone—I would like that. We’ve already experienced what it means to put a game in an open, fake internet. We already have something of a handle on a good way to do that. Of course it would be a slightly higher resolution, and with some of the nice things we couldn’t get into this game, like resizing windows. I really wanted to do that, where you could make the browser window smaller if you want. I think maybe a fake Flash, that would also be a pretty cool next step. It would be nuts to do a super full-feature thing. I don’t know if you’re familiar with how Flash is structured but, tweening between frames, maybe you could move graphics and there would be a fake Flash maker. There are all kinds of ideas we can do, I don’t know! Could be fun!
Do you have any personal opinions about what could be done to the internet at its current state to make it a better experience for everyone?
Yeah. I think the obvious stuff of sorting out all the crazy misinformation on Facebook. I don’t know how you deal with that, that’s a big problem. In general though, aside from the obvious stuff, I wish things were structured in a way where people could actually share themselves more. It seems like content is ultimately just a means to making money. It’s like, “I’m not as professional as that, so why should I bother putting things online?” I feel that that’s sort of the opposite, for better or for worse, of how things used to go where you would just make a page, maybe put some recipes on there, a picture of your dog.
Maybe some early social media people used to do that, but looking at social media now, I don’t see much real sharing. I see people resharing something that they feel strongly about, be it political or something else. It would be so nice if there was some platform that would allow people to actually share things! I just don’t know if that’s a thing that would—maybe these platforms do exist, but with this current environment, I don’t know if there is even a desire for people to do that online anymore, but that would be nice. I couldn’t tell you what would help though. I hope there would be a good solution, but it’s a little depressing to me. I don’t know what would actually solve this!
Yeah, it’s hard to imagine a way in which we could go back into this old way of using the internet where there is less incentivization to make sure everything you do and say is part of a personal brand or just for a certain way to get yourself out there or something. There would have to be a structural change, and a change in regards to the way we think about everything!
Maybe it just needs to burn down, and something else could come. But then it would probably end up the same way. I don’t know, it’s depressing! (laughs).
And of course people need money now more than ever, so I don’t know how much things can completely change.
Yeah, I mean to some degree you have to work within the system, but I don’t know. It would be nice if something changed. Are you familiar with Neocities?
What is Neocities?
Neocities is a new attempt at a GeoCities-esque thing. People have a page maker, but I think it’s in HTML, where you have to type code in. It’s pretty cool, you can look at people’s pages. I think it’s a bit too technical to catch on for your average person, but it’s nice (laughs).
It’s nice that it’s there.
Yeah, it’s nice that it’s there.
I don’t have any other questions that I had planned, but is there anything that you wanted to talk about? Is there anything that you’ve wanted to be asked in an interview that you haven’t before?
I think I told you some of the stuff earlier with us recording all of the drum machine samples and stuff. I just shoehorned that in (laughter). You know, I can’t think of anything right now. It’s just fun to talk to someone who understands the music end of things. Most of the time we’re talking to game people in interviews. There’s often not too much crossover there really.
Jay Tholen and his dog Tilly
Yeah, it’s interesting. I feel like the video game community, at least in terms of writers and those doing journalism, it feels really insular in a way. I feel there is a lot of overlap between music and film and TV, or whatever, but video games always seem a little more separate.
Yeah, it does. There is a strange thing where game developers, maybe not indie game developers—(laughs). My dog is down here, and my wife just shuffles the dog out, so I feel like that guy on the news whose kids came into the background—
(Jay’s wife says something inaudible in the background).
I’m not criticizing honey, I just thought it was funny! (laughs). What were we just—oh yeah, it feels insular a little bit.
You think indie game designers are different?
Yeah, indie game designers are a little bit better about this generally, but game fans and the game industry in general—if you make this your whole life, and if it’s your bread and butter, if it’s the the thing you’re into the most, maybe there isn’t much room or time to dig into other stuff. I guess I can’t fault people.
One thing I would like to do is read more dang books! I just feel myself getting stupider. (laughs). Back a long time ago I read books in high school. I think it would help though, if you make games for example, if you got into music, or to dig in to literature, to dig in to anything else other than games or else you’re going to keep repeating things you’ve seen in other games.
I’m a huge proponent of that. I always tell other music writers that the best way to grow is not to just listen to new music, but to check out other mediums of art. There is going to be a lot you can learn that you can’t just learn from music.
Yeah, exactly. It’s not everyone’s job to be into everything, that’s impossible. But just to learn a little bit, to appreciate something else. Or at least, don’t be so dismissive maybe. That’s a thing, weirdly. I think that it could also be a nice differentiator, if you just want to be business-y about it. In your work, if you get into film, if you get into just about anything—some art, something— you are going to be bringing something into your creation, your product, that maybe other game developers wouldn’t ever even consider to put in their thing. It may make things look a little different, I don’t know, maybe it would make it more memorable.
To bring in an obvious example, Lucas Pope’s games I feel like… you know that he clearly has researched stuff to creates those games.
Yeah, for sure.
It’s not like anyone else is creating games that are at all like Return of the Obra Dinn.
Right. And it’s good because, who is gonna copy that, who is gonna steal that idea? Nobody’s gonna do that! (laughter). It’s the only 1-bit insurance investigator simulator on the market, that’s a good spot to be in!
I don’t have any more questions, but I wanted to let you know that I’m excited to play the update and play the game even more. Even playing this past weekend, I was like, “Ugh! I wish the internet was like this!”
Yeah, me too! Me too. The internet is not as carefree of an experience—I don’t know if that’s the right word, but it’s less nourishing now, I would say, than it used to be.
I’m a high school teacher and it’s interesting seeing my kids—they’re very tech illiterate compared to millennials, interestingly, because they’re only accustomed to doing things through apps. My school gave my students chrome books, but many prefer to do things on their phone. That’s crazy, because some even type faster on their phones than they can on the computer, which is not something I ever considered being possible.
You’re blowing my mind! I was on the bus the other day coming back from a German class and I thought that, a lot of these people are 17, 18, and they’re always using their phones. The teacher asked them if they used the computer, and mostly no one uses the computer anymore! Computers are now for work purposes, I guess, or for playing games on. It blew my mind because I had assumed, “Oh yeah, from now on typing on a keyboard, it’s going to be like second-hand, everyone is going to do it forever.” But, no!
When I ask my students to look something up, many of them really struggle with that. When I was playing this game again just recently, I was thinking about how some of my students wouldn’t intuitively know what to search. They aren’t really good at finding words to search on google, to find things.
Wow, and you’re a high school teacher right? Wow.
Most of them are only on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube. I’ve noticed that if I ask a question on a worksheet, they’ll just copy and paste the question verbatim, and then they’ll look at the top answer but they won’t even click the link or scroll down, they’ll just see the preview that Google shows.
Oh my goodness! That’s alarming, a little bit! That seems like the same problem that happens with boomers, but in the other direction. (fake yelling) Noo!
Exactly. That’s also why I’m getting worried about misinformation and stuff.
In our Discord community, most of the people that hang out there, maybe because they are the ones who have time to do it—are maybe high school age, or in their early 20s, up to 25. This was at first surprising because I always thought this was a millennial game, or maybe even Gen X, if they even play games. Most of the people on our Discord are younger people, maybe because Discord is more popular among people that play games who are very young, so that’s not a good sample of your average teenager (laughs).
It’s funny because the students that I have that are clearly into games, that are streaming on Twitch or something—they’re the ones who probably know the most about the internet and how to use it, or at least they know more than the average student. But that’s just from the sample size of students I’ve had.
Yeah, in some ways, having your kids play games all the time may be healthy in the long run for the auxiliary reasons.
I definitely got way faster at typing because of playing games. That is 100% the reason I’m a fast typer, for sure.
If it wasn’t for computer games I don’t know what I’d be doing! I’d be telemarketing in Florida! (laughter). That’s where I learned everything and got interested in games, and was like, (in a goofy voice) “How do you make ‘em?” (laughter).
I asked Jay Tholen to share a list of 20 albums that he’s into. His choices are presented below with Bandcamp or Discogs pages linked.
Gong - Camembert Electrique (BYG, 1971)
Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire (Columbia/CBS, 1973)
The Congos - Heart of the Congos (Black Art, 1977)
death’s dynamic shroud - 世界大戦OLYMPICS (Orange Milk, 2014)
Giant Claw - Erasers Fantasy (Unlimited Birth, 2010)
Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky, 2011)
Slowdive - Souvlaki (Creation, 1993)
Make A Rising - Infinite Ellipse and Head with Open Fontanel (High Two, 2008)
Half-handed Cloud - Flying Scroll Flight Control (Asthmatic Kitty, 2014)
Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty, 2010)
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger (Tooth & Nail, 2001)
Magma - K.A (Seventh, 2004)
Magma - Zëss (Le Jour Du Néant) (Music On Vinyl/Seventh, 2019)
Benjamin Blower - Babylon is Dead Vol #1 (Zang Productions, 2008)
Pepe Deluxé - Queen of the Wave (Catskills, 2012)
Ween - The Mollusk (Elektra, 1997)
The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme (Labrador, 2010)
Thank you for reading the first issue of Tune Glue. Reach out to an old internet friend today :)
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