Talking Simulator: moshboy

For most people he is known as moshboy: For about a decade he is fighting for a wider acceptance and appreciation of alternative video game culture with his own methods. With the help of several formats (video series, articles, tweets and The Pirate Bay Bundle), he curates small games to give them a small place in the spotlight. But moshboy also lives another life: He is the Australian factory worker named Steve, living in Melbourne, surrounded by colleagues who would not understand his fascination. We spoke with him about his sometimes tough relationship with video game curation, his love for what he calls “trashgames” as well as his two different realities of life.

Sebastian: You came up with the term “trashgames”. For you, it seems to be some kind of positive thing. Would you be so kind to give me a definition of trashgames and why you love them so much?

moshboy: I have been playing videogames since I was maybe four years old. I became utterly disconnected from the AAA industry when I was a late teen and… Honestly? I was always fascinated with alternative video game culture, the parts of it that felt like they were hidden away. Anyways, it was natural for me to want something more than what AAA had to offer, so I gravitated towards freeware games.

After a certain amount of time curating freeware games, I noticed two things. Firstly, even within freeware, certain genre-mixtures become popular and from there people jump on the bandwagon and stay within certain parameters. Secondly, the trickle of games was increasing and some were not getting any coverage, even from Indygamer or TIGSource. So the two components that I feel trashgames encompass are obscurity and a “Do whatever you want” attitude, not worrying about how unpolished or silly your game is, not worrying about audience expectations. I feel like freeware games and especially trashgames are the most undiluted form of the medium.

Sebastian: But why exactly are those the most undiluted form to you?

moshboy: As soon as you decide to sell something, it becomes a product with an audience and generally products are expected to make money. Making money generally means pleasing an audience, which generally means concessions are made in regards to some of the stranger things that someone may have had in mind to include in said product. There is an expectation of polish and of length and all sorts of other things that basically dilute the purest form of the original idea.

Sebastian: Would that not mean that as soon as you in your role as developer can imagine an audience, that your whole creation gets diluted?

moshboy: I think so, yes. Like, if a game maker created a reputation for themselves and the audience expects a specific type of digital experience from said game maker every time and they deliver on that purely due to expectation.

I think there are a number of game makers out there that just make whatever they feel like making at the time because they do not have an audience or sales pressure or they do not allow expectations from an audience to affect them.

Sebastian: But is it not difficult to be not affected? It seems like a paradox to me: On the one side, we want those game makers to be seen. But as soon as they are seen, they build some kind of audience, which develops an own expectation of any next game the game makers will make. It is like a vicious cycle.

moshboy: Let us keep in mind that portals like Warp Door or arguably do not create a very big audience with huge expectations. And as to how exposure affects a game maker, it would be unique from one to the next. A lot of folks that make video games for game jams seem to fly under the radar. They might be known to other jammers, but their audience stays small. But yes, I do agree that there is a paradox in all of this. It is hard to not make diluted work because there are so many external factors.

Sebastian: Did you ever develop a game or something yourself?

moshboy: Never made a game or touched any game making tools. It is something that has been suggested to me and it is something I contemplate, but at this stage, video game curation takes up all my energy.

Sebastian: What do you hope to achieve with your own curative work?

moshboy: I feel like I am fighting a losing battle. It would be nice to see attitudes towards non-traditional game types shift. I want to demonstrate just how many games slip by totally unnoticed and that we need more tiny game curators. And of course I want to encourage more diverse voices to express themselves in video game form. Spotlighting folks that have not received any coverage means a lot to me.

Sebastian: Did you spend your youth with video games?

moshboy: I played them from a young age although my parents did not allow my brother or me to own any computers or consoles until high school. So up until that point it was all playing at friends’ houses. From memory, the first games I played were “River Raid” and “Donkey Kong” on an Atari at a neighbor’s house. But we also played disks filled with cryptic Commodore 64 games, not knowing what I was going to be playing, no tutorials. I loved it.

Sebastian: I for myself remember some moments of my childhood, where I went with my parents to little ‘sale stores’ where you could buy already used games. Once they bought me a CD-ROM with a collection of fifty or even hundred games and the games were kind of trash. But I still can remember the aesthetics of that stuff: It felt incomplete, all of them had annoying controls, the graphics were really bad et cetera. But it was also pretty intriguing, because… I mean, I had to play them, you know? Those games were a present by my parents and I wanted to give it the respect it deserves back then.

moshboy: Oh yes, I found a CD-ROM set called “1,000 DOS games” in my teens and I have fond memories rummaging through its contents. But if it was not for piracy, I would not have the appreciation that I do for video games. My tastes would not be what they have evolved into.

Sebastian: Apropos piracy… With The Pirate Bay Bundle you wanted to save roundabout hundred games from disappearing from the screens. If you could save just three games from perishing forever, which ones would you choose and why?

moshboy: Tough. There is this game called “Soul Jelly” that I featured in the bundle that I have great affection for. Another one is “The Expelations of The Little Green Pod Man”, a weird little experimental platformer. It is not easy to find, it is unpolished, but quite rewarding.
“Housefly” is a short game by David Capello about a fly escaping out a window. It has a wonderful flow and aesthetics. I feel like I helped to shine a spotlight on these games and they all really encompass what I love about the medium. I could choose another three on any given day though. There are so many that are close to my heart.

Sebastian: I adore your passion. Was there a specific moment where you developed it?

moshboy: I just remember playing games like “Lyle in Cube Sector” and “Cave Story” way back when I wanted to become an active part of something that felt secret from the rest of the world. I think this is when I decided I wanted to start a curation website (which I realized firstly with a project called Planet Freeplay, later with @odditie-s). My first YouTube series called “Underrated Indie Games” was when I truly felt like I was doing something that I wanted to do. That was back in 2010.

Sebastian: It sounds to me like you are living in two completely different worlds: Factory worker Steve by day, video game curator moshboy by night. There is the experience of monotony, there is the exploration of the unknown.

moshboy: Yes, they are totally different. Honestly, I hate my job. But it pays the bills, I do not have to travel far and I really do not have much to complain about. I do not tell too many of my co-workers what I do in my spare time. The people at my work own newest-generation Xboxes or PlayStations and only play mainstream first person shooters. They think I am weird and eccentric and look at me with blank stares if I talk about anything other than those experiences.

Anyways, I would say that my relationship with curation is a love-hate relationship, which I think is healthy. Sometimes I think about quitting, but this is possibly because of the size of the projects I choose to take on. Good days, bad days. It has been slow of late. Life throws some unpredictable shit at you. This is life.

Sebastian: But do you remember an experience with your curative work that still makes you smile when you think about it?

moshboy: Oh, I find little gems and new game makers quite often, so that makes me smile. I smile when I think of the folks that really care about the future of this medium and are actively expanding it. But I think the fondest memory of all has been watching the growth of indie gaming and witnessing the birth of altgames and trashgames. Witnessing the growth and explosion of game jams. Witnessing the birth of all the low barrier game making tools, allowing so many people to make tiny expressive video games. Yes, all of that makes me smile.