Jesper Juul and Handmade Games | Episode 148

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Jesper Juul is a pioneering video game researcher and occasional game developer. With a background in both literature and programming, Jesper has dedicated his life to taking video games seriously as culture and art form. He has published four books on MIT Press, and taught at MIT, NYU, among others. He is currently teaching at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design, in Denmark.


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Full episode transcription

Rob (5s):
Welcome to Professor Game podcast, where we interview successful practitioners of games, gamification and game thinking who bring us the best of their experiences to get ideas, insights, and inspiration that help us in the process of getting the students to learn what we teach. And I’m Rob Alvarez. I teach and work at IE Business School in Madrid, where we create interactive and engaging learning materials. Want to know more? Go to, start on our email list and ask me anything!

Rob (39s):
So engagers welcome to Professor Game podcast. Once again, because today we have Jesper, but before we get started Jesper, are you prepared to ignite to engage to go on with our listeners?

Jesper (52s):
Yes, definitely.

Rob (53s):
Let’s do this because Yesper, yes, for Jesper. I’m not sure how to pronounce that.

Jesper (59s):
Its Jesper, but I also respond to Jesper.

Rob (1m 1s):
Jesper. So Jesper Juul is a pioneering videogame researcher and occasional game developer as well. He has a background in both literature and programming and he has dedicated his life to take video games seriously as a culture and art form. He has also published four books on MIT press and taught at MIT, NYU, and is currently teaching at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at the school of design in Denmark. Is there anything else that you would like to include in that intro?

Jesper (1m 33s):
Yes, I think that’s good. That’s good.

Rob (1m 37s):
That’s great. Because yes, because of all of those reasons that you saw there, but yes, for, we want to get to know you just a little bit more, more, a bit more personally to, to get in touch with, with you and let you know what does being Jesper in a day like today? What does your schedule look like? What are you doing these days?

Jesper (1m 55s):
I’m in academia. So that’s what I say these days, I’m also of the head of a master program called Visual Game and Media Design here at the Royal Danish, Academy of Fine Arts School of design. And so what my day like is basically I faced this constant onslaught of things that kind of asking for my attention. And so I realized to kind of get any research done. I’ve ended up dividing the day into two. So I do my research in the morning before I check any emails or social media and research.

Jesper (2m 27s):
Can there be any kind of thing, right. So I can be reading, arriving, or even playing games or sometimes making games, right. And then around lunch, I kind of switch. I switched to the, I owned my email program. I switch to that world of kind of organizing and hiring teachers and developing curriculum and supervising students and so on. So I figured out, I realized that’s the kind of way I can kind of make it work for me.

Rob (2m 52s):
I’ve heard about what you’re saying, that… I’ve heard it many times recently that, you know, getting your outputs. So what you’re going To deliver, you’re going to, when you’re going to write, what you’re going to create things, it’s better to do it before you get any input, especially from social media and email, because it’s like, you’re, you’re not in control of those things. You can’t sort of manage them. It’s just what comes at you. And you make sure that what you have to do your, your output or what you have to create is something that you get done first thing in the morning, I’ve been trying to do this many times.

Rob (3m 25s):
My schedule is not always amenable to that, but I do think it’s a very, very good strategy and I love it. So thanks for that. Jesper, and of course we always like to get into the subject as well after understanding what are the kinds of things that you do in your day? We would also like to know of a time when you were creating something, you know, when you were either creating a game, you were doing some of your research related to games as well. One of those things that you set up to do something, and you would not probably call it a success. In fact, you’ve made call it a fail or a first attempt in learning. Is there any favorites in that sense?

Rob (3m 57s):
Somewhere where you learned a lot, or you were able to kick out of in some way that we can, as well as, as usual what we want to do here is to learn from what your experience looked like, and then see what we can apply as well to our lives?

Jesper (4m 8s):
Definitely. So a little more than 10 years ago, this was just after like bejeweled had been really popular. And so now we talk about games, like kind of Candy Crush. So with some kind of colleagues, I was making a kind of casual games, sort of like a matching game in that style. And we had this like long process. We were working remotely. We really loved what we were doing. And then we were spending all this time, testing the game on, on a kind of a friends and family. And we kind of really felt we’d kind of hit the right spot.

Jesper (4m 42s):
It was like the right amount of feedback. And it was like somewhat innovative and it had the kind of right difficulty curve. And then when we finally released the game, it’s just kind of quickly realized that actually we kind of hit somewhat wrong by because all the people who are reviewing the game and, and writing about it on sites were actually kind of really, really, really deep into these kind of matching target games. So we’d actually made a game that was just way too easy for them. And that was, that was just kind of sobering sobering moment.

Jesper (5m 14s):
Right. We really felt we’d kind of done our research and kind of did a good, we’ve done a good process. Right. And, and so what I kind of came after that for me was two things. One was, I wanted to understand this whole field of, of kind of casual games, a lot better. And that actually led to my second book, the one called The Casual Revolution, because I found it was kind of interesting that a lot of people who are playing these games were kind of really, really dedicated to them. Right. Whereas there was a kind of stereotypes that anybody who’s playing, I guess, with, today’s like a mobile puzzle game that, that these were people who weren’t really kind of engaged and weren’t taking it seriously and just became clear that wasn’t true.

Jesper (5m 53s):
So it kind of ended up kind of writing my second book of Casual Revolution, the heels of that kind of disappointment. It’s quite to kind of understand like what was going on really. And also, and also in a way my third book, The Art of Failure also kind of in a way, came a bit on the heels of that, because I wanted to like, understand why it was so frustrating for people when they didn’t fail in a game. Right. So we still have this kind of intuition that kind of dislike failing in a way.

Jesper (6m 23s):
Right. But it became very clear that people were really kind of angry if they never failed in a game, if it was too easy. And so you’d say that there was a kind of my personal failure here led to those two books because it just felt that there’s just something I just didn’t understand and I wanted to get into it.

Rob (6m 38s):
So talk about comebacks? That’s a fantastic comebacks from that situation. And I know you’ve wrote a couple of books on the heels of this, but is there any sort of key lessons that you were facing that once again you were thinking of creating that game, like that or any other games, would you say that there is something that you would do, you know, from the onset completely different or, you know, a key lesson that you took on that?

Jesper (7m 2s):
Yeah, sure. I mean, so, so one was not to get, led astray by kind of stereotypes about your audience, of what you heard about your audience. So it was kind of very clear that we had some assumptions about what the, audience was like also based with, about what people were saying At the time, like even designers and in various talks. And we were kind of let us self be led astray by that. Right. And so we weren’t reaching out to the right channels. Like we should have found like some kind of internet forum at the time and it recruited some play testers there that would have just have given us Like much, much better input.

Jesper (7m 41s):
Right. And so, and then the second one also is just a, I think probably should have thought about making a team that perhaps like included more people who are like super fans of these games. I kind of like these games, but I don’t think I’m, I’m not like a super fan of kind of puzzle games. And I think we should have kind of tried to expand the team with, with people just like really, really into it. Yeah. So I think that that’s a kind of mistake and I think perhaps this is a kind of common mistake, but like not really figuring out what your audience is or a setting of a testing procedure where you end up reaching out to people who aren’t quite your audience.

Jesper (8m 17s):
So I think these are kind of common mistakes that everybody can make it. We certainly made them.

Rob (8m 21s):
Absolutely. In fact, you were, you’re talking about friends and family and close relatives and so on. I think that could be a first screening that can be very useful for screening. I don’t know if you’ll agree with me, but then you have to take that next step as well and start approaching as closely as possible. Those people that would actually be players, you would have maybe, you know, friends and family will just tell you about the broad things that they see and that you don’t want to get a final user to see, but you don’t want to make sure that you see how those interactions go with real users were fantastic lesson.

Rob (8m 55s):
Not sure you took from that.

Jesper (8m 56s):

Rob (8m 57s):
So taking a spin on this, of course, we talk about failure. You have a book on failure, a different kind of failure of course, more related to how video games and video games, but we would like to take a spin on that and say something that you went actually to go for. And it was a success, you know, with this challenge that you, you went for and you using games, your research on games and you actually succeeded using that. And again, we want to draw some lessons say, well, these are a couple of things that I would attribute that success to.

Jesper (9m 24s):
Sure. Yeah. So I think perhaps to think about this in a, in a kind of very general way, I think about my kind of own research process. So I think that you say my, my approach is probably generally that I’m a kind of humanities person and what does it actually mean? It means I care about why people find things meaningful. Right. So, so to me that’s always been the interesting part. Like what is it about kind of video games or various kinds of video games that kind of people can find meaningful, perhaps this one, from my own perspective, when I’m successful in my writing, in my research, it’s also because I’m as willing to, to kind of look at it rather broadly practice certain things I was trained in like typically literature.

Jesper (10m 13s):
Right. But I’m also kind of willing to think kind of pretty broadly about, Hey, how does meaning occur or like how what’s actually going on in a given situation or what is it that? I don’t know. And so I do feel like in some way, at least from my own perspective, whenever I write a book, I’m kind of a new writer, perhaps, you know, this gotta think from the outside, perhaps from the outside, it all seems the same. It’s possible. Right? But, but, so for example, in my most recent book, Handmade Pixels, one of the things I ended up writing about was what’s the name of crude health had called so conspicuous production.

Jesper (10m 49s):
So in a way to say idea that today, if you go to a coffee shop or at least back when we could go to coffee shops, right. So there, there was a, there’s often a kind of emphasis on, on this idea of the source, sourcing of whatever you’re drinking. Right. For example, so there’s, so you can buy this coffee, that’s like single origin, and this is very, it comes from a very specific point in place in the world. Or you can, or you could go to restaurants where, which would specify and kind of great detail, like what, where every ingredient came from. Right.

Jesper (11m 20s):
So this is called I don’t know if you’re, this is Portlandia episode with go to a restaurant and want to want to hear about where the chicken was raised, how it grew up and all this kind of stuff. So I think this is definitely the kind of thing,

Rob (11m 31s):
What school they went to as well, right?

Jesper (11m 35s):
Yeah. Yeah. But this is definitely a thing, a thing in culture, right. This idea of, of, of that certainly becomes kind of authentic or real or valuable because you know, where it’s from or who made it, or this idea of like artisanal gin artisanal chocolate or whatever. And it just, I thought it was really interesting for me when I was thinking about independent games to see that well, actually, that those were the kinds of things that were popping up in independent games. So a lot of independent games have this story about how the game was made is, has to start somebody had this kind of burning passion and they dropped out of the university or, and lived on noodles for very long time.

Jesper (12m 14s):
Or there’s a Danish game that has a story about how once they graduated, they actually slept at the university illegally for many months just to be able to make the game. Right. So, so, so that’s, I think that’s become a, kind of a common trope. I so hear the story about how the game game was made. Right. And I think you can also see it in the visuals of a lot of independent games, often in a way, try to go away from kind of quote, unquote, like photorealistic kind of 3D graphics and do things that are said kind of hand drawn or, or hand made in some way.

Jesper (12m 47s):
Right. So, so it becomes a way also to use the graphics to kind of give this feeling that this is actually a game that comes from somewhere that somebody actually made because they kind of really kind of felt like it. And I think too, to me, perhaps, that’s how it’s been interesting, like over the years, too, to be able to think about the different kind of sources of meaning that people find, like, why do people find like this kind of hand drawn game valuable? Well, of course it ties into some other cultural things that are going on at the time, perhaps at least in my own mind like.

Jesper (13m 19s):
Yeah. When, when I’m successful in my, in my research, it’s also because I’m kind of willing to, to think about it in different ways and not just to say like, think about the ways I was, I was trained when I, when I was studying myself.

Rob (13m 33s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. It sounds super interesting. And I would say definitely that was a big success and we, we can get to talk a bit more about your book, but before we do that, I’d like to know if you have some sort of, again, when you’re, when you’re, maybe you said you’re an occasional game developer, maybe when you’re creating games, maybe when you’re creating. So when you think about these things you have, researcher in general tends to be, have a lot of method involved a bit standardized, but is there any sort of process that you follow when you’re, when you’re doing your thing, when you’re creating these games or, or figuring out new ideas of what to research, like, how do you do this?

Rob (14m 10s):
We’d like to get sort of in your mind.

Jesper (14m 13s):
Yeah. I mean, I mean, I’m still kind of influenced by what people wrote about like Tracy Fullerton or, or like Robin CUNY accused this idea of designing for a kind of experience. Right. Because I think it’s too very easy. Yeah. When you’re making games to start with a genre or start with a game type, or even start with what the tool wants you to do, right. So clearly both kind of unreal and unity, they kind of want you to make kind of 3D shooters or at the very least they want you to make games involving like a character walking in, in a 3D world.

Jesper (14m 50s):
Right. And think, I always think this idea of like, designing for experience instead, like starting with that experience and what’s, what is this game supposed to do? Like what’s the experience player supposed to have? and start with that, then work your way backwards. I, I still think that that’s kind of really, really important and it can also do so be when, when I’m kind of supervising students. So for example, last year we had this collaboration where we have 20 students from Parsons school of design in New York came here and Copenhagen, and then we worked with the national gallery to look at ways to engage the audience in a different way.

Jesper (15m 28s):
Right. And I think here was, it was kind of important to be open to, and also talk to the students about that. Even though we probably came to this situation with a kind of game approach or thinking about games that that could mean like any number of different things, right. It didn’t have to be something that had points. It didn’t have to be kind of gamified in any, in a particular way that, that you could just think of games as, as it’s just kind of much broader fields, right. Something that can sometimes be about kind of points about structure. And that has, so I think that this does work very well, but sometimes it’s about something else.

Jesper (16m 2s):
Right. Sometimes it might be about like taking on a kind of particular role or kind of role playing. So some of the students, for example, did this project, which was much more about actually kind of picking up a card, but let me explain actually. So, so then the national gallery is kind of arts museum, right? And so we went and we looked at how, how patrons were approaching the museum. And it was just kind of clear that some people know how to know what to do when they go to an art museum. And some people really don’t, they’re really unsure what to do when, when they come in and then actually really would like you to help them.

Jesper (16m 38s):
Right. And then what what’s other students did was sustained, which was actually more about kind of role playing exercise, where you got a mask and a card, and then you had to like, kind of do something you had to like approach certain artworks in a particular way and look at them as artworks in one way or go somewhere else and think about it and in a specific way. And as that was super interesting, because it’s not a, it’s not a game in its traditional points, like sense. Right. But it takes that kind of role thing element for, from games and helps people like kind of see things in artwork, even if they’re not used to it.

Jesper (17m 13s):
So I think to me, that’s, that’s kind of super interesting. Right. And then Deb, and then sometimes you do need to do something that’s kind of super kind of point driven and so on. But just this idea that to remember to that games can be kind of many, many, many different things. It doesn’t have to be like, like this one structure that is just really broad. Right.

Rob (17m 32s):
Absolutely. And I think it’s Jane McGonigal who said or mentioned that somebody else said probably the games are a series of unnecessary obstacles that you go through with a set of rules that, you know, you can just go into the museum and do your thing, but you’re getting Into this little story attitude and getting into this through the game lens. And I love that. I completely agree that games can be so many things. And that looks like a very, very neat experience.

Rob (18m 3s):
I would probably be one of the users. I’m not very good at getting into art galleries, despite my mom, she studied in a design Academy in London, back home as well. I’m from Venezuela. She she’s all artsy. She loves paint. She knows everything, everything about art history as well. I have no clue I get into a museum. I know I want to enjoy more of the experience if I knew more about it, but then I have to research and I often don’t have time for that.

Rob (18m 33s):
So I’m guessing that some, some experience like that will be very, very neat. I would be probably one of those users of that experience. So that sounds fantastic.

Jesper (18m 43s):
But it’s also kind of interesting. I think that, that I think some people need, you might call like an alibi, right? So, so to, to engage with art in a certain way. Right. And so then if you’re assigned like a role or a structure, there’s certain things you have to find like in a museum then that, that kind of gives you a bit of a, that that takes away. Some of that pressure towards figuring out how you’re supposed to kind of stand and look and so on

Rob (19m 11s):
Absolutely, so Jesper you know, one, when we’re thinking about creating games, when we’re thinking about making games that have a certain purpose, you know, that the purpose of that game is probably to make people feel comfortable in a museum and have, you know, something to do a national art museum. When you’re thinking about creating these experiences and these things. Is there any recommendation, any best practice that you could say, well, if you’re going to get into this, considering this, doing this, thinking about this, definitely help you get something better or would absolutely make it rock your world.

Jesper (19m 44s):
Yeah. I mean, so, so the, I mean, I mentioned it a bit, so, so I do think, again, this idea of deciding for the experience like starting with, with what’s, what’s the experience that the is supposed to have either like emotionally or cognitively or whatever. And that is the very first kind of thing you ask. And then the second thing you asked about the, like, why would people play? Right? And I think that this is something that’s just, it can be subtle in a lot of ways. And sometimes it has to do with it, like the artwork or something that it has to be, whatever you’re making has to be something that when people look at it, they actually want to engage with it and that’s super subtle.

Jesper (20m 23s):
And sometimes you need to test it a million times. Right. But then I think it’s just, it’s just very easy, especially if you try to do something, then that’s not kind of purely entertaining that, just to think about all the good you’ve done in the world and not to think about just that kind of, I’d say onboarding experience where people pick up stuff like in the very beginning. And also, I think if you want to kind of go even broader, this is Sabrina Culyba, who used to be at Schell Games has published this thing called the transformational framework.

Jesper (20m 53s):
I don’t know if you’re, if you’re aware of this. So I use this with students and it’s a really, really good document that just goes over, like all the things you need to think about when you’re doing like a game or game, like experience that has to make some kind of change in the world, but just specify well, well, who like say, who are the stakeholders? Who are the experts? What do people need to, what is the change you want to make in people? Like, so is it emotionally, or it’s like in terms of kind of opinions. So it’s an in terms of knowledge or actions, how do you want to evaluate it and all these kinds of things.

Jesper (21m 27s):
So it’s this really, really good checklist for all of these things that you might forget if you’re, if you’re, if you’re making kind of a game that has to have a purpose other than an entertainment. And I just found that just we started using it like the spring and it’s really, really useful for, for students. And I think for everybody else, it’s just this kind of list of all these kind of things that you might forget.

Rob (21m 51s):
I’ll look that up and probably put it in the show notes as well, so that the engagers can find it right there. And Jesper that is, I think it is a fantastic commendation, something that most people can just access and do that. And I would like also to having recommendation from you listening to these questions now, you know, a bit more about the audience as well. Is there somebody that you would like to listen to another guest like yourself that you would like to listen to an episode like this one in Professor Game?

Jesper (22m 19s):
Yeah. I’d recommended Mary Flanagan, who’s at Dartmouth, she’s also an academic and kind of game developer and artists sort of slash activist. So, so she’s done things which are both kind of art installations and, and kind of political games. And she’s also written about like the history of the use of, of games in, in, in, in art. And I think she has a lot of, she has a very good kind of rangeboth kind of theoretically and in terms of the things she develops and also in terms of thinking about things like kind of assessment of, if you try to make a game that makes a difference, like how do you know that it actually works?

Jesper (22m 57s):
So I think I would definitely recommend her.

Rob (22m 58s):
She sounds absolutely fantastic. One of the nice things, as well as I had never heard about her. So I love those kinds of recommendations as well, and sitting right next to your four books Jesper, what would be a book that you would recommend to the audience. Why?

Jesper (23m 13s):
Yeah. So, so this is, this is sort of like a, a book by Brian Sutton-Smith called the ambiguity of play from, I think 1997. And I think this is also perhaps ties into like my own, own way of thinking or, or, or if you think of something like play or games, I think you often have these moments where, where I think you figured it out. And then I think that usually it’s to a moment where you realize you kind of haven’t quite figured it out.

Jesper (23m 44s):
And the ambiguity of play is a book that kind of pride and Sutton Smith wrote at the kind of end of his career where he said play theorists from New Zealand. And he just writes about like all of time, different ways that people have talked about play and talks both about that. You can think of players and play as identity or player as kind of waste of time or, or play also, it’s a kind of assertion of power. And yeah, I think it was just a, you can say it in a way it’s a, it’s a book that presents different kinds of frames for thinking about games and play.

Jesper (24m 14s):
So it’s not something that teaches you like this is how you will make a game, but it’s just something I think that opens a lot to thinking about that games and play can actually be all kinds of different things. And that if we’re going around talking about games and play in a certain way, it’s probably just because we’re just parroting, right. One particular historical idea of play. And I think it was just really, really healthy to be aware of that.

Rob (24m 39s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. It sounds absolutely fantastic. And I asked him to talk about this book, but I would also like to know what is your latest book about what is, what inspired you to, to go into Handmade Pixels? You kind of got into a little bit of indie games and games with meaning. Is there, is there something else that you’d like to mention about your, your, your latest book, which is handmade pixels?

Jesper (25m 1s):
Yeah, so, so is this in a way as I was alluding to my, my books often come from something that I feel, I don’t understand, that’s kind of strange in the world. And I think what was happening with the last especially 10, 15 years was that there were all these new games coming out called and that people call independent games and people were just both kind of really adamant that this was really important. And it was clear that something was happening. You had new kinds of festivals and like independent game festival or indiecades, but people were also really disagreeing about what they kind of really were there.

Jesper (25m 35s):
They were often very different games. And then what I said, I just simply sat down also with an assistant it, just did the work of looking at how all of those festivals have had kind of awarded games from roughly 1999 to 2018, 20 years. And there are two, two lots of say that. Well, it was interesting to me to think if you’ve got like where, where, where did independent games come from? Or what was it? Right. And so, so then it became kind of clear that it was an idea that people just started talking about around like 1999.

Jesper (26m 7s):
And that was kind of funny, right? Because obviously people have been making small games back in the 1980s and so on. But then when I sort of, kind of came back and looked over the history, then it became clear that people in the 1980s, they would never use the word like independent for themselves, that what they would just, they would just making video games in any way they could. And if it had a small, budget it was just because he didn’t have any more money. Right. And then it’s interesting then around that’s around 1999, you start having this other idea that independent games is something that reacts to a bigger industry.

Jesper (26m 41s):
Of course it’s because the video game industry has become so consolidated that this felt like you could do something that felt alternative in some way. Right. And then I write about like, then it takes a while for people to figure out what it is, right. You start having independent game festivals. And then in the beginning, people are just making small versions or demos of regular AAA games. So it takes about like five or six years before people actually start making something that actually looks different from what the big budget games of the day.

Jesper (27m 12s):
And I just thought also kind of super interesting. It’s just super interesting to kind of go back and look at that and that kind of history that to see that, okay. Today I think we probably have a kind of shift where I talked about in a way, three different kinds of independence right? One is what we talk about…. like financial independence, this idea that you’re making it on your own dime or whatever. And then I talk about what that is. It’s aesthetic independence that you’re making a game that actually feels and looks different than, than other games and mainstream games. And then the final kind of phase is what I talk about as kind of cultural independence.

Jesper (27m 46s):
Like when, when you bake a game where you, where are you claiming that it has a kind of a broader value, right? It could be kind of political. It could also be other things that here’s a game that’s, that’s actually making some kind of difference. Right. So I think a recent game is a game called Neo Cab where, where you are kind of a, you and an Uber driver somewhat sometime in the near future, but where you are just about to be replaced by like autonomous vehicles. Right. And it’s just about being in that position. Right. And that’s kind of interesting game it kind of comments and all kinds of, kind of things about kind of precarious work and the gig economy and so on.

Jesper (28m 21s):
So, so that’s an example of a game that’s just because I’m kind of culturally independent. And so to me that’s just interesting too, as a way of opening up, like, why are people disagreeing about independence all the time? And then, well, clearly it’s also just because it’s not just one thing, right? It’s, it’s several competing ideas and it’s something that hasn’t been around, like all the time. I said, it’s something that kind of really jelled around 2005 and 2006. And then I think to me, that’s an interesting to see how that kind of plays out now or how some say, like how console manufacturers sometimes don’t care about Indies.

Jesper (28m 55s):
And then whenever there’s a new console, it seems that they care a lot about Indie. So in this become independent games becomes a way for say, Sony to fill up the store for when the PlayStation 5 comes out. Right. So then it just becomes kind of something that the big manufacturers use to kind of fill up the new console. And just so interesting, I think, to kind of trace that history and then also to of course, to think about how does it relate to kind of music or independent music, independent cinema, as I think people often ask me about.

Jesper (29m 26s):
And so, so one of the funny things that happens is that like, in, in, especially in music, you have no idea that there are major labels and then they’re indie labels, right? And, and then this is a discussion which ones count. Right? But then you can see that for the independent game festival, from the beginning until 2007, 2008, the criteria for entering the festival is that you have to be unrelated to certain kind of financial entities or labels or publishers. And then in 2008, it becomes that you have to just tick a box saying that your game was made in, indie spirit.

Rob (30m 0s):
Well, and the things have changed as part of the life. I guess you could call it an evolution. Some people like it more, some people will like the lesson that it is, as you say, it kind of is what it is. Right?

Jesper (30m 12s):
Yeah. But then there’s also, I think that that independent games that you had some independent games that became really financially successful, and then it just, it does a switch you to, this is a kind of funny switch here. Then independence become a, becomes a state of mind, right. Because the spiritual thing almost rather than a financial thing. And I think even later, I think that’s this perhaps discussion in the community of that, that they don’t want to define independent games. It’s just something that they’d say like the Drury of a festival decides from year to year, what feels kind of, kind of independent.

Jesper (30m 45s):
Right. And you can also say that there’s a shift from kind of independence as being like the altar or the kind of romantic artists making a game of by themselves to now you have much more of an idea of the games are made by kind of groups or, or kind of communities. And I think what does it mean? Well, what it means is also just that I think everybody loves, loves the word independence, etcetera. It’s kind of really cool kind of ring to it, but also that this is not just one thing you can sprinkle on anything. Right. So when people started, started making independent games in the early two thousands, what happens is just that there’s all these cultural ideas from that particular time that goes into independent games, right.

Jesper (31m 25s):
It’s not just a copy of independent music from the 1980s, it’s actually something else. Right?

Rob (31m 30s):

Jesper (31m 31s):
To me, that’s just also interesting. And then you can think about how does that go all the way down to, to say how people use unity or make their own kind of flash engines or whatever. Right. So to think about that, like how to very small design or even technical design decisions actually connect to very large cultural trends.

Rob (31m 49s):
It is very interesting and definitely a very good reason as well to and grab Handmade Pixels. So Jesper, what would you say when, when creating games, when researching games is your super power, your sweet spot, that’s saying that you do great. I think you’ve given us some clues. What would you say is that?

Jesper (32m 9s):
Yeah, I would say too to the extent that I have a superpower, I can delay making up my mind for a very long time. So, so what’s it say both when I’m kind of researching or making things? I can, I can take a very long, I I’m, I’m fine with waiting a very, very long time before I kind of commit to any say like way of structuring a book or any kind of gameplay or anything like that. So I would say that that’s the thing I’m best at, of course it works better if you have, nobody’s waiting from you. Of course. But yeah.

Jesper (32m 40s):
But, but I think, I think that’s awesome. I’m not so wedded, I think to one way of looking at games or writing, and I’m not so wedded to kind of one kind of game structure I’m kind of fairly agnostic and in many ways, I hope you had

Rob (32m 53s):
You are independent. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And that is a super power for sure. And I know from the research that you do, you’ve also talked a little bit about this, that you’ve probably played quite a few games and this question might come in in an interesting sense as well, because we would like to know what is in your case. And according to your likes, what would you say is your favorite game?

Jesper (33m 18s):
Oh, it’s such a, it’s a very hard question. I ask students this all the time and they asked me back and I said, that’s a such a hard question unfair. Right. So, so it’s a bit of a, you did somewhat contextual. So like when I, when I play with my, my, I see also the world through my kids. Right. So things like Minecraft and Fortnite and the games of Tokyo poker, I, in a way I think that the most kind of amazing things in the world, I definitely see this kind of through their eyes. But then I think for myself, there’s some games that I’ve really enjoyed.

Jesper (33m 50s):
I really enjoyed like the first Red Dead Redemption. I also had like other kind of games, like Super Monkey Ball. I was really attached to that kind of series for a long time or ChuChu Rocket, like an old puzzle game. So, so yeah. So, so I think those would all be like kind of favorites. And so then this is the difference between what I played like for myself in a break. And what I play say, like with kind of kids, eh, I, I wasn’t like right now, realistically playing Clash Royale more than anything, but I’m not actually enjoying it.

Jesper (34m 22s):
And so, so, so literally I had this period of time where I would delete and reinstall it like several times a day because love hate relationship. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I mean, but it’s also this kind of thing I’ve come so far that game, that, that in a way, the game is asking me for a level of engagement that I can’t really give. Right. So some not. So if I can’t, I can’t, if I play just like, if I’m not really paying full attention, paying full attention, when I play, I’m going to lose.

Jesper (34m 55s):
Right. And sometimes when I have kids and other stuff going on, so I’m, I’m also being pushed out from the game to some extent to where I am.

Rob (35m 4s):
It’s your, it’s your life. That’s okay. That’s good as well. So just for we’re running out of time, but of course we want to make sure that we know where we can find you work and find your books where we can, you know, if it’s in social media to maybe make it further questions by, by the Engagers, where can we find you in the world of the internet?

Jesper (35m 20s):
Yeah. So my own webpage where I list all my books, obviously, and then I have lots of my kind of papers and publications can be read there. I also have a blog on that side where I write about kind of games and write about kind of see what’s going on a new journal articles and that kind of thing. And then a there’s, like a, kind of more for the kind of shorter term or more direct contact I can be reached on, on Twitter at, @jesperjuul dot net.

Jesper (35m 50s):
And so @jesperjuul.

Rob (35m 52s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. So again, if you have any final words for infringing endangers, any final pieces of advice, that would be great before, before we take off.

Jesper (36m 2s):
Yeah. I think just that, that just remember that the games can be many different things. You don’t have to make any one kind of game. And also that’s one thing I always recommend is to kind of ask people perhaps. If you’re in a group, like everybody should kind of write down what kind of game they just don’t get. They cannot understand why anybody would ever play it. And then you have to commit to actually play that game for yourself and actually kind of come back like next week and tell everybody why, why that game is really good. So it’s just a way to, to, as an exercise, to kind of get out of your own habits and then get out of your own comfort zone.

Jesper (36m 37s):
I think that’s really, really important all the time.

Rob (36m 39s):
Interesting. I really enjoy that. I think I’m going to use it with my students at some point. Thank you very much Jesper for being with us today for investing this time in, in, in this conversation with the Engagers, providing so much value, so much insights that you’ve, you’ve gone through these years and all this research, however, at least for now and for today, it’s time to say that it’s Game Over! Engagers. Thank you. Thank you for listening to Professor Game podcast.

Rob (37m 11s):
And I may ask you a question. Can you let us know, how are you listening to this podcast? If you’re doing it through podcasting app, have you already subscribed and rated this podcast? If you haven’t, please go ahead and do so because that is the way in which we can reach more engagers like you to achieve this mission of making, learning, amazing, making, learning fun and engaging. If you need instructions, just go to And of course, before you go onto your next mission, you know, just set it, subscribe, hit that subscribe button and listen to the next episode of Professor Game.

Rob (37m 53s):
See you there!

End of transcription

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