What have you created with ZZT, or related to ZZT?
I can hardly remember now. I guess I'm best known for the Llama
Masters games, which started as yet another Power Rangers
parody/rip-off but kind of took on a life of their own. There was
also Strange Trek (a Star Trek: The Next Generation parody of sorts)
and the WEIRD series (an agglomeration of random stuff thrown together
in a way that was supposed to be amusing). I know I worked on a few
other games, but most of them were highly derivative of existing, good
games, and they never got finished. All of my games came about as a
result of me getting bored and messing around in the editor with
little to no prior planning and no idea where I was going to end up.
But I think that, more than my actual games, I was known for writing
"The Saga of the ZZT/MegaZeuxers," which was a sort of... weird
serialized fictionalization of whatever was going on in the ZZT scene
at that time (or just stuff I made up). For some reason that became
popular, I guess because people liked reading about characters based
Llama Masters 2
When you think about ZZT, what games come to your mind and why?
There are a few different categories in my head... the "classics"
(Code Red, Escape from Planet Red, anything else with "red" in the
title), the parodies (Mostly Morphine Powder Strangers, countless
others), and the "new wave" (Kudzu, Pop, Winter, etc). Those are all
games that I spent a lot of time playing or were influential to me.
Have you created any games outside of ZZT?
I made Funky Chunky Monkey for MegaZeux and got about halfway through
its sequel when my hard drive died and I lost a huge amount of work. Oh, and a little adventure game (also for MegaZeux) called The King's
Castle which I forgot ever existed until just now, which should give
you some idea of its quality. Like with ZZT, I had a ton of games
lying around that I got a couple of boards into and then got
distracted and never finished them.
Do you have any artistic pursuits other than making games?
I've dabbled in all sorts of things. I like writing a lot, and I keep
an online journal (http://czircon.livejournal.com/) which, though I'd
be reluctant to call it art, I do put a lot of work into it. I've
collaborated on two web comics: Chilly Willy
(http://www.chilly-willy.com/), which I made with Jessamin Yu (another
former ZZTer), and Hull in a Handbasket (no website at the moment),
which my college roommate and I made because somebody else at our
school had made a web comic and we thought we could do a better one. I've also made a couple of short films.
What are you up to, lately (in life, generally)?
Right now I'm about a third of the way through grad school at the
Graduate Film Conservatory at Florida State University. I majored in
journalism in undergrad, and around the fourth year of that, I
realized that I really didn't like it and didn't want to do journalism
as a career. So I started worrying about what I was going to do once
I graduated -- there were lots of things I was a little bit interested
in, but not interested enough. Then an Internet friend of mine who
was in the undergraduate film program here told me about the school,
and I started to think it would be a great way to combine my interests
in both creative stuff and technical stuff. So far I've written and
directed one short film here and worked in various crew positions on
countless others, and I'll be directing my second film this summer. My eventual goal is to be an editor, but when I get out of here I'll
be qualified to work in all sorts of different set jobs, so who knows
where I'll end up.
Outside of that, I'm living in an apartment with my girlfriend and a
cat and iguana, and I eat a lot of pizza and chicken tikka masala. I
still play video games a lot whenever I have the time, which
unfortunately is pretty rare in film school.
Has your experience with ZZT or the ZZT scene made any sort of lasting impact on your life?
Absolutely. I met my first girlfriend through the ZZT scene, which
had a huge impact on the rest of my life in so many ways, and we're
still close friends today. I've kept in touch with a few other people
from those days as well. But even more than that... when I first
entered the ZZT scene, I was a very unhappy person. I was in...
junior high, I guess it was, and I hated it, and in my daily life I
was basically a social outcast. When I found ZZT and realized that it
was a way to make your own video games, I thought that was pretty much
the coolest thing possible, and I found a community of people who felt
the same way I did. ZZT gave me something to focus my energy on and a
way to express myself, and the community around it made me realize I
wasn't so alone after all.
Sorry that's a bit maudlin, but that's the way it is.
What works of non-ZZT art have inspired you the most?
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has inspired me more than any
other piece of art I know of. It's the sense of exploration and
discovery, and the ending, when it goes to all the different places
you visited and shows you what happens to the characters... somehow
that managed to evoke genuine emotion even though I was just looking
at pixelated cartoon characters with three or four frames of animation
I'm also a big fan of the Metroid games. I always like a game where
you can explore an area and see something you want but not be able to
get to it until you come back later when you're more powerful. Super
Metroid in particular is a favorite because of the atmosphere it
creates of being lost and alone on a dead planet (except for the
things that try to kill you).
Doukutsu Monogatari amazes me because it was made entirely by one guy.
Books and music? Meh, nothing's really leaping out at me at the moment.
Do you have any interesting stories to relate about ZZT or the ZZT scene?
Umm... not really. I mean, there are a few things I could talk about,
but I think some of the parties involved would prefer that those
things be left in the past. Oh, hey, this isn't that interesting, but
I talked about ZZT in my interview to get into film school. I had
mentioned my interest in game design on my resume or in my essay or
something, and they asked me about it, so I had to explain what ZZT
was. I don't know if that had any effect on my being accepted, but I
was, so take that as you will. I guess what I'm saying is: talking
about ZZT will get you into grad school.
Do you plan to create any games in the future, with or without ZZT?
I can't see myself having any time to do that in the near future, but
I would love to. I'm constantly playing games and thinking, "I really
like this aspect of this game, but what would be really great would be
to combine that with this aspect of this other game..." and coming up
with a sort of list of parameters for what I would like in a game. Even though I'm going into film, which is pretty awesome, game
designer is still my dream job. There is getting to be more and more
overlap between film and games, so maybe some day I'll be able to end
Anything else you'd like to add?
Man, I can't believe it's been ten years. There's not too much I
remember from ten years ago, and a lot of it I'd rather forget, but I
still know ZZT-OOP. There's something about that unblinking
white-on-blue smiley face that stares deep into your soul, and it
never leaves you.
- May 2006