Arcane Kids

"edutainment is NOT A CRIME"
Interview by Asher Penn
Photo by Yuliy

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: YO U 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: ;)

SK8 MUD

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: 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

Game House Still, 2014

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

IGF 2013

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!!!!!!!!!

Pokémon Millennial Edition, 2014

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

Room of 1000 Snakes, 2013

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

Yamada Box Legend Trailer, 2011

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

SK8PUNX, 2010

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

Mirage Cat

From Sex Magazine #10 Spring 2015
Labelled Video Games