What have you created with ZZT, or related to ZZT?
The arc of my actual life has always determined the games Iíve made, so itís hard to explain without giving a little bit of personal background. In elementary and middle school, I attended an extremely strict private fundamentalist Christian school. Because of the environment, I always had difficulty relating with the other kids, who had a tendency to eschew free thought. We were taught that conformity was not only required, but it was a virtue that God commanded us to follow. Even though I had an intrinsic desire to think critically, I was sort of sucked into this system. I became an avid evangelical Christian, and my first game was called Only A Boy Named David, named after a song about King David of Israel. The game was unbelievably shitty, with yellow borders, prefab enemies galore (I think Goliath was a tiger), and worse dialogue than Satan himself could possibly conceive.
But I was amazed that I could make a game so quickly, even a DOS game with outmoded graphics. I tried to tell my friends about it, and not too many of them were interested. So I started hanging out on the file libraries on AOL and eventually found the message boards. I wasnít allowed to chat at the time, due to somewhat fascistic parents, so I thought they would be the perfect solution. I started frequenting the boards and began meeting fascinating people who showed me something outside of the rigid system I grew up in.
After that, I became increasingly involved in the community and went on to do a few BKZZTs and 24HoZZTs, including the critically acclaimed Space Monkey From Hell and cyberpHunk. Eventually, based on an idea that xf (Scott Hammack) had, I decided to make a ZZT rock opera. I began composing songs for it at about 12, and the project was released when I was 14. I called it Freedom. It was almost plotless, but Anthony Testa spiced up the art, and the music was the strongpoint of the whole thing (if you can consider PC speaker music a strongpoint of anything). Initially, people really seemed to enjoy Freedom, but over the years, people have thought worse of it. These projects, though, helped me break through the horrors of being in a filtered environment.
A few years later, after being out of the community, I decided to release a poetry and art collection for ZZT called Apparitions of the City. Admittedly, I wasnít nearly a good enough artist to work on an art collection, but it was a fun project, and it gave me the chance to release something almost completely textual in ZZT, which I had been wanting to do for a number of years.
I also made music for Burger Joint, Gem Hunter: Special Edition, Teen Priest 2, ZZTris (whose music was never actually released), and a number of other games.
When you think about ZZT, what games come to your mind and why?
Rhygar is the game that comes to my mind first. I was obsessed with the intimacies of Rhygar and Aishaís relationship, and this whole idyllic love in the face of war and horror has captivated me since I played it. Despite anything negative bongo might say about it, the game was incredibly innovative and pretty damned great for a teenage fantasy game. I have a nostalgic soft spot for it, and I appreciate it for more than just nostalgia.
Other favorites include the Teen Priest series, edible v0mit, Burger Joint, City of the Stupid, kudzu, Sivion, Winter, Gem Hunter: SE, War-Torn, and p0p. There are tons of great ones Iím missing, but thatís a short list of ones I enjoyed the most.
Have you created any games outside of ZZT?
Iíve worked on a few Megazeux projects that failed miserably. Oh, and playing around with RPG Maker for the Playstation, but nothing other than that.
Do you have any artistic pursuits other than making games?
Over the past five years or so, Iíve been much more interested in writing, visual art, and general real world expressions of art. I maintain a LiveJournal full of writing Iíve done over the past few years at http://kevincarter.livejournal.com. Some of itís incredibly immature and crazy, but I still like looking back on stuff Iíve done. (Hence, my continuing interest in the community.) I still compose quite a bit, mostly gothfolk, electronic, and indie rock type stuffóIím sort of obsessed. Iím fascinated by art and try to study it as much as I can. Iím also involved in theater.
What are you up to, lately (in life, generally)?
Since my time being incredibly involved in the community, things have changed a lot, but I feel like Iím fundamentally the same sort of person. Iíve been involved in speech and debate, theater, music, politics, student life, the technology industry, and have ducked my head around other places. Iím currently taking time off from university, living in New York and working as a tech support manager for a credit card processing company. Iíve been trying to expand my consciousness through philosophy and hallucinogens, met a lot of incredible people (inside the community and outside), and am trying to soak up the bohemian East Village.
Has your experience with ZZT or the ZZT scene made any sort of lasting impact on your life?
ZZT has been an enormous influence on my life. It provided me with an outlet to the real world, where I could actually communicate with people who were outside the traditionalist Christian church. Iíve met a lot of amazing people through it who have radically changed the way I look at the world and probably affect my actions on a daily basis. I canít really think of myself never having found ZZT.
What works of non-ZZT art have inspired you the most?
Books: As far as fiction goes, Iím really fascinated by so-called canonical literature, but my interests lie outside of that too. The Beat Generation writers have been a huge influence on me, from Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg to William S. Burroughs. Iím also interested in the transcendentalist movement (Thoreau and Emerson), Nietzsche, the deconstructionist school of literary criticism, specifically Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, and Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and other counter-cultural writers. I also really appreciate J.D. Salinger, Goethe, Neruda, and tons of other people. Non-fiction: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and pretty much any dissidents.
Music: Oh man, I like everything from new-wave to indie rock to post-rock (whatever that is) to bop or psychedelia. You name it, I have an opinion. Itís my passion, and even though Iím subpar at creating it, I somehow think that I can critique it.
Video Games: Final Fantasies, Xenogears, Chrono Trigger, text adventure gamesÖ that sort of thing.
Do you have any interesting stories to relate about ZZT or the ZZT scene?
Lots, but Iím trying to update the ZZT wiki whenever I can remember them.
Do you plan to create any games in the future, with or without ZZT?
Iím working on an RPG engine for ZZT, which I might use for a game eventually, even though a smiley face would be kind of stupid for this game concept. I have an idea where youíre playing Lao-Tse, Aleister Crowley, Miltonian demons, and a bunch of other people to kill God, kind of like Deus in Xenogears. It could potentially be interesting, but Iíve only started working on it. The thrill of creating a really fun game still motivates me to make something cool.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks for helping the community with this project!
- May 2006