Ben Esposito

Ben Esposito is an independent digital game maker in Los Angeles. He makes lots of cool stuff. His next game is Donut County. Now he answers our questions!


1. How long have you been making games?

I started modding seriously in 2007 I think… It didn’t really amount to much for a while. I made a handful of mods and freeware games until 2011 when I got the opportunity to work on The Unfinished Swan.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

On top of a mountain? Inside of a fish? I wish I knew… I know I can always find ideas inside other games, though. It’s usually a tiny little thing. The way something moves, maybe. Timing, weight. It’s almost always kinetic. It will sit in my head like a little snippet of music, playing over and over.

I like art and novels and films and poetry and stuff but I always think about games in terms of music. They’re kinetic, they have rules, rhythm, dynamics. They can repeat and change over time procedurally. At least the types of games I’m drawn to.

3. LA game collective “Arcane Kids” is one of our favourite game collectives out there. You are making Perfect Stride, “a first person skateboarding game for Windows & OSX based on old school FPS movement exploits (Quake jumping, Tribes skiing, CS surfing)”. Love that one-liner and hey, we’ve played last IGF version and the game (music and mechanics above all) is really amazing. Where does its idea come from? Also, what are your favourite titles on the Dreamcast?

Wow thanks! The idea came from when I was modding in the source engine. If you simply turn the friction off and try to move around, you’ll get some version of Perfect Stride. We put out a mod based around that, like there were no code changes at all, just a bunch of maps and a tweaked settings.

Perfect Stride is just a more approachable version of that I think it’s a really fun to skate in and I want to introduce it to people who haven’t tried anything like it before.

My fav Dreamcast games: The Chao garden from Sonic Adventure, Seaman, Phantasy Star Online.

4. You’ve just revealed your new game: Donut County, “a whimsical physics toy that gives players control of a mysterious hole that gets bigger each time they swallow something”. Where does its idea come from?

Looney Tunes? Monty Python? Yellow Submarine? The idea of a portable hole is all over the place. A fake Peter Molyneux (Molydeux) tweet inspired the game itself though. He suggested playing as the hole itself! Gotta give credit.

5. The pits (Molyjam), Kachina (post-Molyjam), Donut County (now). What did it change in this whole process? Why did you decide to go from Kachina to Donut County?

I thought the idea behind Kachina religion was really interesting, Kachina designs themselves are gorgeous and ever-changing. During the first year of development I learned a lot about cultural appropriation and its damaging effects. For a while I tried to address it in the game, but I ultimately learned that I have no place representing other people’s beliefs and cultures. I decided I could tell a similar story using the things around me, hence Donut County.

6. You’ve said that “Bruce Springsteen is the boss” and that he was a big influence on Donut County. Why is that? 

I was listening to him a lot when I first started the project, but I’m inspired by the way his music talks about places, not just people. I also grew up on the East Coast of the U.S. where he is THE BOSS.

7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

Vectorpark. His work is like music in the way I described earlier. They’re about play without being games in the traditional sense.

Porpentine. Porp is a top notch designer and writer, and suuuuper funny. She has done a lot for the interactive fiction scene!

Zak AylesZak is young and full of raw power. Zak once described to me his desire to make games that cause physical pain.

9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

I try to play games but they’re sooooo much work!! Even turning them on takes too long. That’s why I love mobile games. Some games I’m playing now: Hohokum, Desert Golfing, Skate 3.

10. One last random question. If you could only watch a gif for the whole eternity, which one would it be and why?

Easy one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *