Interview: Jason Oda of EmoGame.com
That day when the designer of EmoGame.com shows up at Emo Night in NYC and is wearing a Mineral shirt. That is how it started and I recently asked Jason Oda of the infamous game to sit down with WashedUpEmo and do what do here, talk about the late 90s.
What got you into music and then emo?
I think I got into emo slightly differently than I think most people did. I never was into hardcore or punk or even pop punk early on. As a kid, I just hated myself for a whole bunch of reasons and just always gravitated towards things that were miserable. It seemed that a lot of kids who were into punk were more about externalizing their anger and angst at the imperfection of the world around them. My instinct as an emo kid however, was just to blame myself for everything, to internalize and direct the anger towards myself. It was probably some kind of a defense mechanism that I'm still trying to figure out. I think this distinction between where you point your anger is one of the biggest psychological rifts between what it means to be punk and what it means to be emo.
To put my age into context, I graduated high school in 1997. I grew up in Connecticut. There wasn't much of any scene outside of ska which did not appeal to me at all. At the time, the best way to find new music for me was to video tape 120 minutes on MTV which was on at 12AM Sunday night. I did this every week from the 8th grade to senior year of high school. There were smatterings of emo bands in there such as Sunny Day and Knapsack. When AOL came into existence I learned about Mineral, Braid, The Promise Ring, etc, by doing profile searches of other people who liked Sunny Day Real Estate, and consistently seeing those other bands in their music interests. Since you couldn't get any of those CD's in the stores, I had to order them out of the Saul Goodman catalog or directly from the record label.
Did you know what the term was when you were listening to it?
I had no idea for a really long time, but when I did figure it out, I was part of that 2% of kids at emo shows that said they were emo.
When did you figure out you had a knack and love for designing?
From early on I was on the track for going to art school. It was the only thing I could really do well. I mostly did oil paintings back then. I eventually got into RISD and loved it.
Emogame, how did the idea come about?
Emogame was just an overlapping of many things going on in my life at the time. It was 2001, I was 22 or 23, just out of college and in my first stupid design job as a designer at a military laboratory. I lived and Boston and was meeting some people in the scene who were major music snobs/haters. I'd learned Flash for the sole purpose of designing my own website and I decided to see if I could make a video game. Emo was on my mind a lot and I'd always had a severe hatred of Steven Tyler. So it all kind of came together in a giant mess like that. I think it got popular because the internet wasn't very entertaining back then, and shit like this passed for fun. Also, emo was something that the mainstream culture was desperately trying to figure out at the time and it got to the #2 slot for when you googled emo.
What was the funniest comment you heard after the Emogames came out?
Further Seems Forever in the Jason Gleason years asked me to design their website after seeing emogame...why? I have no idea. I was backstage with them when I ran into Chad from New Found Glory who was touring with them. Just like in the game he was sort of hitting on a high school girl. Someone told him I was they guy who made the emogame (in the game I am mercilessly cruel in my hatred for NFG). I was expecting to get told off, but of course in typical Chad from NFG kindness and positivity he said something like: I love the emogame! It's awesome! I love to kill me and my band in that game! You are the man!
Are people still emailing you about the game?
I rarely get an email about emogame anymore. Usually it's just something like: Hey you didn't pay your web hosting bill and emogame is down. Get it back up!
What are you up to now?
I actually do this for a living now. After Emogame, people gradually started to pay me to make games for them. It started with small record labels and moved up to bigger ones and eventually became large ad agencies. I quit my job and have worked freelance for the last 8 years. It's actually a great living and it all started with Emogame. Some of the more successful viral games I've made since then are
(a Perfect Strangers game) and Skrillex Quest. I'm currently doing a lot of agency jobs and I'm developing a couple iPhone games. (
Anything you want to do design wise but haven't the chance to?
I've done some emo cd jackets in the past. Nothing too famous. I did the first Straylight Run, the 3rd Further Seems Forever, the first Lydia, an Atreyu album, lots of stuff for Trophy Scars, and a Norma Jean album. I'd love to do more cd jackets for bands I like, but it's a bit of a dying art. No one looks at the jackets anymore.
Besides that, I just want to build a bunch of indie games that maybe are more conceptual in nature.
What is your favorite emo band?
My absolute favorite band ever is Mineral. I'm actually more of an End Serenading person than a Power of Failing person. The first and probably only time I was ever in love was when I first discovered that album in college. I had a girlfriend named Winter (!) and the whole part of that album about the "driving snow" really drove it home for me. I did a whole art project about End Serenading the song which was a book with cheesy pen drawings of me and Winter and that song's lyrics. Now that song is more about all-encompassing love than it is about that time. I only allow myself to listen to it once a year under my favorite bridge in Fairfield, IA...I know, still so emo at 34!
If you could have one band reform today, who would it be?
I have to admit that I have not been to any of the reunions. My experience with emo was always at home in my bedroom alone listening to it and rarely at shows with scene friends, so I'm not big on reliving things through the shows much. I would however, go anywhere to see Mineral, but that's about it.
I'd thought you'd get a kick out of seeing my cheesy art school Mineral art project mentioned in the second to last answer.
Who else has some cheesy emo art? @ reply @washedupemo and I'll feature some!