Glitchnap are four people with passports for three different countries: Tommy Rousse (US), Mads Johansen Lassen (DK), Joon Van Hove (BE) and myself Jonas Maaløe (DK). They are rockstar developers with a social approach to gaming. Questions were answered by Jonas Maaløe. This is their profile!
Currently Joon, Mads and I keep the office warm here in Copenhagen while Tommy is on an undercover mission in Chicago codenamed “Operation Law/Doctorate Degree” for a couple of years. We’re small enough to not need designated job titles, but if you were to stop by the office on a normal day, you’d probably see all of us discussing game design, Mads and/or Joon tag-teaming development and me working on UI/UX design, QA or business stuff.
Chart your entry into the industry, your coming together and the formation of the studio?
We all met at the IT University of Copenhagen’ Games program back in 2011 and through sheer luck ended up working together on a game design final, which eventually turned into LAZA KNITEZ!! – a game that won the 2012 Indie Sensation Award at Nordic Game and become our first official Glitchnap release title on Ouya earlier this year. None of us had really been involved with the games industry before coming to ITU, and we were fortunate to enter it right when the indie scene was just starting to get serious legs and going independent wasn’t as crazy as it would have been 5-10 years ago.
You describe yourselves as a band who makes games instead of records. How important is it for a studio, especially an independent developer to have a clearly defined identity?
A catchy tag line helps someone quickly understand a studio’s approach and philosophy, but ideally your identity is merely a by-product of the actual things you put into the world. In our case, we are all super interested in how to make video games a natural part of social experiences the same way live music or bouncy castles are. So we make social games like Zumbie and build alternative arcade machines, which we bring to events along with shaky dev builds and bags of Xbox controllers. It was Joon who came up with the band thing as an aside one time while we were lugging all this different gear into the back of a rental van, and Glitchnap suddenly felt less like office job and more like being on tour in a band.
Is there a chance this could limit the developers scope for diversification?
There’s always a risk of getting stuck in a particular groove with these things. Getting easily bored is a great way to avoid that though, and we try to do mix it up after a few trips one the same merry-go-round in the same Ferris wheel. Case in point: After being focused on arcade-y local multiplayer games the past couple of years, we’re currently getting our hair moussed diving into single player games like our recent release Try Harder on Adult Swim and an upcoming abstract puzzle game called Suprematism (working title), which just got funded through the Nordic Game Program. Getting bored is a great way to try out new things
What are the challenges (if any) of developing games as a relatively small outfit?
We’re mainly game designers and developers, so we often get blindsided as to how much great art and sound design contributes to the overall experience and enjoyment of a game. Luckily we work with some amazing artists and musicians like Niklas Ström and Simon Gustaffson from Sweden and Dominik Johann from Germany, whose contributions we’re eternally grateful for. Being small with the ambition of remaining small, just means that you need a network more than anything, so the real challenge is creating a big network of potential collaborators so you can use the right freelancer for the right job. In our band metaphor, it’s like we get top-notch guest drummers cause none of us plays the drums, or work with someone external to do visuals for our show.
Glitchnap as an entity and individually is a regular fixture of the Nordic indie scene following your involvement with the Copenhagen Game Collective, what core features & issues do you work to highlight as a collective?
Through the Copenhagen Game Collective we try to highlight notable games from the local indie scene and to bring video games from the couch or bedroom and into social contexts by hosting events and parties like All The Rave, where video games are a natural piece of the party experience. The collective came to life as a way for people from different companies to work on projects together, without having to fight over who gets to take ownership. It’s also set up as a non-profit organization, so anything that we as Glitchnap do in the scene for the scene’s sake, we have no problem applying the CPHGC label to, if the rest of the collective agrees to that. It’s hard to say what the collective is striving for, as I can’t speak for everyone involved, but for us it’s mainly a small community of like minded people who like to have fun and do extracurricular activities. I think most notably, we’re responsible for the Nordic Game Indie Night (the yearly indie summit at the Nordic Game conference), the All The Rave game-parties (game expo + music acts), Lyst Summit (Sex, Romance in video games conference), curating the w00t festival and all sorts of workshops, lectures and smaller activities.
Do you believe the industry in the Nordic region as a whole does enough to challenge cultural and societal conventions?
On an international level and since before we joined, the Collective seems to have acquired the reputation of creating socially disruptive games. Examples like B.U.T.T.O.N. and JS. Joust, Dark Room Sex Game and Spin the Bottle are all unprecedented uses of their respective technologies, and building heavily on the immediate social space of local multiplayer games. With Glitchnap we’re doing what we can to keep up, building installations and doing the Burn The Keyboard workshop where we create custom controllers with people at festivals, to show them how easy it is to re-think how we play video games. I can’t speak for others, but I’m not sure any of us are experimenting because we want to make an impact, we’re just very curious and like playing in unexplored territory, preferably with each other. I wouldn’t say it’s the games industry’s responsibility to challenge any conventions except it’s own, and I feel we’re definitely doing that with many of our projects, though we’ll gladly share that space with anyone who does interesting things within games.
How and where do you get inspiration for your games?
We attend game jams like Nordic Game Jam, Exile or No More Sweden like crazy. They’re a great way to quickly bounce around ideas and get a chance to work with other people with other perspectives than our own. We also draw a lot of inspiration from play contexts and everything that happens around the games themselves. LAZA KNITEZ!! and its custom cocktail cabinet was a way to re-think what a physical arcade machine could be today, Zumbie is an experiment in making team building and verbal communication exercises not suck and Suprematism is inspired by abstract art and the play-like affordances of touch screens.
Who are the developers in the region you look to for inspiration?
Knapnok and Die Gute Fabrik here in Copenhagen were (and still are) huge sources of inspiration for us when we first started out. Reignbros are doing amazing things with their local multiplayer title Stikbold. Lohika Games have a really smart take on the otherwise uninspired “educational games” genre and we haven’t been able to put down Jeppe Carlsen’s game 140 ever since it came out. Every once in a while Nifflas comes by and performs some sort of occult ritual, we’ve learned not to ask questions. Finally Sweden’s Redgrim is putting punk attitude back into video games where it belongs.
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Joon Van Hove