The word arcane means mystery, or a secret, which aptly describes my first impression of the Arcane Kids. When a friend told me to check out Bubsy 3D, an "edutainment" game that allowed you to explore a James Turrell exhibition at LA Moca all I wanted to know was who made this game. Was it a one off? Googling the Arcane Kids I found myself watching the indescribably awesome trailer for Perfect Stride, a first person skateboarding game set in a dystopian future that asked the question " what if in 1999 Tony Hawk didn't land the 990." Again, WOW. Reading their Manife$to (they had a Manifesto!) it seemed that the games created by the Arcane Kids were far from random jokes but rather the highly principled output of one of the most defiant voices in independent video games today. When I asked to talk to them, they invited me at SK8 MUD, a virtual Denny's parking lot where you can type in commands to skateboard, drink a milkshake, listen to music and talk.

ashermixtapehell: HI
lil_vertex: SUPPP
ashermixtapehell: AM I CAPS?
ashermixtapehell: SORRY NOT TRYING TO YELL
lordanime: this is a new feature
lil_vertex: YOU ARE HELLA CAPS
coolatv: hi
lil_vertex: HELLA SAME
ashermixtapehell: STILL CAPS
ashermixtapehell did a GNARLY OLLIE
lil_vertex: me flips magazine page
lil_vertex DIEZ
lil_vertex: if u use say then its caps
lil_vertex: but if u use forward slash, its not caps
coolatv99: DUH
yuliy: ;)
lil_vertex: SAY IS VERY FORMAL
lil_vertex: LIKE SHOUTING
ashermixtapehell: ok i think i got it
ashermixtapehell did a SICK OLLIE
lil_vertex OPENS UP CD PLAYER
lil_vertex LOADS OFFSPRING - CONSPIRACY OF ONE CD
lil_vertex did a TIGHT OLLIE into a SICK GRIND on that HOBBIT GRAND SLAM BREAKFAST
lil_vertex: i wonder,... if we will ever get to eat another hobbit GSB in our lifetimes
ashermixtapehell: so, i'm talking to coolatv, lil_vertex_, lordanime, and....
lordanime: our tech guru yuliy is hanging out
lil_vertex: namaste yuliy
ashermixtapehell: hi yuliy
yuliy: yooo
coolatv99: hey
ashermixtapehell: i wanted to say how much i liked the video you guys made for game house. its insane
lil_vertex: lol thx
lordanime: hope it works well in the film
ashermixtapehell: everyones really into it
lil_vertex: oh cool
coolatv99 did a RAD KICKFLIP
lil_vertex: thx. we went pretty hard on it, it was a lot of work but im p happy with it
ashermixtapehell: the sound design was really good
lil_vertex: thx we got skrillex to do it
ashermixtapehell: haha
ashermixtapehell: how many people worked on it?
lil_vertex: lol it was us 3
lil_vertex: coolatv, lordanime, and ME
ashermixtapehell: how many people are in the arcane kids? is it a loose collective?
lordanime: There are 5 of us, turbo loose
lil_vertex: ya its v project based, we usually form subgroups
ashermixtapehell: where does the name come from?
lordanime: We found a blank CD-R with the name written on it
lordanime: well we don't know what was on it
lordanime: it was fucked up
lil_vertex: ya it was in the dirt
ashermixtapehell: do you all have different skills?
lil_vertex: hmmm skills wise we have a ton of crossover
lil_vertex: everyone can do everything but we usually specialize based on what we like
lil_vertex: like i like sound / art / level design n shit
lordanime: we are all kinda just out of school, went through similar programs, so had the same basic skills
ashermixtapehell: did you all go to the same school?
lordanime: yeah, but we're not going to plug it
lil_vertex: ya i owe them A LOT OF MONEY still
lordanime PUKING
ashermixtapehell: wanna plug your majors?
lil_vertex STANDS ON A SOAPBOX
lordanime: i was a computer science major
lil_vertex: ELECTRONIC MEDIA ARTS AND COMMUNICATION
lil_vertex: so basically photoshop
coolatv99: computer science and game hell
yuliy: cs
yuliy: some dumb minors also
lil_vertex: ya we all did computer science in some capacity
lil_vertex: yuliy what did u minor in?
yuliy: electronic arts and math
lil_vertex: o dang
yuliy: i took the ultimately multiple choice based art history class to get that e arts minor
lil_vertex did a WICKED KICKFLIP
coolatv99: whoa
yuliy: 8)
lil_vertex: props
ashermixtapehell: what kind of jobs did you want out of college?
lil_vertex: i always wanted to make games but TBH i thought it was like... super unlikely that id be able to get a job doing it
lil_vertex: so i was learning relevant skillz but not actually game dev
lordanime: I wanted to be an architect, but also an art school drop out, So i did that and decided some creative programming thing would be better, so when I transferred i saw they had a game program
lil_vertex: i was thinking like maybe web design or something
coolatv99: im a product of the times
yuliy: same
lil_vertex: lol
ashermixtapehell: what kind of games were you into before you started making them?
lil_vertex: SHOOTERS!!!!!!!!!
lil_vertex: i was really into quake and halflife
lil_vertex: i got my start by modding those gamez
lil_vertex: AND rollercoaster tycoon
lordanime: weird japanese stuff, tycoon games
lordanime: call of duty
lordanime: 2
coolatv99: gameboy and bad 10000 games in one office max bundles
lil_vertex: officemax-core
lordanime: i bought one of those and thought it was super good
lil_vertex: good value?
lordanime: i wonder what it would be like to slip your own games into those bargin bins
ashermixtapehell: did you all get into development through modding?
lil_vertex: were u guys doing any modding at all?
yuliy: i tried making wc3 mods caused i loved those RP maps
yuliy: but i never got really far with it
coolatv99: didnt have the ram back then
lordanime: i started off in flash, it made sense to me at the time that your game logic would be in an animated timeline
lil_vertex: bahaha
lil_vertex: ya i was using flash a lot too
lil_vertex: i used to make a lot of on rails shooters that were just animations and buttons
lordanime: coolatv99 doesn't want to admit his firs games were in power point
lil_vertex: i mean powerpoint has GOTO... thats like 90% of what u need
lil_vertex: plus built in laser sound FX
coolatv99: edutainment is NOT A CRIME
ashermixtapehell: hahaha
lil_vertex: did edutainment weekly ever become a thing
yuliy: no but i get the reminder every year
yuliy: when that blog ages
coolatv99: http://edutainmentweekly.tumblr.com/
ashermixtapehell: so were you all doing this stuff before arcane kids started?
yuliy: lil_vertext made me go my first gam jam
lil_vertex: B-) ruined your life
yuliy: yeah really fucked up my life
coolatv99: i made bad games in rpg maker and game maker when i was a teen
lil_vertex: haha
lordanime: we were all pretty green, but once we started to make things pretty consistently after "starting" arcane kids is when i would say I really started
lordanime: i used the word started way too many times there
lil_vertex: hmm ya i like barely finished anything before AXK
lil_vertex: couple of counter-strike maps
yuliy: that one half life mod tho with the brothers lil_vertex
lil_vertex: o frick ya
ashermixtapehell: i read it started in the basement of a music club?
lil_vertex: ya most of us were affiliated with this basement venue
lordanime: we thought we would ruin the place with video games
lil_vertex: lol ya it was a very wholesome DIY scene
lil_vertex: before the TERROR
ashermixtapehell: were you guys making music?
lil_vertex: some of us were in bands
ashermixtapehell: what kind of music were you making?
lil_vertex: we had a pretty good shit-fi surf punk band...........
lil_vertex: NO BACKSIES
lordanime: 2nd place battle of the bands
yuliy: ummm
yuliy: we won one
lil_vertex: yeah dude
yuliy: never forget fall battle
lil_vertex: AND we played an anime convention......
lordanime: anime convention was my favortie
yuliy: yeah that was the best show i think
lil_vertex: thats why we wrote "It'd Be Cooler If You Were Into Steampunk"
lordanime: the cosplay ball
yuliy: was that the one with the fat man stealth bat balloon?
coolatv99: i was there to see that... very fateful
lil_vertex: i cant remember
lil_vertex: but ya asher all our songs were like under 1 minute
ashermixtapehell: sick
yuliy: crystaline
lil_vertex: lemme link one our TRACKS
lil_vertex:https://nobacksies.bandcamp.com/track/tom-arnold-schwarzenegger
lil_vertex: that one is based on the trailer to True Lies
lil_vertex: ive never seen it
lil_vertex: but yuliy described it to me
lil_vertex: also this one is our most classic
lil_vertex:https://nobacksies.bandcamp.com/track/i-used-to-surf-but-now-i-work-for-the-government
lil_vertex: our maybe most popular song was called "I Bought A Sex Pistols V-Neck at JC Penny"
lil_vertex: u can find it on the bandcamp
ashermixtapehell: this is great
lil_vertex: a lot of the songs are garbage but there are some good ones in the trash heap
ashermixtapehell: so how did you end up ruining the really healthy diy scene?
lil_vertex: we decided to try and make games to go with some of the shows
lordanime: usually they were made in a day
ashermixtapehell: i figured you would have been more into electronic music cause of your games
lil_vertex: haha i was more into folk and punk originally
ashermixtapehell: can you describe a game you made in a day?
lordanime: our finest was mirage cat
lil_vertex: oh yeahhhhh MIRAGE CAT
ashermixtapehell: the one from zineth?
lordanime: its kind of a theme
lordanime: disappointment
lil_vertex: mirage cat was its own game originally that we made for the arcade
lordanime: you would trudge into the desert for just a little too long
ashermixtapehell: hahaha
lil_vertex: yeah you were trying to reach mirage cat
lil_vertex: but like... u knew the reality of it
lordanime: it was fun in the venue because people would hype each other up about mirage cat
ashermixtapehell: did you build arcade boxes?
lordanime: we would find computers in the campuses electronic waste
lordanime: then yeah, cardboard
lil_vertex: ya all our gear was from the dump
yuliy: lordanime found a lot of tvs on the road
lil_vertex: we had a pretty sweet stack of old TVs at one point
lordanime: there is a no backsies song about it
ashermixtapehell: did you ever make it to babycastles when it was at silent barn?
lordanime: nooooo :(
lordanime: but that was like our inspiration
lil_vertex: me and yuliy got to see the space at the silent barn but it wasnt running at the time
lil_vertex: at the ZOMBIE DOGS show
lil_vertex: but ya never actually been to a bbcastle show
ashermixtapehell: so are there a buncha early arcane kids games that are unreleased?
lil_vertex: yeah theres a lot of early trash thats unreleased
lil_vertex: NUDO was maybe the first branded arcane kids game?
lil_vertex: zineth was after that
lordanime: there was another in between that, lil_vertex does not want to talk about
ashermixtapehell: wait, whats nudo?
lil_vertex: nudo was a puzzle game, basically pre-arcane kids as we r now
ashermixtapehell: how did zineth start?
lordanime: that was a project for class
ashermixtapehell: like senior thesis or something?
lordanime: yeah it was basically our final project
ashermixtapehell: there are 7 people credited with the game
lordanime: yeah other people in that class
lordanime: we were trying to do something big in a small amount of time
lordanime: so it was good to have other teammates
ashermixtapehell: yeah, i really didn't understand how a game like that could be created in a matter of months
lil_vertex: nosleep
lil_vertex: nosleep.borntoride
ashermixtapehell: what was the concept behind zenith?
lil_vertex: ZINEth
lil_vertex: spelling is crucial 2 the theme
coolatv99: its a pun
lordanime: coolatv99 grew up on puns
lordanime: is it even a pun?
lil_vertex: portmanteau?
ashermixtapehell: like zine fair zine?
lordanime: the concept was, wouldn't it be cool to just skate a round in a big desert, while trying to play a cellphone game
ashermixtapehell: yeah that does sound cool
lordanime: we also wanted to just put random zine pages in the world
lil_vertex: the framing is that your job is to deliver zines
ashermixtapehell: yeah, it was weird, it reminded me of when i worked at printed matter
ashermixtapehell: i did that kinda shit
lil_vertex: haha nice
ashermixtapehell: except i couldn't fly and stuff
lil_vertex: and probably no virtual pets to keep u company...
ashermixtapehell: yeah it sucked
lil_vertex: lol
ashermixtapehell: i love zineth. ive never played a game like it.
ashermixtapehell: ZINEth
lil_vertex: theres some stuff thats kinda similar
lil_vertex: haha
lil_vertex: its like....... a game u can hang out in
lil_vertex: i like that vibe in games
lordanime: there is a multiplayer mode
ashermixtapehell: really?
lil_vertex: oh yeahhhhh
lordanime: one night we just played through a bunch of mario kart levels
lil_vertex: hahaha yeah there were custom levels
lil_vertex: rainbow road
lordanime: it was really fun
lil_vertex: those were like gamecube rips right?
coolatv99: game cube iso rips
lordanime: that is something we are trying to have at the core of perfect stride
lordanime: multiplayer that isn't impossible to find
lil_vertex: perfect stride is a LIFESTYLE game
lordanime: just hanging out
ashermixtapehell: it seems like zineth is inspired by the principles of skateboarding on a conceptual level
lil_vertex: appropriating capitalist architecture
ashermixtapehell: right
lil_vertex did a GNARLY KICKFLIP
ashermixtapehell did a WICKED OLLIE
lordanime: we never try to simulate the actual mechanics of things, just the emotions
lordanime: mostly because its easier
lil_vertex: ya u can get closer to it that way i think
lil_vertex: its VERY emotional
ashermixtapehell: so the concept of perfect stride is that tony hawk didn't land the 900?
lordanime: we just claimed that to increase blogability
ashermixtapehell: do you have a problem with skateboarding games?
lil_vertex: skate 3 is maybe one of the objectively best games
yuliy: real talk
lil_vertex: did u know mark mothersbaugh composed some of the dynamic music in that game....
ashermixtapehell: so just corporate skateboarding games
lil_vertex: ya the 900 triggered an explosion of corporate skateboarding
lil_vertex: in the perfect stride universe its an apocalypse though
lil_vertex: the game takes place inside geocities
lil_vertex: so like all of the environments are the architectural versions of personal web pages
ashermixtapehell: wow
lil_vertex: the game is operating in that same space, its this dying web
ashermixtapehell: which is like escape from LA
ashermixtapehell: how much more time do you guys have?
lordanime: we are all 18+ so plenty of time
lil_vertex PUTS ON JOHN CARPENTER SOUNDTRACK
lil_vertex: i can answer a few more
ashermixtapehell: whats the story with the manifesto?
lil_vertex: its a collection of a bunch of ideas and themes that come up in our conversations
lil_vertex: idk a lot of ppl reach out to us because they want to do the kind of stuff we do
lordanime: search engine optimisation
ashermixtapehell: yeah i saw your guestbook. people are stoked
lil_vertex: we wanted to be like: here are some of the things we're thinking about in our work
lil_vertex: it was more to get other people thinking critically about their games tho
ashermixtapehell: do you think that people aren't critical enough?
lordanime: we will be critical enough for everyone
ashermixtapehell: do you have plans to enlist more arcane kids?
lil_vertex: we have pretty huge plans to expand...
coolatv99: !
lordanime: the tokyo branch
lil_vertex: Apps division
lil_vertex: Publishing & Acquisitions
coolatv99: money pit
ashermixtapehell: hahahah
ashermixtapehell: are you guys into art? the whole james turrell moca thing doesn’t seem random
lil_vertex: yeah i feel like games have so much to learn from art
lordanime: and the scene has a lot to not learn from the art scene
lil_vertex: hahah
lil_vertex: bubsy is about wonder................
lil_vertex: like i actually really wanted people to learn about james turrells work
ashermixtapehell: yeah it seemed to come from a genuine place
lil_vertex: the game sabotages itself by ruthelessly using game techniques like collectibles
lordanime: imagine experiencing something as someone who is basically a baby ( bubsy )
lordanime: only knows his game world
ashermixtapehell: kinda the best way to experience art
lordanime: i'd be tearing up
lil_vertex: the museum level ends with that one piece
lil_vertex: i forget the name, its the huge room with a pink void
lil_vertex: i spent a really long time in there
lil_vertex: i cried
lordanime: it does really mess with parts of your brain you have no control over
lil_vertex: his work w/ light and space reminded me of the way video games captivated me
coolatv99: i saw it after playing the game and was not that impressed
lil_vertex: LOL
lil_vertex: it was also really inspired by the one quote that was in the game
coolatv99: (joke) (it was p good)
lil_vertex: if ur using light to tell a story ur using the power of stories, not the power of light
lil_vertex: (incredibly bad paraphrasing)
ashermixtapehell: ok cool
ashermixtapehell: i think that is a good spot to end the interview
lil_vertex: kool
ashermixtapehell: you guys rule
lil_vertex: nah u rule
ashermixtapehell: thank you again arcane kids
ashermixtapehell did a GNARLY OLLIE