Interview: Patrick Smith – Vectorpark

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I haven’t seen a game from you since 2011. My entire family (from 2-60) love your games. We all ask: when are you making a new one?

(That’s a pretty good age range!) I’m hard at work, as we speak, on an interactive Alphabet. With any luck, I’ll be finished early-to-mid next year.

Is there anything that would encourage you to focus on games more?

The encouragement of a decent income, from whatever you do, is hard to overrate. But mostly, I’m just encouraged if I have a good idea, or a bad idea that I’m excited about.

You make objects that feel more like toy boxes than games, but still have the sense of achievement and progress that games have. Why?

Toy-like, because I’m partial to pointless, playful, and hopefully-beautiful trifles. Game-like, because a game provides a structure — a backbone — and gives the user a means of navigating through the experience. I think of puzzles as kinda like speed-bumps, designed to slow you down and make you participate with the environment.

But of course, not everything needs to be a game. Sometimes I’ll have the germ of something, that I know I like, but I don’t really know what it IS yet. So I have to step back and let it breathe a bit. It’s a mysterious process. I have things I started years ago that I still haven’t figured out what to do with.

How did you start on this?

I think it’s just my own personal inclination. I’m not terribly interested in puzzles per se, but I enjoy the way a system can evoke a sense of a larger reality. As a user, being invited to interact with that reality can be, in some cases, a fairly magical experience.

Vector Park is just you, isn’t it?

Yes.

Apart from games, what are you working on now?

I took some breaks this year to work on some installation projects: one is a set of animated wallpapers for a restaurant in Brooklyn (Dassara), and the other is a collaboration with the illustrator Malika Favre — an interactive projection for a hotel in Amsterdam.

What’s a day in your life like?

Coding, doodling, staring at the ceiling. Occasional naps.

You’re obviously still enjoying games, as your twitter feed shows. What’s caught your eye over the last year?

If I make a list, I’ll leave something out and feel terrible later. How about instead, what am I looking forward to? Off the top of my head: Gorogoa, Kachina, Hohokum. (Maybe I just like weird names?)

How was working on the IT Crowd material?

Fascinating, but difficult. I love the show; it’s hilarious. So it’s pretty much the coolest freelance job I could ask for. It was something of a challenge to satisfy both myself and Graham, the show’s creator, but he’s a brilliant guy, and the end result was better for it.

Did that get you any more attention?

Certainly, and that’s a nice bonus, but it didn’t change anything for me fundamentally. I took it on because it was a fun, paying gig.

Though your games are much admired, you seem to be on the edge of the games scene – this is the first time that Edge has written about you since Acrobots. Why is that?

Well, I can’t read the mind of the Edge’s editors, but I think it’s probably just because my stuff is on a slightly unusual wavelength, and not everyone is going to dig that. And that’s okay! Expecting everyone, or even most people, to love what you do is pretty unrealistic. If a thousand people in the world are receptive to my work, that still seems like quite a lot.

Does that give you a different perspective on games?

Probably! But from my point of view, I’m basically doing the same thing I was doing since before Windosill, before Feed the Head, back when I wasn’t even really aware of an indie game scene. So, it’s kinda like living in the wilderness for years, and one day discovering an entire town has sprung up nearby. It’s great to have some neighbors, maybe you even make some friends, but at the end of the day you’re still growing your own food.

(Not that I have any idea how to grow food.)

Argue with me