Erstellt am: 25. 9. 2009 - 15:07 Uhr
Es ist Mitternacht vor der "In-N-Out Burger"-Filiale in Pico Rivera im südöstlichen L.A. Es war der letztmögliche Zeitpunkt, mich mit Adam Robezzoli zu treffen. Die ungewöhnliche Auswahl des Interview-Ortes, vor den Türen einer der wenigen kind-of-indie Fast-Food-Ketten wird im Laufe der kommenden halben Stunde immer mehr Sinn machen.
In der Nacht vor dem Urlaubsrückflug von den USA nach Deutschland bin ich erstmals auf "Attract Mode" gestoßen, einer frisch gestarteten Anlaufstelle für liebevoll gestaltetes Videospiel-Merchandise. Bereits der erste Blick auf das Sortiment des Stores macht klar, dass es sich hier um etwas Besonderes handelt. Die Ausweisung als Videogame Culture Shop deutet auf ein ungewöhnliches Konzept hin, das von einfallslos designten Gamer-Shirts und schludrig zusammengenähten Spielcharakter-Puppen nichts wissen will.
Als "Attract Mode" bezeichnet man ein selbstablaufendes Demo eines Computer- und Videospiels. Ursprünglich diente es in erster Linie dazu, ein Spielhallenspiel im lauten und bunten Pandemonium einer großen Video Game Arcade möglichst auffällig erscheinen zu lassen und gleichzeitig auch etwas über den eigentlichen Spielablauf zu verraten.
Aufmerksamkeit erregen, die Sache bewerben: Genau dieses Konzept verfolgt auch Adam Robezzoli mit seinem ungewöhnlichen Game Store. Mit der Spezialität, dass es hier um ein enges Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl innerhalb der Communities alternativer Videospielkultur geht. Die Vorlage dazu liefern popkulturelle Untergrund- und DIY-Bewegungen, die seit Jahrzehnten aus Musikszenen bekannt sind und von Fans und Followers hochgeschätzt werden. "Attract Mode", der Shop, will den kreativen Output unabhängiger Game-EntwicklerInnen durch qualitative Rundumprodukte unterstützen: T-Shirts, Fanzines, Buttons, aufwändig gestaltete Posters, alle Art von Tonträgern internationaler Chiptunes-Artists. Exklusive Designs und handverlesener Content in kleinen Auflagen.
Adam, you started "Attract Mode" just recently. What's your personal story about video games that led to the opening of an own dedicated webstore?
"I've been always interested in video games, since I was a little kid. My parents had time limits so that I couldn't play too much. In High School, I kind of got out of video games but when I was in college, everyone was playing 'Halo' and so I got back into games. I graduated with my degree in Philosophy and Theology but did not want to do anything related with it. So I got a job making websites. This was in 2005 and at that time there was the 'I Am 8-Bit'-show going on in L.A., where artists do paintings based on their childhood memories of playing Nintendo and Sega games. At the same time I got introduced to chiptunes. I started listening to Bit Shifter, Nullsleep, GOTO80 and all these guys from New York and Sweden. This was the seed for 'Attract Mode'."
What specifics did you have in mind when you came up with the idea of the store? There are a lot of games shops and T-Shirt designers out there, so the competition is tough.
"Between 2005 and now, I had lots of time to refine my idea. But the only reason it took that long was because I have tons of student loan debt and I just couldn't afford to do it. Also, I am 25 and married and have a son who is 1, so my life has been so busy that it couldn't happen until now. Another big influence is that I got into the independent video games scene, inspired by 'Cave Story' and by the website TIGSource. I came across one of their articles featuring '50 Indie Games', and I was just blown away and have been playing all of them every weekend.
This is also the aesthetic I'm going for: everything that's somehow inspired by or related to interesting games, and that happens to be pixel art, independent games and chiptunes. One of the needs I saw - inspired by one special indie developer in Sweden, Cactus - was that someone as good as him making great games on his or her own, needs to have a way to make a living doing it. They need to be able to continue doing this. So, I want 'Attract Mode' to succeed, but when it does, I want to bring a lot of people with me. People who make indie games or zines and can get more exposure. A real community effort."
Is the West Coast and L.A. in particular a good place for alternative game culture?
"It is, but it’s about finding the right people to connect with. There's a lot of video game companies here but people are still very segmented in their groups - it's not like everybody knows each other."
Do people who buy stuff off your site care about all the details you and the designers put into it?
"I think some people do. When I launched the site it was clear that I really like this and I knew that there were at least five people who think it's awesome, too. So, let's release it onto the internet and see if there is more! And thankfully there has been a good response."
Game Zines - live!
What are the next plans and ideas for "Attract Mode"?
"I really want to have a retail location in L.A. and have it be more that a store. Maybe also bringing the gallery scene in, as well as the arcade scene - but not in a way that one expects. Starting a new venue for independent game developers to have games to be played in a social space. But the core will still be the creation of quality video game merchandise. If you can make it work, it seems like a great way to make money. The key is quality and you have to work with good designers. That is what I think I can offer: Working with the game developers, bringing in designers that can help make a good product."
You explicitly state the term "Video Game Culture" on your site. Do you think that a lot of people are into game culture as a whole instead of just being interested in certain kinds of games?
"There are a lot more people interested in just video games than video game culture. But the people that are interested in video game culture are much more interesting! And I think there are a lot of people that would be interested if they’d know it existed: People in their late Twenties or Thirties that played games as a kid and just don't have time for it any more. If they knew that there is this independent scene going on and the whole educational and academic discourse, it would be different. I think we're gonna see an emergence of people that are interested in game culture in the next couple of years."