What have you created with ZZT, or related to ZZT?
I started with a couple of lame-ass "comedy" games in 1997 ("Bob: The Adventure"), then did a couple self-important adventure games ("Parallel Universe"), and ultimately moved on to engine-driven games (the "Zem!" series, "Punctuation People"), which are the games some people actually liked.
Also - I had totally forgotten about it until the other day when I was poking around, looking at old website files - I briefly ran a ZZT email newsletter back in '97 or '98. I had, like, eight subscribers and no one ever contributed content, so it died. To my recollection, it was called "ZZTimes."
When you think about ZZT, what games come to your mind and why?
The first games I really played that made any sort of impression on me were the "Llama Master" series my Scott Hammack. The "Chrono Wars" series actually inspired my aborted "Parallel Universe" series. Somehow, those games kept me riveted. "Burger Joint" was easily one of my favorites.
Have you created any games outside of ZZT?
Back in the day, I really wanted to be a game programmer. I've changed my mind about that now, but I've still dabbled with game design over the years.
For the defunct Bang! engine, I created a game called "Tetrovny!" with formers ZZTers WiL and jojoisjo. It was about David Duchovny being trapped in a game of Tetris. I've started various other projects that never saw fruition, including an expansive "Zem! X" remake.
Do you have any artistic pursuits other than making games?
I'm an amateur film writer/director/editor. Eventually, I hope to go somewhat professional with it. In the meantime, I'm working on a lot of scripts. I'm a founding member of film group Bombdotcom Productions (http://www.bombdotcom.net/).
Currently, I have an Flash-animated series in development that I'm writing with WiL. It should make some sort of debut in the next year.
Also, I ran a webcomic called "Hans" (http://hans.keenspace.com/) for about a year. I keep meaning to start a new webcomic, but my main holdup is that I don't have a title for it.
I now work under the pseudonym Vincent Elliott.
What are you up to, lately (in life, generally)?
Working and writing. I haven't attended school in the last few years, but I'll be going back in January to resume work on my film degree.
Has your experience with ZZT or the ZZT scene made any sort of lasting impact on your life?
ZZT was my first real creative outlet. Finally, I had an opportunity to actually get my stories and ideas to the "public" in concrete form. I spent a good deal of my teenage years trying to make ASCII graphics look cool. I'm sure if I hadn't done that, something else would have influenced my life. The community also was responsible for the beginnings of my desensitization to damn near everything. Which I appreciate.
Additionally, I've met a good number of my real-life friends through ZZT or through those I've met through ZZT.
Occasionally, I use an old ZZT catchphrase without even thinking.
What works of non-ZZT art have inspired you the most?
Back in 1997, my main inspirations would have been "Darkwing Duck" and various other Disney cartoons, the Beatles' early music, Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and the video game "Return to Zork."
These days, I draw a lot of influence from music from the likes of the Decemberists and Elliott Smith, essayists like Sarah Vowell, and films of all types. Regarding films, I've taken special interest in Hong Kong cinema, particularly the comedic genius of Stephen Chow.
Do you have any interesting stories to relate about ZZT or the ZZT scene?
My memory of those years is really quite hazy. Things occasionally occur to me. Now and then, someone will IM me, reminding me of when I would go into chat rooms proclaiming to be a millennia-old, obscenely obese cow. Those were good times.
Do you plan to create any games in the future, with or without ZZT?
Maybe. I'm never satisfied working in just one medium, so if I ever get really inspired, I'll find an outlet for a game. I've always wanted to do a ridiculously large, free-form, side-scrolling platform game (My "Zem! X" remake was going to be one), but I haven't quite figured out how exactly I want to go about it.
Also, to my surprise, I found a couple of old ZZT games I was working on. I may end up finishing one or two of those and releasing them.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Doing this interview has been strangely cathartic, triggering a rush of old memories. ZZT and the community surrounding it was a very important part of life, and some times I forget I even was involved. Thanks to everyone who ever was involved with any of it. Even those of you that I kind of hated. Much luck to all. See you around.
- June 2006