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From media art to video games:
Interview with Martin Pichlmair from Broken Rules

Today Martin Pichlmair talks to Mathias Jansson.

After interviews with Pippin Barr, Jakub Dvorsky, Jonatan Söderström aka Cactus, Nils Deneken (Die Gute Fabrik), Jeroen D. Stout and Erik Svedäng today we present you the seventh interview in a series by art critic Mathias Jansson. Mathias regularly contributes to the blog by interviewing the finest Indie Game developers from all over the world.

Be sure to have a look at Mathias’ past series of interviews he published at gamescenes edited by Matteo Bittanti: »Game Art Worlds: The Early Years« and »Game Art Worlds: Contemporary Practitioners«.

Interview with Martin Pichlmair from Broken Rules

Mathias: You started as a new media artist but then shifted focus from the art- to the videogame scene. Why?

Martin: One of the reasons why I wanted to shift to games is that I realized that those media art pieces I had created, that I was most happy with were games in the first place. So there's not that much change in terms of content. What I lost is the critical attitude. The biggest difference is the audience. In media art you get 10 to maybe 300 specialists to see your piece. In games you have hundreds of thousands of »normal people«.

Mathias: In your artist’s days you created together with Fares Kayali the Bagatelle Concrete (2006-2007) a pinball machine turned into a musical instrument. What was the concept behind this piece?

Martin: Bagatelle Concrete was a childhood dream come true. I wanted to create a pinball machine since I was maybe 5 or 6 years old. Instead of creating a new machine I bastardized an existing one in the best tradition of appropriation art. The idea was to deconstruct pinball until only the basic interactivity of play remains. That's why we removed the scoreboard. Adding music was an attempt at intensifying this kernel of play. It worked very well.

In the end, I don't mind in which medium I work. But while we've shown Bagatelle Concrete at a number of exhibitions, each of my released games has had more players than this art piece. It feels more relevant to bring some fresh air to the huge space of games than to cater to the delicate taste of art connoisseurs.

Mathias: So what is your opinion about games as art today?

Martin: Games are notoriously bad as »high art«, just like comics, rap, photography, video art and street art. All these had to fight very hard to establish themselves as forms of art. The same is true for games. I'm not sure if becoming pieces of art is a worthy goal for games in the first place. Most people don't care about art.

Mathias: You are working for Broken Rules an independent game studio based in Vienna. What is the main concept for games created by Broken Rules?

Martin: Our main strengths as a studio are attention to detail, a very democratic process and a certain disregard for conventions (hence the name). Most art pieces do not break many rules. Most games don't do so either. Personally I do not think that art is more than a label. It's an agreement and nothing else. The only thing that matters is if you touch your audience. So our main mission is to make games that offer meaningful interaction.

Mathias: One of Broken Rules recent games is And Yet It Moves. Can you tell me about the concept and what is it that makes it stand out from other games in this genre?

Martin: When And Yet It Moves was first shown in public, in 2007, the genre of the puzzle platformer did not exist yet. Today, the game does not stand out as much as it did back then. The main feature of And Yet It Moves is that it breaks – or subverts – one rule of a very classic genre. It's a platformer where you have control over the direction of gravity. This tiny gameplay change resulted in a new experience of an old genre.

Mathias: Finally can you tell me some about the ongoing game Chasing Aurora. What can the player expect this time from Broken Rules?

Martin: Our idea for Chasing Aurora is that we want to allow the player to experience the dream of flight. We're working hard to structure a game around this core experience. There will be multiplayer and singleplayer game modes and each will offer playful flight in a never experienced scenario. The game plays in the Alps at an unspecified time. We're aiming at something very magical – in an atavistic sense, not in the sense of colorful particle systems. You can expect a very unique game.

Broken Rules:

Chasing Aurora:

And Yet It Moves:

Mathias Jansson

Interview series with the finest Indie Game Designers by Mathias Jansson on the Next Level Blog:

Part 1: Interview with Pippin Barr – »The Artist Is Present«

Part 2: Interview with Jakub Dvorsky – Creator of Samorost and Machinarium

Part 3: Interview with Indie Game Designer Cactus

Part 4: Interview with Nils Deneken from Die Gute Fabrik

Part 5: Dinner Date: Interview with Jeroen D. Stout from Stout Games

Part 6: Shot Shot Shoot: Interview with Erik Svedäng