Those that backed Jack King-Spooner’s 2013 Kickstarter for mellow adventure Beeswing knew that the artiste game developer was planning a new game, but when Jack unveiled Dujanah in late January it came as a bit of a surprise. At a glance Dujanah appears to be the logical progression of what was found in Beeswing; unique art, an intimate story, and dash of quirkiness. However, whereas Beeswing was small, semi-autographical, and local; Dujanah appears to be grander in scope in every way. In order to learn a bit more about Dujanah and how it came about I spoke with Jack King-Spooner himself.
Greg : Can you start us off by telling me a little bit about yourself?
Jack King-Spooner : I was born with the umbilical cord tied around my neck, eyes wide open and a full crop of hair. During my formative, teenage years I found a refuge in music, formed a band and would play to sparse crowds of junkies in a pub in Dumfries, Scotland. I then studied English Literature and Philosophy but ultimately ended up with a honours degree in Fine Art. I developed an interest in game making due to the multi-media nature of the medium, where I could combine my three loves: music, storytelling and visual art.
Greg : You seem to have gone through quite a change between the Beeswing and Dujanah videos. What has the path from the completion of Beeswing until now been like?
Jack King-Spooner : I’ve learnt a lot during and since Beeswing but I think the central concepts of both games are very similar. The month after the release of Beeswing I immediately did 30+ short vignette games, many of which were collaborations, and started working teaching kids English. By mid-February I had started work on Dujanah, getting together the systems of the game and collecting ideas. Whilst working on the game [Dujanah] in the evenings and weekends I made a little spin-off multi-player game for a game event in Edinburgh. I guess all these things are somehow relevant to my current project in their own funny way.
Greg : What are some of the crowdfunding lessons you took away from the Beeswing campaign?
Jack King-Spooner : I think the big one is to keep in fairly regular communication with your backers, Beeswing ran a few months late and I stupidly hesitated to inform my backers. I really regret that. Another one is that crowdfunding is really the best and perhaps only way for little alternative games like mine to get funded, arts funding takes from the tax payer who perhaps do not want their money spent on such things and publishers often mean compromising your craft.
The last thing is to only do physical rewards if you are confident with how they are budgeted into your goal.
Greg : Dujanah appears to be unique in several ways, not the least of which are the Islamic influences. What drove that?
Jack King-Spooner : Almost all my games have some sort of reference to religion (from Dante’s Inferno to Vipassana meditation) and I was keen to get a better understanding of Islam. I guess a few elements came together and melded. The game isn’t any form of critique or appraisal of the faith but the setting/ context allows for some interesting moral dilemmas. I always try to strive for a unique aesthetic with my games and the visual practices I have been working with meshed well with the stories and themes.
Greg : I get the feeling you won’t be making any traditional hard-core games (shooters, strategy, etc) any time soon.
Jack King-Spooner : Haha, probably not! I’ll leave that to other folk and I’ll stick to my little niche narratives. However, this game does have a lot more in the way of more normative play than my other games.
Greg : Beeswing seemed to be a game that you made for yourself, with the hope that others would enjoy the stories you had to tell. How does Dujanah compare in that regard?
Jack King-Spooner : Dujanah is really cut from the same cloth, finding stories and meeting people. The big differences lie firstly in the motivations of the character ( instead of saying hello to neighbours you are looking for someone) and secondly, that there is an arcade with games-within-games allowing for some interesting subversions.
Greg : Is there anything you’d like to share about Dujanah that people may find interesting?
Jack King-Spooner : I think people may make assumptions as to what the game is but I really think that potential players ought to expect the unexpected.
Greg : The Dujanah Kickstarter is doing well, and on track to being funded. Why should someone back it now instead of just waiting for it to go on sale on Steam?
Jack King-Spooner : Well, let’s not count our chickens before they’ve hatched, there is still a long way to go yet. There are a few reasons why someone should back the project, predominantly that it won’t get made otherwise and that it shows support for more diverse narratives in games. Another reason is to be privy to aspects of the game and making process that are otherwise unavailable, the unique Kickstarter version of the game for example or the greatly extended soundtrack. Or perhaps you simply want your name in the credits to show solidarity with such projects or want the game before it is available elsewhere.
Greg : Can you close us out with a Dujanah inspired Haiku?
Jack King-Spooner : Ooof a Haiku?!
When we close our eyes,
And we dream that we’re heroes,
They are only dreams.
Thanks to Jack King-Spooner for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’d like to learn more about Dujanah you can do so on its Kickstarter page.