John is.
‘Horse Talk’ is a series here on the Octodad blog where we run intra-team Young Horses interviews. The first 2 or so questions are the same for each horse, but afterwords we crowd-source the team for things they’d like to ask the interviewee.
Who are you and what is it that you do at Young Horses?

I’m John. I used to do production, but now I do design!

What are your favorite games and why?

Johann Sebastian Joust and Red Rover because I only like games that involve physicality and awkwardness.
Resident Evil 2 / Silent Hill 2 because I only like games that make me feel fear/anxiety.
Pandemic because I only like board games where everyone loses.
Psychonauts because it is awesome.
Right now I can’t stop playing Super Hexagon.

How did you get into game development?

I always liked games. I remember being five and throwing a fit playing Mario, screaming “THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN” when I’d fall in a pit due to bad hit detection. But I didn’t think that making games was a feasible profession, due to being totally ignorant about what it entailed, so I went to college for the other thing I’ve always wanted to do: conservation biology. But then I decided that research science would not be that interesting to me (I like building things more), so I went to grad school for game dev.

When did you stop being a teenage dirtbag and start collecting clothes that only the king of Wicker Park would wear? When did you find attire to be an important part of your life?

I’ll always be a teenage dirtbag at heart, baby. But at some point I decided that I wanted my horrifying deviance to be a fun surprise for those who get to know me. But I also think it has something to do with my interest in design more broadly. I wouldn’t say attire is an important part of my life, but things that are well-crafted/designed by small independent individuals and companies are attractive to me. A happy side effect of this is that I am a reasonably well-dressed man.

How would you dress each member of the team if you were allowed unlimited power and money to do so? Please answer with photoshop.

If you could apply game design to a completely different field, what would it be?

Well, I’m already applying game design to education at my day job, where I act as an on-staff game design consultant and develop curriculum and educational games with middle school teachers. That’s pretty challenging and interesting because you have all of the difficulties of making games good on top of making sure students are actually learning something. If I were to apply game design to another field, maybe it would be the political process. It’d be cool to turn political engagement into a sport. It seems like back in revolution-times people talked about political issues like they talk about football, and that seems like it could happen again if modern game design ideas were applied in a clever way.

What is your favorite activity at the Renaissance Fair?

Archery, because I need to practice defending myself from knaves. Also quaffing mead.

What game has made an emotional impact on you, negative or positive?

I have a problem with being told what to do, so the “fight the oppressive police state” narrative of Half-Life 2 was somewhat emotional. In terms of positive emotions (not anxiety, fear, anger…those are easy for games to do), I can’t really think of a game that had that effect on me, but that’s what I’m most looking forward to in The Future of Games. I want to make games like that. Octodad actually has a touch of that for me. All funny and sad and cuddly and happy.

Bonus: Please explain your obsession with amorphous blobs.

I was a biology major, and I understand that the world is just a big, gross, absurd blob.