InterviewSpecial Topics In Gameology

Dyad

Aural Histories: Shawn McGrath and David Kanaga, creators of Dyad

The creators of Dyad talk about finding the meaningful realism in their synesthetic game.

By Anthony John Agnello • March 13, 2013

Special Topics In Gameology is an in-depth look at a specific corner of the gaming world, in miniseries form. For this edition of the feature—Aural Histories—we’re interviewing game creators about the role of sound effects in video games. In the first installment, Anthony John Agnello spoke to Limbo composer Stig Martin Andersen. This time, he connects with the makers of Dyad.

Don’t call Dyad a music game, and don’t call it a shooter. Dyad programmer Shawn McGrath and musician David Kanaga refuse to couch their synesthetic trip of a game in an easy genre classification, and anyone who plays it can see why. What at first looks like Jeff Minter’s psychedelic tunnel-vision shooter, Tempest 2000, quickly transforms into its own beast, a game where you control a tiny block of color that grapples onto other blobs in an endless tube, changing the shape and tone of music as you play. Kanaga and McGrath spoke to The Gameological Society about creating the bewitching sound of Dyad, the unimportance of realism in games, and why every video game story beside the one in Super Mario Bros. is junk.

The Gameological Society: What is the role of sound in video games?

Shawn McGrath: To make your ears feel good.

David Kanaga: Or feel bad. To make your ears feel how the spirits feel, right?

McGrath: To make you feel, I think.

What would Dyad sound like if it were an instrument?

Kanaga: The way I feel about it, and I talk about this with Shawn a lot, is I think that video games are already like musical structures. Music has a sonic aspect to it with sounds, and then it has a structural aspect to it, which is really just numbers and rhythms and pitches. So the way I see sound in video games is as a way of turning the structural music aspect that’s already present in all games and actualizing that as sound music.

Gameological: How were the sound effects in Dyad made? What tools did you use? How did you go about making all the sound in the game?

McGrath: I’d say half [music sequencing program] Ableton Live and half C++ code.

Gameological: Describe the process of coming up with new sounds for me. How did you go from what you wanted Dyad to sound like while it’s played to the actual implementation of sounds in the game.

Kanaga: I would play, or watch videos of the game because my computer couldn’t run it at the time, but I had played, so I could imagine the touch of it and everything. And so I’d play a game and imagine, “Okay, this is what it feels like, and I know what it’s like to play an instrument. I know what it feels like to play music and improvise. And playing a game feels basically the same. So what would Dyad sound like if it were an instrument?” And then you have a structural sense of what that should be like.

But as far as going into Ableton and making the sounds, it’s easy. Really easy. You know, I use Ableton 7, and if anyone else uses that, they’ll probably recognize preset sounds. I like making music really quickly and not working on content too much.

I think the most interesting stuff is how it gets manipulated in gameplay. So a lot of the music and sound is just the first thing that I would sit down and say, “So, you need to make a track for a level. Make a track. Now make a sound.” It’s really hasty, lazy work.

Gameological: What was the single biggest challenge in making the sound for Dyad?

McGrath: There’s a lot of it. That’s about it. There’s just a lot of sound. I don’t think there’s any particular challenge in it other than the fact that there had to be a lot made. It becomes a motivational thing: “Do I really need to make 800 more sounds for the remaining levels?” And then, for me, it’s like, “Do I really need to program 800 new sound effect program things? Well, fuck, I guess we have to.” I think that’s by far the hardest part.

Kanaga: Yeah, I totally agree. That actually goes back to what I was saying about using these preset sounds. When you have a lot of stuff to do, you’ve got to be quick, or else you’re going to get depressed. You know, I’m not going to sit and shape some sound for three hours if I’ve got to do a hundred more of them. It’s just a mass of content and what’s interesting isn’t what the content itself is, but how you move with it.

Gameological: What sounds did you guys try to implement in the game that just didn’t work?

McGrath: There was one thing that I had an idea for, but David just wasn’t feeling it. I had an idea to use a Wagner-esque motif structure for all the mechanics in the game. Which I guess is done anyway, but in a less tight relationship than I wanted.

Kanaga: It does have a motif structure, like when you lance it rings in arpeggios and there’s always a related start sound for the lance. So the lance arpeggios they faded in really quick.

Gameological: Explain to me what you mean by a Wagner motif.

Kanaga: Wagner. He’s German.

McGrath: He’s also a Nazi. So, yeah, I was trying to get this Nazi structure in there—nah I’m just kidding.

Kanaga: [Laughs.]

McGrath: Wagner had this idea, the leitmotif. All his operas are constructed this way. When certain feelings or certain characters come in—Star Wars does a really good job of this too—they all have these sounds and little melodies associated with them. The entire soundscape of the opera is created around those. So it’s a very, very tight relationship between people and events and feelings and themes in the opera. And I wanted Dyad to be like that. And it is, in a way, but it’s not as tight as what Wagner was doing. Because he spent 22 years on The Ring. We spent 22 months on Dyad. So there’s a bit of a difference.

Kanaga: I don’t know if I entirely opposed that idea. [Laughs.] I probably just wanted to be completely impulsive. There is this very real sense of using motif devices to accompany all Dyad’s mechanics. And it’s not going to be a particular melody, but quick arpeggios with lancing, arpeggios locked into the meter of the level with the zipline. And those tend to be in units of three: “Da-ka-da-ka-da-ja, da-ka-da-ka-da-ja.” So there is this stuff but it’s not totally tight, you know, because we’re not Nazis. [Laughs.]

McGrath: There you go. We have a non-Nazi approach to Wagner in Dyad. I’ll go with that. Yeah.

Gameological: Shawn, I was just reading an interview where you talked about how you wanted people to have a personalized story as they play through the game. A video game is constantly changing because of players’ influence over what’s happening. So how do you use sound to effectively tell a story in video games?

McGrath: I want to take a step back and talk about telling stories in video games first. I actually just started writing a short story about three hours ago and it starts off with me talking about how much I hate video games as story devices because they are not conductive to telling a linear story in any way whatsoever. Any attempt at putting a linear story in a game immediately makes the game worse.

The only good story I’ve ever seen in a video game is in the first [Super] Mario Bros., which is, “Go rescue some bitch.” It’s real simple and real, “Oh! I know what to do!” If you look at Mario games past the Super Nintendo era, they all added more story and they are all infinitely less interesting story-wise than Mario, Mario 3, or Super Mario World. Any other Mario game is less interesting because they try to tell a story and you don’t get to create your own story. So I think video games trying to tell a linear, pre-authored story, I think that’s the worst thing you could do in a game. The question of sound needs to put in that context, I think, because I think that’s what we’re trying to do with Dyad.

Any attempt at putting a linear story in a game immediately makes the game worse.

Kanaga: In these games I played when I was a kid, like Final Fantasy VII, it’s not the play that captivates me. It’s the story. In the Final Fantasy games and other [role-playing games], the way that they use music is you walk into a new town and it’s got this 4-minute piece of music that plays. A lovely piece of music, and there’s people dying, and people falling in love. And there’s all these emotions that are triggered in the ways that fixed media have already explored.

With Dyad, instead of a story that we read to you, the story is a box of crayons that you can draw with, or melt, or eat, or whatever. It’s these objects that are put into motion. The motion that you bring to it. That’s where the meaning comes from for me.

Gameological: So what is the difference between designing sound for a game like Dyad where sound is very much the point of the game, as opposed to something like Mario where sound is just extra flavor?

McGrath: That’s false that the sound is the point of the game. Sound is not the point of the game. Sound is done really well in the game, and maybe that’s why it’s being confused as the point. Because really, no other game does sound particularly well, and we were like, “Hey! Let’s do sound right.” But that’s really not the point of the game at all, that’s just doing sound properly.

Kanaga: Well, it is a reward, though. Hearing sound as a result of things that you do, having that feedback is rewarding. It gives back to you.

McGrath: It’s the same with every other element in the game though.

Kanaga: That’s true.

McGrath: Sound is no more the point of the game than visuals are the point of the game. And visuals aren’t the point of the game either.

Kanaga: Any more than touch is.

McGrath: Touch is more, way more, the point of the game than visuals or sound. I think the point of the game is something that everyone can decide on their own. Sound was so low on the scale of importance when I was making the game. As were visuals. I don’t care how visuals look. The look really cool, and they move around, and they do shit that no other game has done before, but I don’t give a fuck, right? They’re not that important. There’s a lot more important stuff going on in that game for me.

Gameological: So for you the mechanics are paramount. The lancing and hooking and rolling around in this tube.

McGrath: That’s not important, either. That’s one of the tools used. Music is one of the tools, visuals are one of the tools, the mechanics are one of the tools. They’re all tools used for some higher purpose that would be the point of the game.

Gameological: So what is the difference between creating sound for a game where all of those things are given an equal amount of attention and, say, something like Super Mario Galaxy where, perhaps, more attention is paid to just mechanics, and then look and sound is less important?

Kanaga: For me, sound is the most important part because that’s what I pay attention to. This is true for all games, because I used to play music and that’s how I live. So sound is the way that I can connect to any structure, system, or ecosystem or whatever.

You said what’s the difference between Dyad and Mario, but I think that any game can be a space for interactive music in that same way, and I don’t think there’s any fundamental difference. If I were working on any game, I would encourage it to be a space for interactive music. Even if it were Assassin’s Creed, take out the sound effects and just replace it with music that’s changing all the time and I’ll like it more.

The realism of image and sound is not valuable.

I agree with Shawn that Dyad is not about sound. It’s just a game that’s doing this with sound, and I think that all games could do similar things and wouldn’t really lose much except realism, but I think the kind of realism that people go for in games is this kind of bizarro content realism. A realistic tree with realistic sound effects. I’m interested in the realism that Dyad explores, which is a sensuous systems space where all actions seem united, and you can dissolve into that space and feel a sense of presence there in the same way that you can feel a sense of presence in your everyday life. And that’s the kind of realism I think is valuable right now in games. The realism of image and sound is not valuable.

Gameological: So how do you capture that meaningful realism? How do you decide what parts of a game needs to make sound? You talked about the realistic tree. If you spend all this time rendering a realistic tree, do you need to make sure that it sounds like the leaves are actually rustling in the wind?

Kanaga: I hope not. The project of photorealism and sonic realism is just silly, really. Just go outside. But as far as what deserves sound in a game or what needs sound, the way I think about it, all objects deserve sound in a game. All events, all processes, the whole space. Every aspect of the game is a piece of music. So, yes. The tree. There’s another game I’m working on called Proteus that’s full of trees. It’s mostly trees. And they all have music. Everything has music. That’s how I approached the stuff in Dyad. All the objects have a sound.

McGrath: If you put something in a game, it should be interactive. If it’s there, it should be interactive, and it should be interactive in as dense a way as possible. If it’s not interactive, if it’s not a dense, meaningful interaction, you should just get rid of it because you don’t need it. And if you design a game around that system, then all elements in the game are meaningful gameplay-wise, then therefore they all need sound and music. They all need visuals and to respond to events. Music and visuals also need to respond to events. Otherwise, they don’t belong in the game.

Kanaga: Totally agree with that. Of course, Dyad has a lot of static. There’s a lot of stuff in Dyad that’s not like that, actually.

McGrath: Like what?

Kanaga: The image of the orb.

McGrath: What are you talking about? That’s totally interactive. There’s nothing in the game that’s not interactive.

Kanaga: Well, we don’t have to—

McGrath: No, no. Now I want to know what you mean.

Kanaga: I’ll just talk about music things that aren’t interactive. There are rhythms that fade in and out, getting quieter when you slow down, but that rhythm isn’t an interactive rhythm. I do think there’s a lot of non-interactive stuff in visuals too, but definitely in music there’s a lot of non-interaction. There is also is a lot of interaction. This philosophy of making everything interactive is beautiful, but it’s difficult. It’s a kind of radical thing.

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  • PaganPoet

    Heh, I like that Wagnerian motifs came back in this discussion too! Soupy liked that topic in the last topic!

  • Fluka

    “The only good story I’ve ever seen in a video game is in the first [Super] Mario Bros., which is, “Go rescue some bitch.” It’s real simple and real, ‘Oh! I know what to do!’”

    There’s, uh, two comments I could make about this quote.  Rather than going for the obvious objection (grr), I’ll go for the second: maybe this is a…tad bit hyperbolic?  Surely RPGs, particularly the extra-complicated classic Western style that is now getting revived via Kickstarter, present an alternate way to make an interactive world where the player authors their own story?  The choices provided by the plot, dialogue, and character creation are the set of tools provided by the author in that case.  A more restrictive set of tools, sure, but people nonetheless seem to respond quite strongly to it when it’s done well.

    Then again, the best moments in Skyrim are usually the random ones provided by the world itself rather than the plot, so perhaps there’s something to this.  (This may say more about Bethesda’s writing abilities than anything else, though…)

    • PaganPoet

      I was about to take off my stilettos and hoop earrings and take it outside, gurl.

    • Steve McCoy

      Yeah, that and his “Any attempt at putting a linear story in a game immediately makes the game worse” are hyperbolic and reductive. Games can do more to make personal stories than provide freedom and sandboxes. I’m even willing to say those things are a bit overrated these days. For me, challenge is a big part of how I connect with games, and the best way to be challenged is to try to do what the game wants.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/gorfious,4040/ Gorfious

        I don’t disagree with his general premise, but his conclusions are off.  A linear story does impose some restrictions on a game.  The only games that have successfully fully integrated the story and the game are completely linear: Half Life and Portal. That’s the only time I’ve truly felt like the story and the game are one and the same.

        But restrictions aren’t a bad thing, and linearity isn’t a bad thing.  It’s a descriptive term that people think counts as criticism.  Linearity can give a game shape and pacing in a way that you can’t get in an open world.

        • ToddG

          Yeah, dismissing linearity is kind of ridiculous.  After all, there’s more than one way to make a fantastic game experience.  Though I’m not sure about those examples of integrated storytelling; I’d think more of something like Flower, or The Walking Dead.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/gorfious,4040/ Gorfious

          Maybe I should have used linear narrative instead of story, because Flower seems to me to be the exact opposite of what I’m talking about.  That’s the box of crayons type of make your own story.  I guess that type of story integrates into games more easily, but I wouldn’t really call it a narrative.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      My read on it is that McGrath was being hyperbolic, but even if he wasn’t, sometimes artists benefit from having pure, uncompromising, extreme ideas. They lead to having a clear artistic vision. As I see it, he knew what kind of game he wanted to make, and then he made it. His opinion on other types of games (and their narratives) only matters insofar as it’s his personal opinion; he’s not working on those other games (as far as I know), and his opinions are extreme enough that they’re unlikely to be adopted and misapplied by other developers.

      • SamPlays

        Note to Other Developers: It is vitally important to ensure the correct application of “bitches” in your game. Refer to Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row and DoA Xtreme Beach Volleyball for further details.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        Yeah but… maybe I don’t want to buy a game from such a narrow minded developer who writes off everything else. It has become a problem these days, with developers being more in the public spotlight, that their personal opinions might ward me off an otherwise good game. In some ways I liked the days when I didn’t know shit about who made a game. In other ways, fuck these guys, I’ll give my money to someone less douchey.

        • George_Liquor

          Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to keep the artist separate from his art. I enjoyed Braid a lot more before Jonathan Blow told us we were all interpreting it wrong.

        • http://twitter.com/TheBryanJZX90 TheBryanJZX90

          I almost didn’t buy Fez because of how much of a dick Phil Fish was to that one random Japanese guy, but I got over it. I think not buying Fez because of that would have been a mistake, and would have denied me a good deal of enjoyment for no real reason. My problem was always more with his lack of consideration for the guy in front of him than the actual content of his message. I don’t really understand why it should matter if Phil Fish doesn’t like modern Japanese games when I do, as long as I also like the kind of game Phil Fish is making.

          Similarly, if I like linear storytelling in video games, I don’t really care if these guys don’t, as long as I also like games that don’t bother trying to tell a story.

          Like, I can understand trying to “punish” a developer for actions, maybe, but not opinions. Unless that opinion is something inherently wrong to even consider, like the Nazis were OK or something.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

      You may not go for the obvious, so I will.

      “Go rescue some bitch.”

      Good to know the indie scene is just as crudely misogynistic as the AAA gaming scene. And it’s nice to know that his idea for “true game stories” is couched in perhaps the most misogynistic of storytelling ideas – the damsel in distress. He seems to imply then that by adding things like nuance and world-building and characterizations (shitting on SMB3 is fightin’ words), that it INHERENTLY makes the storytelling worse. I’m not sure hot to respond to this

      Gaming stories have a ton of problems, but thinking that things like complexity and character development is a detriment to storytelling isn’t just foolhardy – it’s flat out wrong.

      • Travis Stewart

        Huh, I would have thought the most misogynist of story ideas would be something where all women are actively evil.

        • ToddG

          I think the most misogynist story idea would be all women being evil damsels in distress.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

           @BreakingRad:disqus I’m sorry, Mario, but the princess is in another castle… kill her!

        • aklab

          You achieved Plumbers before Princesses!

      • stuartsaysstop

        I didn’t much care for his use of the term either. However, at no point does he shit on SMB3. He specifically calls out the post-SNES Mario games for their more “complex” stories.

        • Travis Stewart

          I wonder if he’s including New Super Mario Bros. Wii in that.

      • The Guilty Party

        C’mon, it’s funny because, you know, bitches! He’s just saying what we’re all thinking, to wit, women are all bitches and it’s both interesting and funny to point it out, because bitches! Don’t act like you don’t think it’s clever to arbitrarily denigrate half of the human race.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Thanks for typing this out so I didn’t have to. Fuck this bullshit. You want to know why women don’t want to work in this field? Because of tools like this guy. I’m for sure never going to get a game this guy works on, even though Dyad looks kinda neat. 

      • Geo X

        I would say that “rescue the princess” is sexist rather than misogynistic–there’s a lot of overlap, between the two categories, yes, but there IS a distinction.  Characterizing it as “go rescue some bitch,” on the other hand?  Yeah, that’s unambiguously misogynistic.

    • ferrarimanf355

      He could have probably worded that better. 

      (Talk about understatements!)

      • The Guilty Party

        “Venture forth, and save the slattern!”

    • Jackbert

      Okay, listen up, gentlemen. This is how you write a video game story.

      First, ya gotta have a bitch. She’s gotta be stuck somewhere, okay? All right, let’s see…say she was at the nail salon, getting her nails done. Bitches do that, y’know? So we got gritty realism already. So then, how’d she get stuck? Let’s say she got caught up in her celebrity magazine, like bitches are prone to do. And then they lock up the nail place. Now she’s locked in the nail place. Who’s gonna save her? A bro. So the bro, let’s say he’s off at the Y, working out. It’s a leg day, y’know? Leg press, abductions, adductions, all that shit. We got all the machines. More gritty realism. He gets a call from the bitch, saying to come rescue him. He’s all like, “Babe, I’m workin’ on my calves.” She says, (and you gotta get a good voice actor here, one who can sound really bitchy) “PICK MEEEE UP!” So he’s like all right. Changes out of his workout clothes, hits the shower. We gotta have a nice shower scene here. Show off his muscles. No homo, but we gotta show that he’s strong enough to rescue her. Gritty realism, y’know? So after the shower…no homo…he leaves the gym. Crosses the street to the nail place. Now we need some conflict. He gets a call. It’s one of his bros. His bro says, “Ay, wanna watch sports?” Our protagobro is all like, “Yo, I gotta rescue some bitch.” His bro says “You sure?” Our protagobro says “Yeah. It won’t take long, aight? I’ll come over after that.” His bro is all like “Cool.” Hangs up. All right, so there’s our conflict. He’s at the nail place, remember? Now he takes off his shirt. Nice lingering shot on his pecs. No homo. He’s prepping to kick the door down. So we gotta show his pecs. All right. Suddenly, somebody comes out the door. A janitor! Make him black, so we got racial diversity. Gotta have racial diversity. All right, so the black janitor says “Whassup, homie?” Our protagobro says “Can I get in there? I gotta pick up my girl.” Black janitor is all like “Aight, homie.” So our protagobro goes in, rescues the bitch.

      There you go. That is a video game story. That is the best video game story you can write.

      • PaganPoet

        The black janitor has to say “Aw, HALE naw!” when bro kicks in the door, though.

        • Jackbert

          No, he’s gay for more diversity, so he goes, “Oh no, you DID-INT!”

      • ToddG

        As the spouse of a Y employee, I would like to formally protest its inclusion in this sordid tale.  Er, I mean, this stunning work of art.

      • SamPlays

        The black janitor needs to say, “Sorry, bro! Your bitch is at a different nail salon!”

      • George_Liquor

        I humbly submit “brotagonist.”

    • ly_yng

      I’d argue that a lot of the fun “random moments” in Bethesda games are actually scripted, just in a different way than straight dialogue. Someone had a thought to build a camp of bad guys or a dungeon in a certain shape, or to leave certain visual clues to hint at a story.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      this article was tl;dr for me (not enough time at the moment), but from the couple of quotes I’ve seen, these guys sound pretty full of shit. Either they are being intentionally hyperbolic  for shits and giggles, or they are incredibly ignorant/close minded.

    • JokersNuts

       I’m glad there is at least one gaming website/community that doesn’t let these douche holes off the hook with BS like, “rescue some bitch” as being the best storyline in video games. 

  • Steve McCoy

    McGrath comes across as rather fundamentalist and a bit of a dick, and Kanaga seems more realistic and laid-back. It’s an interesting pairing, even though in this case, the result doesn’t grab me as they hope.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/gorfious,4040/ Gorfious

      A fundamentalist dick in the indie gaming scene?  Who would have thought. 

      Eh, I can’t judge.  I’d probably come off as a dick in an interview too.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        “We may afford the decadence of self-righteousness, as no one has ever given a single care to what we say.”

  • Samuel Christensen

    I totally agree with him about how the simplicity of the Mario story allows for incredibly compelling “gap filling” by the player. Which is why I’m developing a game called “Go Right.” In it the player goes right. But who are you? Where are you going? If you’re heading right, what’s to your left? Are you running away from something, or running towards something else? 

    • Enkidum

      Eh, that imposes too many restrictions on the player. It’s nothing compared to my game “Stay Still, Or Don’t, Or Whatever”.

      • SamPlays

        I’m developing a FPS called “Do What You Want”, in which your character is comatose and all of the action is from the perspective of a security camera in your hospital room. 

        • HobbesMkii

          “Uh oh, your no-good cousin is forging your signature on a new will that disinherits your children in favor him! What will you do?”

          Press [A] to lie still.
          Press [B] to lie still.
          Press [Y] to lie still.
          Press [X] to lie still.

      • Fluka

        You guys would really love my new game 5’33.  It’s a shooter where the screen is frozen and white for five hours and thirty three minutes, during which time the player becomes aware of the sublime interactivity of the world around them.  Then they go read a book or do some chores or something.

        • PaganPoet

          A John Cage joke on a video game site. I never imagined this day would come. *sheds a single tear*

          The sound of the player’s discomfort becomes the game.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          I played it once, but I couldn’t figure it out.  I got as far as the door and could see this whole outside area, but there weren’t any quest markers, so I just lay face down in the itchy grass until the time limit was up.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

           That was my experience with “The Unfinished Swan” until I realized you could shoot paint.

      • AmaltheaElanor

        So we’re making these games for hipsters now?

        • ToddG

          I only buy games made from free-range code fragments.

        • GaryX

          Clearly you haven’t been to gaming websites in the past few years. They’ve been saying that for ever.

        • PaganPoet

          Can I see the office where this game was developed? Are the programmers free to wander about the premises? What is their workstation like? What are they fed?

          • Chum Joely

            I sense that you watch Portlandia.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          First of all, hipster jokes are lame as fuck. Secondly, @PaganPoet:disqus I know that’s from that Portlandia chicken thing, but have you seen Valve’s offices?

        • PaganPoet

          @Douchetoevsky:disqus No, but if it’s the kind of office with hammocks and toys and scooters, I don’t want to. It will just make me feel sad about my office.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          @PaganPoet:disqus Business hammocks, please. And seriously. It looks like the place is run by Hank Scorpio. They have everything. 

    • GaryX

      This reminds me of a video over on Giant Bomb back when they would play this game developer card game thing (I think they were like flash cards that were supposed to spark conversations about topics). They had to come up with something that was a better story, and Patrick argued for the blank piece of paper because “it could be whatever you want!” 

      I like Patrick a lot–and find the random hate on him over there bizarre–but I always find that viewpoint pretty dumb. Less can definitely be more, but sometimes you can have too much “less.”

      • ToddG

        I agree, more or less.

  • ChicaneryTheYounger

    Y’know, I was interested in this, but the childish misogyny and narrow definition of good storytelling has cancelled any interest.

    • SamPlays

      Soooooo, Dyad sucks? That’s a bit extreme. They’re being true to the game they developed. Dyad is not exactly story-driven so it’s understandable that the creators would have a minimalist attitude about game narratives. Plus, the entire point of Dyad, at least according to the manual, is to “seduce bitches with your Ableton sounds.” 

      • ChicaneryTheYounger

         No, that’s not what I said. I’m saying that I’m not interested in it because the creators suck.

        • SamPlays

          *Magically appears before your eyes*

          I apologize for capitalizing on the ambiguity of your statement in order to make a joke about Ableton sounds.  Now it’s all ruined because you got defensive and I had to explain myself! 
          *Magically disappears, leaving a puff of smoke that smells vaguely of chicory root and saffron*

        • Pandas_please

           @SamPlays:disqus Huh, I found his statement to be pretty straightforward, not really that ambiguous at all.

        • ToddG

          @Pandas_please:disqus   Soooooo, his comment sucks? That’s a bit extreme.

        • SamPlays

          @Pandas_please:disqus Apparently there’s little room for silliness, subtlety or Ableton sounds today. I better straighten up my game and start missing the point, taking everything literally and being way too serious about a comment that wasn’t about @ChicaneryTheYounger:disqus and instead about Shawn McGrath’s faux pas. Toodles!*Gets whisked away by the Silver Surfer at the speed of light*

        • Jackbert

          @ChicaneryTheYounger:disqus , @Pandas_please:disqus : That last bit? The bit about, “The entire point of Dyad is to seduce bitches with your Abelon sounds?” Get it? Because that’s childish misogyny and narrow storytelling?

      • Pandas_please

         @SamPlays:disqus  That seems a bit harsh, unless I’m missing something, I’m not trying to interrupt your silliness, by all means silly away, I’m just putting in my two cents.

        • SamPlays

          See the response from @Jackbert:disqus above. I’m not sure how a mocking comment about McGrath’s off-putting comment about (paraphrasing) “rescuing bitches” can be considered harsh. I’ll be polite, respectfully acknowledge that you are indeed missing the point, and leave it at that. 

        • Pandas_please

           @SamPlays:disqus I was referring to your response to my comment as being harsh not your joke, which I thought was funny but wasn’t commenting on.

  • ToddG

    Let me preface this by saying that Dyad is a neat and innovative game, and these guys should absolutely be praised for creating it.  But I don’t buy a lot of things in this interview.  I mean, Dyad isn’t *really* a box of crayons; there is still a very linear set of objectives for the player to try to achieve, concrete goals and structure for “playing.”  And having a basic narrative framework with room for player interpretation is not the same thing as having no narrative structure at all.  Which is fine, one is not necessary for a game to be good, or even great.  But these guys seem to want to limit the definition and characteristics of what a great game is to the point where only Dyad can fit the bill, and that’s off-putting.  I mean, “The realism of image and sound is not valuable”?  Sure, sometimes it’s not.  But sometimes it is, and a lack of it can certainly be detrimental to some games.

    • Fluka

      I thought this interview, and Kanaga’s statements in particular were an excellent argument for non-linear player-authored storytelling and the creation of a deep interactive soundscape…

      …In the game Proteus.

      • George_Liquor

        Ooooh, burn!

  • doyourealize

    I was going to come on and say that these guys sounded a bit childish and harp on that, “I’m different because I think Super Mario Bros. has the best story because sexism” quote, but it seems you guys have already done that. Soooo…what you said.

    Edit: Changed “dickish” to “childish”, but not sure if that was right call.

    • doyourealize

      Alright, so I tried to delete this comment, but Disqus just changed the author to “Guest”. Now I can’t edit it. Sorry!

      • SamPlays

        @doyourealize:disqus Do you realize what you’ve done???

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

    I wonder if Agnello actively cringed or reacted when he say “Go rescue some bitch.”

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      At the risk of apologizing for misogyny, maybe he said “Go rescue some bitch” in a mocking tone, as if to mimic the way other video game writers conceive their stories. Or maybe not. It’s hard to discern tone from an interview transcript.

      • ToddG

        I feel like it would be hard to use a mocking tone while also calling something “the only good story I’ve ever seen in a video game.”  But we can’t really get the tone of THAT, either, though the content of the rest of the interview leads me to believe that the sentiment is at least partially genuine.

      • Fluka

        Meh, it’s ironic hipster sexism, a close cousin of ironic hipster racism. After a while (c.f., AV Club comments), it all feels the same.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Blerg. Is there anything that hipsters haven’t ruined?

        • ItsTheShadsy

          NASCAR, Connect Four, paddleboats, metallurgy, Special K, the Black & Decker 4-in-1 SmartSelect Multi Sander.

          And that’s it.

        • SamPlays

          Shit, so it’s NOT okay to tell people I’m a Negrophiliac?

      • HobbesMkii

        Also could’ve been in e-mail form.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          We don’t do email interviews as a rule; on the rare instances when we conduct email interviews, they’ll be denoted as such. I doubt we’ll ever publish an email interview as a stand-alone feature like this. We’ve done one WAYPTW that way and occasionally there’s no feasible alternative for an interview that’s part of a larger reported article (but again, anything that comes from an email will be noted).

        • HobbesMkii

          @JohnTeti:disqus Well, that answers that.

      • SamPlays

        His entire answer reads better if you imagine him saying it in a sarcastic voice. That’s what Mr. Show would do so I’m going to assume this is actually how he said it. But I’m not sure what’s worse: misogynist or hipster douchebag?

        • George_Liquor
        • Link The Ecologist

          @George_Liquor:disqus  I was sure you were going to link to this video.

        • George_Liquor

          Oh sure, @Link_The_Ecologist:disqus , thaaaAAAAaaat’s the video I meant to link to. 

    • aklab

      I certainly actively cringed. I know because my glasses slipped and when I was trying to adjust them I accidentally touched the lens, and then when I was trying to wipe off the fingerprint it just smudged worse, but I don’t want to get up to go wash them off because I just got up to get my food out of the microwave. It was like a Rube Goldberg machine of tiny miseries. 

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        From your description, Your avatar looks to be a fairly accurate self-portrait of the culminating moment.

        • aklab

          Lo, it was prophesied: aklab would make an MS Paint self-portrait at the beginning of the Second Millennium to comment on some blog, and then it would become aklab’s disqus avatar through no action of aklab’s own a decade later. And verily, aklab’s glasses were smudged unto eternity. 

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        I hate that! I use dishwashing soap stuff to clean my lenses occasionally and it works great. I don’t know if it’s bad for them, but it doesn’t seem to be. Try it!

  • ItsTheShadsy

    I do sort of agree that the moment-to-moment, organic narrative that forms in your head while playing a game can be more interesting than the larger story.

    Everyone’s done this. Like forming a rivalry with someone you’re playing a round of Halo against. Or the mini-narrative that happens when a Creeper chases you in Minecraft. The story has a self-imposed arc, lasts 5 minutes, and then it’s done. It’s a sort of narative you form in your head to make sense of the game world. Since it’s one that’s generated by the player, it’s a wholly organic type of story unique to games.

    But there’s still room for both that and an actual structured narrative. Games can be many things.

    • ToddG

      I remember reading an article some time ago about the micro-narrative of just free-running in Mirror’s Edge.  It was fascinating, but I cannot find it now.

    • Army_Of_Fun

      I used to love watching Inside the NFL, where NFL Films could make a coherent narrative out of just about any regular season game. And they did it every single week.

      Granted, they were working with footage of past events and not doing it in real time but I think it’s a stellar example on how one can create an actual structured narrative out of an unstructured set of events that took place within a game with its own set structure and set of rules.

      I don’t know what, if anything, this has to do video game stories other than to point out that there might be another way.

  • blue_lander

    Nobody ever talks about Tempest 3000 :(

    • George_Liquor

       Superzapper recharge!

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    yeah, this guy’s full of shit 

  • JokersNuts

    I totally disagree with their comments regarding story in video games.  Right off the bat, they mention FF7 which is mostly a good game because of the story and characters. 
    The Legend of Zelda ALttP and OoT both have amazing gameplay, but great stories as well – and the stories don’t make the games any less good, as these folks posit here. 
    There are hundreds of other examples.  What these guys should be saying is “Story is not a necessary component for a quality game, and does not always enhance the game, although sometimes it can.”