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Tetsuya Mizuguchi Talks “Child of Eden”

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Tetsuya Mizuguchi creates video games like very few others can. He came up through the ranks at Sega, contributing to games like “Sega Rally Championship”. However successful those titles were, gamers only really began to get the first true glimpse of his sensibilities in 1999 with “Space Channel 5,” a rhythm game for Sega’s Dreamcast console where players mimicked the beat of multiple songs to defeat mischievous alien invaders. The loopy, bouncy design channeled the energy of music videos and dance clubs in its aesthetics and mechanics. Two years later came “Rez,” a trippy shooter with vector graphics like arcade classic “Asteroids.” The game’s fiction placed you in the disembodied avatar of a hacker trying to penetrate the consciousness of a far-future computer network that became sentient. In “Rez,” rave-inflected visuals and a trance soundtrack with contributions from DJs like Ken Ishii meshed with syncopated controller vibration and a variety of sounds that triggered when players pressed buttons. In the final battle, you battled against a backdrop of existential questions. The end result was a game that wove various sensory inputs and Philosophy 101 into one throbbing whole, making “Rez” a cult classic that gets gets talked about as an artistic masterpiece.

Other games followed “Rez,” like the “Lumines” puzzle series and inverse shooter “Every Extend Extra,” adapted from an indie game where you blow yourself up to kill on-screen enemies. But, it’s the brand-new “Child of Eden” that figures to enthrall gamers the way that “Rez” did. The spiritual sequel to the trance shooter sends you through mesmerizing levels that represent virtual archives of all human memory, purifying corruption as you go. “COE” uses the Xbox 360’s Kinect motion-sensing camera to let you target and blast through the game using hand gestures. Integrating player movement is a significant addition for someone with Mizuguchi’s design philosophy, which has tried to engage as many senses as possible. Mizuguchi spoke with me about where “Child of Eden” fits in his creative evolution.

You’ve been showing “Child of Eden” all over the world for the last few months. Have you been happy with the way people have been playing the game so far?

Yeah. Very happy.

It’s interesting to me because it’s very much like “Rez” in some of the visuals and level design. Is that intentional? Did you mean for it to be like “Rez,” to look like “Rez”? Or do you want people to think about it differently?

It’s a very complex feeling. This is kind of a spiritual successor to “Rez,” in my mind. But, it’s totally different, too. This game idea has a different story, meaning, and music also. So, this is a new thing but one that also has a lot of the same DNA of “Rez.”

It seems to me that something all of your games have in common is that you want the synaesthesia, the blending of the senses, to happen in the player. What does Kinect give you in order to achieve that goal? You already had the visuals and the sound kind of meshing together in your previous games, so what does Kinect add to that mix?

Kinect is a totally new experience for everybody. That was like a sci-fi movie experience two or three years ago, but we can do it now. So this technology, Kinect, is almost like a conductor feeling. So you can play the sounds, participate in the music.

It felt to me like it was painting. Like you were painting with your hands on the world or touching the world. When you were first planning this game was it specific to Kinect? Did you see the Kinect technology and then realize I can finally achieve this? Or was it something you were planning before Kinect came around?

I made a presentation to Ubisoft with my original concepts and we blended some other ideas. The big question was, can we use this technology to bring in a new kind of experience? We found that we could and it was wonderful. So, that was kind of the spark.

Did you go back and rethink what you were doing before you started to integrate Kinect?

Yeah. And we had the time to blend the ideas, and we thought about what would be the new experience using this new Kinect technology together with what we were making.

The story of the game has the player going through these symbolic archives of collective human memory. Was it a goal of yours to try to talk about humanity as one big entity for this game?

Yes. I wanted to make a very human-feeling game using the music. The music is also very organic. With the combination of Kinect and the music, I’m trying to communicate the feeling and the touch of the human heart. So I decided that Lumi, the girl inside the center of the game, would be the core of the game. And I had the image that she’s singing all the time. She’s kind of a metaphor of this world. The people who play save her and get given back the voice, the song and the organic connection. That kind of image I had. I spent a lot of time making the concept, and I wrote a long, long basic story. It’s like a poem, 40 pages long, that’s kind of the Bible of this game. And then everybody– artists, sound designers, programmers–read my basic story and started working together to build the world.

That sounds like a fascinating process because you’re trying and create something lyrical where it makes more sense aesthetically than it does maybe logically. . It seems like you always have women at the core of your games, Ulala in “Space Channel 5”, the Eden AI in “Rez,” the AI in there, and here in “Child of Eden,” there’s Lumi. Is there a reason for that?

You know, I don’t know. I’m doing things like that naturally, subconsciously all the time.

Could it be that you feel like maybe is it something that’s missing in video games in general? Like, a female sensibility?

Maybe, yes.

What made you decide to incorporate something like “Project Journey” into the game?

That was a very simple thought. I wanted to involve the people in the process of the creation of the production. So, I thought, how can we do that? And then, very suddenly, I got the image, it’s like a spark. OK, let’s call to the public. So we want your memories, beautiful memories to be a part of this archive in “Child of Eden.”

It makes sense with the story of the game too.

Right. Right. Then we announced it and we got like 4,000 to 5,000 pictures from the world. And then we picked out 400 to 500, finally. So we put all the pictures at the end of this game. So this is the ending. But not just an ending where you’re watching. This is kind of a touching ending. So this is interactive.

So you feel like more involved in it. Like you could have given a piece of yourself to it?

Right.

Can we talk about the music, because obviously that is such an important part of your games? Where is the music coming from in “Child of Eden”?

It’s all original music with some DJs like Metalmouse remixing parts of the project.

You know it’s interesting because it seems like your ideas–when it comes to game design–start more emotionally rather than logically. You don’t think about what the technology can do now. It seems like you think about what the end goal is, what you want people to take away from the game. I know that’s part of who you are. But why do you think that is so different from the way other people make games?

I want to know that myself. [laughs]

Yeah. It’s a question you have yourself. Yeah. I totally understand. But you see the point that I’m making. It seems like other people, they go into a design program, and they’re like, oh, I can do this, this, and that, without thinking what the affect is going to be on the player first. And you seem to think, all right, what is somebody going to feel when they look at something or see how the sound and the vision come all together.

Yeah. I know this is not the easy way. All the time, it’s a very tough way to make this kind of a game. So if I am a game designer and I want to make a traditional FPS or driving game, it’s going to be easier. But I want to be on a creative journey all the time. Of course, it’s really tough but it’s also really fun to find the new something. “Child of Eden” was a big, long journey. After this kind of long journey, it’s really exhausting. I don’t know the future, but maybe we’ll try and do something new again soon.

So, it’s not a theme you are going to abandon. Whatever you do next is going to have some element of that probably. Can you confirm that the team is working on a Playstation Move version?

Yes, for Playstation 3. I’m interested in any new technology, and really happy with Move [motion control] and 3D technology.

It seems like it would be a natural for Move to control “Child of Eden” and the game would look great in 3D. That will be another journey, then. Will it be totally different than this?

I don’t know how different it will be yet. Synaesthesia is my life theme. This is my DNA. I started my career from arcade games, like “Sega Rally.” And it evolved into what I’m doing now. So, many different elements, you know, gathering together. The people who work with me also love this kind of chemistry.

Right. You bring people together who have a similar goal in mind.

Yeah. I hope the game does the same thing, too.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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