Interview with Krystian Majewski
After interviews with Pippin Barr, Jakub Dvorsky, Jonatan Söderström aka Cactus, Nils Deneken (Die Gute Fabrik), Jeroen D. Stout, Erik Svedäng and Martin Pichlmair today we present you the eighth interview in a series by art critic Mathias Jansson. Mathias regularly contributes to the blog by interviewing the finest Indie Game developers from all over the world.
Be sure to have a look at Mathias’ past series of interviews he published at gamescenes edited by Matteo Bittanti: »Game Art Worlds: The Early Years« and »Game Art Worlds: Contemporary Practitioners«.
Interview with Krystian Majewski creator of TRAUMA
Krystian Majewski was born in 1981 in Warsaw (Poland) but grew up in Darmstadt (Germany). He studied design at Köln International School of Design while working as a freelancer for various clients. Together with Yu-Chung Chen and Daniel Renkel he is running a collaborative game design network named Creative Units (CEEU) and two blogs Game Design Reviews and Game Design Scrapbook.
Majewski has made an impact on the indie game scene with his innovative photographic adventure game TRAUMA about a young woman, who survives a car accident. Recovering at the hospital, she has dreams that shed light on different aspects of her identity – such as the way she deals with the loss of her parents. The game is described as deep game for a literate and mature audience. The game has recently won the German Game Award as best browser game.
Mathias: What inspires you as an artist and game designer?
Krystian: Ideas can come from everywhere. I think the trick is to maintain a steady stream of input from fresh sources. Especially game developers seem to be very focused on Sci-Fi and Fantasy themes nowadays. So as a game developer, I think it's important to dig into other topics as well in order to avoid locking yourself in.
The inspirations for TRAUMA came from various trends in photography. Essays about modern architecture and how space is being processed by the human mind. There were some more intimate, biographical influences as well.
Mathias: You mention TRAUMA, can you tell me more about this game project?
Krystian: TRAUMA was really a long journey. I started out with the goal of creating a modernized adventure game. By doing some research it occurred to me that adventure games have continually evolved to become more and more accessable. Early text adventures were incredibly unforgiving and obscure. It was a revolution back in the days when Lucasarts started developing adventures where you couldn't die, or when Cyan got rid of all the verbs in Myst. Especially Cyan realized that by going this route, it's possible to address a completely different audience.
TRAUMA is an extrapolation of many such patterns. What if an adventure game wouldn't be even about puzzles and challenges? What if an adventure game would be very short so you can play it in one evening? What it if an adventure game would tackle more serious and mature topics?
I feel like there is some great untapped potential along this line of thinking. Some more recent releases like Dear Esther, Dinner Date or To The Moon seem to be echoing this sentiment.
Mathias: Besides creating games you are also running a blog called Game Design Reviews. Can you tell me the idea behind the blog and what do you think makes a good game design?
Krystian: Game Design Reviews and Game Design Scrapbook are both places for me to just collect various thoughts, ideas and observations. I think having a place like this is very important for every game designer. And it's not just about recording and remembering. It's often during the process of writing when all the ideas develop properly for the first time. And of course, being able to discuss them with fellow designers and gamers is essential too.
In the end, it's not really possible to define what a good game is. It really depends on what you are trying to do. You need a wide palette of tools to chose from so you always have the right one ready when the need arises.
Mathias: How do you see on the German indie game scene today?
Krystian: I'm a bit disappointed with the current state of the German indie game scene. There are not many of us and most of the games are simple, small-minded and visually unremarkable. Recently, there have been some new developments. There are some new funding opportunities and some new schools. I have been helping out with local Global Game Jams for the last 3 years and I observed an astonishing growth there. I sense that there may be a long-needed storm brewing.
Mathias: Finally do you have any advice to give to someone that is thinking of working as an indie game designer in the future? What kind of education and skills does she or he need to succeed in this hard branch?
Krystian: I'm going to be controversial by saying: don't become a programmer. Of course, you NEED to know how to program but that's something you can learn on your own. It's not that hard, it just takes time and practice. The thing that's really hard to do is to design. How to come up with ideas? How to develop them? How to communicate them properly? Jonathan Blow once made this presentation called »Programming is Easy; Production is Harder; Design is Hardest«. And he started out as a programmer.
Otherwise, find something that makes you unique. Something a big company can't do. Something that makes people go "wow, I have never seen anything like it". And then just go with it as far as you can.
Interview series with the finest Indie Game Designers by Mathias Jansson on the Next Level Blog: