Feature: Can a game where Wario writes sonnets prove games are art and fix microtransactions?

This interview has been edited to fit (extremely roughly, so please don’t check) iambic pentameter. Alice Bell has never interviewed Nate Crowley before.


ALICE: I saw some post online that said that the 

Iliad and the Odyssey are fun 

If you imagine Homer a GM 

And all the men and women merely players.

NATE: That’s super fucking true! That has to be 

A thing in the tradition of epics. 

You’ve got to forget bits and make it up. 

These days we haven’t got the earlier ones, 

So whole bits where Homer was winging it

Will seem like they were always the story.

ALICE: Like Achilles is a player going 

‘I want to attack the river’ and so

Homer is like, ‘You cannot attack it.’ 

And then Achilles rolls a nat 20. 

NATE: See Homer as an MMO dev team.

There’s nerf patches and out of control buffs. 

I think it’s Book Five of the Iliad,

The Trojans, they’re like just going berserk 

And wailing on the Greeks, and so the gods, 

Who are just like the dev team avatars, 

Give a massive buff to Diomedes.

He just Hulks out and rips the heads off loads

Of Trojans for eight pages, and then he

Calms down again when things have levelled out 

And they bring in the post patch nerfs. So there. 

Games are art. The conversation’s over. 

God of War is at least kind of related to Greek gods, right?

ALICE: If you can read classical art as games

There’s no reason to not do the reverse.

NATE: I guess it goes back to divergence from 

Convention in the reason to play games.

My int’rest at the moment is in games 

That simulate the grind of history.

ALICE: I’d like them more if they went all the way,

And just said ‘You are not special, at all.’

If every day you just got up and you

Had to farm for cabbages or something,

And hope that bandits didn’t kill you all, 

And that was the whole game. And then you died.

NATE: Aw yeah! Just ‘Feudal Scum Simulator’ 

And there’d be quite a lot of reward there. 

Because in the trad sandbox RPG, 

Hunting is like walking through a small zoo 

With a machine gun, mowing them all down,

Then finding out a taxidermist with 

More money than he has sense in his head

Will pay you infinitely for boar scrotes. 

It’s quite nice to have to struggle over 

The simplest of things. There you go, that’s art. 

ALICE: For sure.

NATE:                   So let me ask you a question.

Can you think of big commercial titles 

(Since Mario Paint) about making art? 

‘Cos when you pose the question are games art, 

Then what about games about its making,

Maybe even attached to a franchise.

Like, what about a game from Nintendo 

In which Wario has to write sonnets?

ALICE: That would be really good because I feel 

Wario is quite a complex figure.

NATE: Oh there is so much going on with him. 

He’s quite a counter cultural icon. 

Wario is especially, I think,

Beloved to more mature audiences.

So how would you do the mechanics of 

A game to construct fairly complex verse? 

ALICE: Depends if the game wants you to succeed,

And if part of Wario’s struggle was 

Inherently part of the game itself. 

Maybe he’d, like, get better at writing 

If he took time out to read some Shakespeare.

Game & Wario Screenshots
Are we not all Wario?

NATE: You could have different skill based mini-games 

Involved in the sonnet construction too, 

Like one of those weird WarioWare things; 

An owl swinging above a pile of clocks 

And you must feed it beans at the right time

To get the right number of syllables

To match to iambic pentameter,

Or you’re fucked and left with three syllables.

ALICE: Fuck dactyls.

NATE: The more limits you have placed on the form 

The more creative you’re going to be 

To create something beautiful within. 

Maybe you’d just share it with your friends list. 

A little icon would appear on screen: 

‘Your friend Alice has made a new sonnet, 

Will you critique it?’

ALICE:                       What would the name be?

NATE: Super Wario Poetic Expression

ALICE: So all the poems by all the players,

Are they all art in their own right as well?

Super Mario Odyssey Screenshots
Peach pictured here during a performance art piece of some kind, probably.

NATE: They are. Extend it beyond Wario. 

You could have the full Mario roster;

There’d be an element of roleplaying. 

Say you were Wario, and I Bowser,

So when I had done rating your sonnet 

You’d get a little cutscene of Bowser 

Reading a paper and wag’ling his head 

And being like ‘I think it’s good but 

It could use work. I award three coins.’ 

And you can use those on new mini games. 

That is a microtransaction system 

Where the currency is peer reviewing. 

It solves the microtransactions problem! 

Imagine now PUBG or whatever 

But you’re rewarded not based on your grind

But based on players’ appreciation. 

If you’ve been a good healer or something, 

Well then someone else might be like ‘fair play’. 

If someone kills you most impressively 

Then you might choose to reward them in turn! 

ALICE: People kind of do that when they share clips 

On Twitter, of the cool stuff that they’ve done. 

They get likes. 

NATE:             That’s a microtransaction. 

It could stamp out really toxic voice chat 

because if you were nice you might get coins.

You see, it’s all about culture jamming 

In a kind way. 

ALICE:             I like that idea. 

Interesting concept. You should pitch it 

At Jeff Kaplan from the Overwatch team. 

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