A little over a month ago, The Gamer Inside was fortunate enough to come to the attention of one of the largest Spanish Newspapers “El Pais”, resulting in an interview posted to their website and no less than a four column article appearing in the paper itself. This article resulted in a dramatic increase in attention for our project, which we hope will continue, increasing our exposure and rescuing us from anonymity. Below you will find the interview of Jesus Fabre that served as the source for two articles, conducted in early January 2012 by journalist Ivan de Moneo. We hope you enjoy it.
EP : How did it all begin? What was the trigger that caused you to embark on The Gamer Inside?
JF : The project started in December 2010, when I decided to leave my position as a purely technical engineer and focus more on the study of the use of technology for communication and education. Specifically I decided to start a Masters in Communication and Learning in the Digital Society University of Alcalá. My intention in these studies has always been to apply them to gaming, as gaming is the field I feel most passionate about. Among the subjects that I studied was Audiovisual Creation, in which we had to put what we learned into practice by producing a short video. I had a lot of different ideas, but what I really wanted to know was how games were impacting the lives of the people around me. And I began to interview some of my friends, who like me, have been playing video games for over 20 years, almost all their lives.
EP : How many people have been involved in the project? What impact do you expect to have?
JF : In the early months I continued doing interviews with relevant people working with video games, either as a user, or those who actually develop them, and at the same time I became more involved with others who were willing to help: Alvaro Redondo was the first, providing all the 3D art and animation, after him came Jonathan Hall, a musician who has worked on video games, and the combined efforts of all three of us resulted in the release of the project teaser, launched in June of last year. Since then the project has grown, both in terms of interviewees and the team working on it. Including collaborations there are currently 11 people who make that The Gamer Inside possible. Most of them are from Spain, but we also have foreign partners such as Luyao Cui, our translator into Chinese and Raffaele Santoro, an Uruguayan musician.
As for the impact we are looking for, we all want to see people embrace the project, but obviously we’re grounded and aren’t expecting an overwhelming reception overnight. We think the approach of the series is fairly new and open minded, so we’ll go slowly by building narrative layers bit by bit and adding various technologies to help illustrate our arguments, depending on our resources and time. Little by little we’ll be creating an information program in which video games are the starting point, and from there we’ll touch on some very diverse topics (as you can see in our trailer). The series will show gaming as many of us see it, a tool powerful enough to serve as a link between cultural, and educational communities, as well as the industry itself. The program we want to have will have a lot of branching interests and be highly participatory, so our content will be Creative Commons, paying close attention to feedback from those who want to leave their ideas and constructive criticism.
EP : How many episodes are scheduled and when will you launch the first?
JF : At the moment the length of the series is not defined, as we are still in the process of screenwriting. Since we’re a self-funded project, we’ll be financing as we go, and determining what works and what doesn’t. If we are also generating a good public response, it’ll be even that much more rewarding. The first chapter will release in early February, and will be screened in Madrid during the last weekend of January.
EP : Have you had access to any public or private financing for the project?
JF : No, the primary source of funding for the project over the past year has been through my savings. Some have helped by contributing funds, helping us with recording equipment, travel expenses, or paying for our many hours of phone calls. Although we haven’t received money for our efforts thus far, we are learning every day and have a lot of creative freedom to implement our ideas. Neither of those things are readily available in the world of private enterprise, particularly in Spain. As for the future, once we’ve launched the pilot and have results from that show that’ll be when we start to look more seriously at funding. We know it’s going to be difficult to get a grant but we’ll try, we will also seek funding through online advertising, and we won’t rule out a return to crowdfunding for those who want to try their luck!
EP : Of all the evidence gathered so far, what has surprised you the most or what have you found most interesting or relevant?
JF : Well, truthfully, that’s hard to say, having interviewed 205 people from 15 different countries it is tough to pick just one. The vast majority of interviews have had memorable moments. But personally, if I had to say an interview that was especially surprising to me, I could cite three, each from a different country. The first, with Stéphano Arnhold, president of Tectoy, a Brazilian company that even today continues to manufacture 8-bit consoles like the Master System, which has been obsolete in the rest of the world for over 10 years. This man is probably one of the most senior people in the industry still active across the Americas. A real slice of history, and also a very amiable person. It was also very rewarding to talk to Stephen Howell, an Irish researcher working in the area of educational game development by and for children. Father, engineer and veteran player, all in one … And finally, if I had to choose between those interviewed at a national level, I would be eternally torn between two game creators, Daniel Sanchez-Crespo (Novarama / Invizimals) and Enric Alvarez (Mercury Steam / Castlevania: Lords of Shadows), both brilliant, humble and honest as could be, in my opinion a true example for all those who aspire to make the games of tomorrow. As for relevance, I think each interview is relevant for its field, so picking just one would be really complicated and a little unfair. However I think the person who could really speak to relevance in our project has not yet come to be interviewed, and that’s Eduardo Punset. We made contact with him in the first months of the project, but unfortunately an interview was not possible. I hope we have the opportunity to interview him in the future if our material is popular enough.
EP : After this experience, do you think the perception of gaming varies depending on age, profession, or nationality?
JF : I would say almost the opposite, that the profession is often influenced by the type of player you are … no two players are alike, so some part of player’s personality is going to be conveyed into the virtual word. Good games will capitalize on this, and that’s something we touch on in the series. For ages, I think the game industry is still very young and can not yet perceive the long term effects after only 35 or 40 years of consumers. Personally I would like to see the work done at The Gamer Inside to someday help provide answers to it to future generations of scholars studying the medium. Currently, moreso than in terms of age or nationality, I would say that the perception of the game varies depending on the cultural maturity of the person consuming it. What country they are from influences it a lot. But games have universal qualities, just like music or mathematics, no matter what language you speak and a good videogame generates understanding between players. I think that is the great achievement of this medium, to bring people together, not isolate them as many critics claim.
There are people who see games as a waste of time, others see it like a hobby, others still as an high educational and intellectual bar. Sometimes the same person has all three of these perceptions in a single day! That’s how complex the player is… and that’s a major reason we should want to know him better, and why I went forward with this project.
EP : What social impact do you think gaming has in Spanish society today? Does it serve some other function beyond mere entertainment?
JF : The impact on contemporary Spanish society, as well as on the rest of the Western world, has been enormous. It has created a lot of new iconic figures and ideas, even introduced new linguistic terms. We have to note that as a part of pop culture gaming is still being born. From a more historical point of view, I think the first and most important was that video games created a generation of digitally literate adolescents and adults who used microcomputers 80s. Many of them would remember fondly a publication called Microhobby, which served as a source of ideas to those seeking to program in the strange machines of the time (Spectrum, Amstrad, MSX and Commodore 64, among others).
Regarding the role of gaming, I think in the near future we will have more and more games that do what once was predicted for TV, and that is increasingly missing as time has passed: to train, inform and entertain. Interactivity is now expected, and the present generation will no longer accept seeing life pass before them in a box, they want to be part of that life. With social networking and media as a growing component within games the player is increasingly blurring the line between the real and the virtual. I think the current and future challenge will lie in educating gamers to know to make the most of both the physical and the virtual, a challenge that should not be underestimated.
EP : How do you think today’s youth appreciate gamer projects like this? Do you think they will find it interesting?
JF : Well to tell you the truth, I’m not aware of any similar projects right now, so I have no idea how they will receive it. As we’re raising awareness, we’re receiving support from the community of gamers, not just Spanish, but also internationally. At least in our country I have the impression that if you try something new there will be people who find it strange, and think we are wasting time. For example, although almost all homes now have a gaming console and players from grandmother to grandson, socially, gaming still looks like a superfluous activity to a lot of people. It is underrated in favor of other more “serious” pursuits such as reading or study, despite the fact it can provide knowledge and challenges that are at least on a par with these activities. Many people associate the word “game” with the word “toy”, and not the words “experimentation” and “learning”. Losing is frowned upon, and we laugh at those who make errors, because it is assumed errors are something negative and not what they truly are: an opportunity to learn to be better. It is this experience, making mistakes in the face of a challenge that many video games rely upon to bring back players again and again. Millions of players around the world are now answering that call, the call to surpass oneself.
EP : The video game industry has grown dramatically in recent decades. Looking back, what would you bring back from early years, those early games in contrast to large current productions?
JF : Well, if I had to highlight a title that provided hours of great fun, it would have to be Maniac Mansion, a LucasArts adventure game that at 12 years old caused me to leave pure action games for a moment and arm myself instead with patience and courage. I still remember how I entered a mysterious house with three intrepid young friends to save my girlfriend from the suckers of purple tentacles and the family of a mad scientist. I recall moments of fear, laughter, and intrigue, all so memorable. Also the first Legend of Zelda game which I didn’t really understand until much later. I didn’t have much understanding of English in those days, and the idea of having an open world seemed very strange in those days. I was dazzled by the freedom of movement, the imaginative way they used it, and the music and graphics were remarkable for that time. Currently I see many great productions, absolutely, but there are also titles that give us more ideas and better ideas than seen in previous generations, and not just in aesthetic improvements. They may not be numerous, but they definitely exist. Even amongst the blockbusters: the last Deus Ex, Braid, or Portal 2 are three clear examples that this medium still has interesting things to offer … and very interesting players to be interviewed!
EP : What is your first memory of video games? What’s your favorite game?
JF : My first video game memory was at a friend’s house, playing a shooter called Macross, which had the recorded memory of a NES clone. It was a ship that was transformed into robot at your will, which I found fascinating when I first saw it, I would have been 7 or 8 years old. It’s too hard for me to choose my favorite game, I have always said that there is a game for everyone, whether or not they are a gamer. Once you already are a game player and have spent hundreds of hours on hundreds of titles, it can be said that there is one for each day, for every mood, and even for each visit to your home when you want to have a good time. Right now, it has gotten late while I answer these interview questions and there is silence, the moonlight coming through the window with the glow of the screen and a single small lamp. I would say my favorite game for this particular situation is “Amnesia: The Dark Descent”. A truly terrifying title released for the PC not long ago, and that really gets you feeling like a survivor before dark, and a real explorer of the unknown. Perhaps these are the concerns I’m looking to deal with now, and in this, my perfect game, are the factors that motivate my life beyond the screen.
Translated by: Al Goss