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An interview with Jake Elliott

Estrangement

The timer in 'I Can Hold My Breath Forever' via indiegames.com

In my [real] life, a year or more will go by, and then I’ll get a crazy, insane email from a missing friend about how so much time has gone by, and now we’re on really separate paths. And so I think I put together that those were the kinds of missives I was getting across space and time, in this game.

Yeah. I mean, I guess, thinking about the different kind of time scales that a friendship can happen on, and so trying to make the player inhabit both or all those time scales kind of at once while they’re playing the game, or at least think about all those scales. And yeah, think about the real estrangement that can happen. That’s a really weird experience, like you’re talking about getting a letter from somebody, and they’re on this other path.

And it seems like it’s been a long time, but it also seems like it hasn’t really been that long, but things have diverged so much, it’s like, really striking. That estrangement is a really strange feeling.

And that’s in the game, this like total estrangement that ends up being—or I don’t know, different people have read it in different ways—but one way that I think, one available reading, I think, is that there’s been this real extreme estrangement between the player and the person who’s been writing these letters.

Okay. Yeah, really, really—[chortles]—he has one eye. It’s weird. It was actually, actually, I don’t know if I want this to be part of the interview, but it was like really funny! Like it was very upsetting, and then it was hilarious, to actually see him.

Like, “Oh, I’m finally home oooOOHHHHWHOOAAaaa!” I don’t know if it was actually supposed to make me, like, like melancholy and snort at the same time. But he was just, like, so happy! “How’s it hanging! I’m just chilling, waiting for you! Ahh-blubb-blubb-glubb.”

Yeah, I don’t know. I made that game over the course of like five days, and it’s hard for me to even, like, really remember what kind of intention might have—[laughs] I know I just knocked that octopus out really fast—or that creature—and I was like, okay, that’s good, that’s all the time I have for that guy. But, um, I’m not sure exactly what was supposed to happen… right then… to the player. [laughs]

A weird read that I keep coming across—because then it fades out and it says my name, and the year? Which is like, if you make video art, or films, that’s a totally natural way to end something?

Oh, totally! No, that was not weird at all!

But video games people are not used to that.

Okay—oh! I didn’t understand! I did read through the Disqus thread. I didn’t put together—okay. I see what you’re saying. No, please, finish your thought, now I understand.

So a lot of people thought that was, like, my epitaph.

[laughing hysterically]

That this was a game made about somebody named Jake Elliott, who had died in the year 2010.

Yeah, instead of copyright, or I made this in 2010!

Right.

[laughing] I’m sorry! That’s horrible!

I mean, I could’ve corrected people. But I didn’t—I didn’t.

“Let ‘em think I’m dead! Sure!”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Oh, my God.

And then they’ll have low expectations, you know.

[laughing] When they—the next time you make a game, they’ll be so shocked! They’ll be like, “Hey, isn’t that guy… that died?” [whispers] He’s back!

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