Winner | Nuevo Award

David Kanaga is the creator of Oikospiel.

Each year at GDC, MFA students from the NYU Game Center interview the Independent Games Festival nominees, asking them three questions about their development process. In addition to this interview, you can read all the insightful interviews from 2017 here. These conversations, and much more, will happen when the Game Center returns to GDC in 2018. Learn more about the Game Center at GDC 2017.

Corey Bertelsen: What main concept, image or question began this project?

David Kanaga: Making an opera?  It’s hard to say what the main thing was, but opera means “works,” in the plural, so it kind of functioned as a nice container for everything that went into it

Corey: Was there a stream-of-consciousness process in creating it?

David: Kind of.  The stream that you play through is not the stream of my consciousness, but I would make these scenes intuitively, then stitch them together after the fact.  It’s kind of more a stream of unconsciousness really – there’s all these assets I’m using, so there’s so much happening in the game that I’m not aware of.  Many or most of the things that happen in the game arose from unexpected interactions.

Corey: Describe a specific experience with another game or media that influenced you as you worked on Oikospiel.

David: There wasn’t a single thing, there’s a lot of different things that make it into this work.  I do really love the Monteverdi opera Orfeo [the story of Orpheus and Eurydice].

The way I wanted to think about it was that anything should be welcome in there.  I tried to create a rich tapestry of things with what I was able to do, given that I can’t program.  If I could program, I’d probably put something like tax accounting software in it.  That’s the way I was thinking about it – like any software could find a home there, so mixed fidelity feels like a good visual metaphor.

Corey: Is there a specific tool or methodology that you feel was important in shaping a unique characteristic of your game?

David: I started my work sculpting terrains and putting stuff on it.  A couple months after having a blast just doing furniture arrangement, I commissioned a set of tools from Fernando Ramallo, with whom I did Panoramical.  A few were particularly powerful in allowing me to make the game without having to write any code.  Once that stuff clicked together, I felt an incredible amount of power – I didn’t really run into any fatal bugs or anything.  Eventually we’re hoping to put those tools out too, in a unity package.

Corey: Since it’s a game, the player kind of functions as both an actor and an audience member, right? How does that work with the operatic idea?

David: So I think about the player, as in the person playing the game, the camera, and the player object.  I was very aware of both the player object and the camera.   With the player themselves, I tried to make it a smooth thing so they’re going through these diverse situations, but it feels intuitive to go through it all.  With the player object and the camera – I feel like a lot of times in games the player has a fixed subjectivity.  With first person games, there’s always a fixed viewpoint, which now after making first person games feels kind of psychopathic to me, because it’s like pretending this is what the world feels like, but instead it’s like tunnel vision.  So changing cameras alters the subjectivity of the player-object’s experience.  I wanted this idea of subjectivity being conditioned by actual mechanical forces operating on something, and wanted this flux of musical subjectivity that’s changing too. 


Corey, a recovering structural engineer from Minnesota, is studying game design at NYU.  He likes synaesthetic games, improvised music, and pancakes.