Every interview I get back is a matter of some pride for me. I think with each one, things are getting better, and I feel more confident approaching bigger names. One of these days, perhaps I'll even do a face to face interview... The possibilities seem endless.
Today, I get a few questions answered by American McGee, a name I am sure most gamers know, and if they don't I wonder what cave they have been living in? With games like "American McGee's Alice" , and "Alice: Madness Returns", he has managed to find a bit of a following in the gaming world. This particular interview was inspired by the currently running Kickstarter campaign for his as yet untitled Oz Action Adventure!
I may have gone a little overboard on the images for this post.... but they were offered, and it'd be rude to not use them at that point, right? Also.... I like the art. A word of warning. Clicking on any image throughout the article (except maybe the last one or two) will send you to the Kickstarter project. Because I am evil like that, and want to trick you. But, I felt bad about it, and thought I would warn you.
Read on, and find out what American has to say!
ME: There has been a renewed fascination with Oz in recent years, it seems. What was it about Oz that called to you?
AMERICAN MCGEE: My first attempt at an Oz based game happened right after delivering "American McGee's Alice." At that time I was attracted to themes in the books dealing with death and immortality. The central theme of the first Oz game explored mortality and our response to death. The antagonist was attempting to bring death to Oz so that he could commit suicide - and murder everyone else at the same time. He argued that death was a natural right and that to be deprived it the choice to die a crime. Of course that project itself was killed, so we might never know how the game resolved that argument.
These days I'm interested in Oz for its political and social themes. These elements were present in the original books and there's been a lot of speculation around Baum's commentary on the politics of his time through the characters and adventures contained in his writing.
That there's so much to explore in these books (death or politics or society) is one of the reasons I enjoy working with the material. When we're children the stories appeal for their imagination and adventure. As adults we see deeper meaning in the narrative. This is true with many of my favorite childhood stories. Lastly, I think games are an excellent medium for exploring deep issues like these. So the Oz stories and games seem to fit together naturally for me.
ME: I see there is a level of social commentary involved in the game., much like George Romero's "dead" films. Do you think the average gamer will pick up on the commentary, or just view this as a fun game?
AMERICAN MCGEE: It's not my place to predict how people will respond to the story and subtext contained in these games. I can tell you that many people missed or misunderstood the subtext contained in the Alice games. There's a deep and even subliminal message contained in those products, but many people are interested only in the immediate, surface presentation. For that audience, I think it's valid that we present as fun a game as possible - but a balance has to be found between the two presentations. Ultimately, I'm more interested in presenting beautiful adventures wrapped in deep stories - even if that means focus is lost on "traditional game play."
ME: So, you've also decided to add some steampunk elements to the game. What made you head in that direction?
AMERICAN MCGEE: Dorothy's look, wh ich is best described as steam punk, was decided in large part by audience participation. We ran an open design and concept phase while trying to determine her look. A number of different styles were presented and then the audience worked towards a final presentation. What you see today is the result of that process. Something you could describe as "steam punk" will be found in certain parts of Oz.
One thing to keep in mind about the world of Oz is that it's a sort of Bermuda Triangle place - a part of our world, but separated by magic. Technology and people from our world occasionally cross over into Oz - resulting in an odd melting pot of magic, people and hardware. That's where the elements that you might describe as "steam punk" originate. I expect we'll present that style here and there throughout the game - but it's not going to be a dominate theme. If you look at "Alice: Madness Returns" you'll see a sort of stylistic exploration happening throughout the game - and that's something I'd like to recreate in the world of Oz.
ME: Sequels seem to be all the rage in games and movies lately. If this game is successful, where would you like to go with potential sequels?
AMERICAN MCGEE: There's enough content in the Oz universe to keep going with sequels until I'm six feet under. Actually, this is one of the reasons I want to get this project started, so that I can finally control the future of a property (like Alice) that presents a sort of limitless horizon of expansion and exploration. That I'm not able to constantly expand and improve on the Alice series is one of my greatest frustrations. With Oz I'd have an outlet for those frustrations.
ME: I've noticed a bit of strife in regards to the name "OZombie" (a name I personally think is brilliant).Is there anything you'd like to say to the naysayers in defense of this delightful name?
AMERICAN MCGEE: We are changing the name. In the most recent Kickstarter updates we've explained that this decision is in response to feedback from backers and the games media. A handful of potential names have now been presented and we'll leave it to backers to decide on a final one.
ME: What's in the box?
AMERICAN MCGEE: If I told you, I'd have to kill you!
Did the interview pick your interest? What about the pictures? Do you want to learn more about this project? Or possibly feel the urge to dive in and donate? Head on over to the Kickstarter page HERE
Also, Like them on Facebook!
I would sincerely like to thank American McGee for taking the time to answer these questions. Please support his project, and tell your friends!
All images included are used because they were part of the email reply that included the interview itself. Also, because they are awesome. They are used for promotional purposes, and I claim no ownership of them. As always, I have no financial stake in this project, and promote it only because I think it is interesting.