This transcript is edited for clarity and readability and does not match the event dialogue perfectly.
Jamin: All right.
Hey, everybody, we’ll wait a few seconds, let people filter in, and start.
All right. Cool. Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us at our webinar today, talk webinar, Gaming as Performance: The Journey from Design to World-Building. A couple of housekeeping notes before we get started here. I’m Jamin Warren. I’m the founder of Killscreen. Killscreen is an arts and culture organization committed to advancing the practice of interdisciplinary play. That means we’re looking at the intersection between design, culture, and impact.
We’re always looking for folks who are working across disciplines. That’s always really exciting for us, and that’s why we do events like this. We’re trying to break down the barriers that traditionally segregate games and game thinking from other design practices. We often look for folks with an ambassadorial relationship with the world around us.
Thank you so much, everybody, for joining us. As a reminder, we have a code of conduct that we sent everybody. For tickets, I can drop them in the chat if you’re looking for them as well. Along those lines, please do ask questions. I have many questions prepared for Pearlyn, but you can jump over to the Q&A. Feel free to ask questions throughout. I’ll do my best to answer those as we go. If not, we’ll wait until the end. We’ll go for 30 to 35 minutes and then take a break for questions.
If you have any technical issues, let us know. You can use the Q&A button to answer questions like that. Won’t be displayed publicly, and I can address it while we go. Also, you can email or hit us on Instagram chat if you want. I also have those open if you see my eyes darting around the screen. All right, cool. Well, let’s get started. Pearlyn, do you want to give a brief background about yourself and how you got started in making things, making digital things?
Pearlyn: Sure, and thank you for having me. I really admired Kill Screen, and I’ve admired you from a distance, and now it’s an honor to be here. How I got started, I started as a graphic designer. That was something that I’ve always wanted to do since I was nine years old, playing on my parents’ Windows 95 computer in the living room and then playing mind sweeper and drawing in Microsoft Paint. I was like, “I want to be a graphic designer. This is probably what that means.”
Then over time, I eventually did that in my early 20s and still today, but then I realized I was doing a lot of what’s called transmedia work. The intersection where design meets space meets code. Then I started to work at the lovely local projects, where they do a lot of interactive installations for museums, which I enjoyed. I loved being able to bring stories to spaces.
Then shortly after that, I realized what I enjoyed even more, and what I needed to see in many spaces I was designing for, was my cultural identity. A lot of that needed to be reflected in these spaces. Concurrently and simultaneously with everything that I’m saying, from nine until now, I’ve also been playing a lot of video games. That’s the concurrent path that is hidden.
Jamin: Yes, of course.
Pearlyn: As a designer, I think the people here will resonate, my designer friends, that there’s a sense of needing to curate your identity to the world. For many years, I shoved down the fact that I played many video games, which I was shamed for growing up. So now I’m like, “Oh, I have all the agency in the world crossing over to becoming an artist because when I realized that these museums, again, didn’t talk too much about my cultural identity,” I was like, “Oh, well, as an artist I can bring that into spaces. I can bring the story into those spaces with my subjectivity of loving video games.” Of course, video games it’s their own world-building space. It’s its own virtual space as well. That was the bridge over.
Jamin: Yes, that’s not uncommon. We often find that folks have to sublimate the gaming part of themselves in favor of some other part of themselves. In your case, it’s graphic design, and even if that’s a through line for you creatively, in that way, it’s not that different from other ways that we have to bury a piece of ourselves to present something that we think the public will accept. It’s nice that you’ve found on both sides, both in terms of feeling like you can integrate more of your cultural identity into your work. Still, also selfishly, it’s nice to publicly talk about video games and your Twitch stream and things like that in just a little bit. Let’s discuss two of your early projects before jumping into Infinite Mother. Can you tell us a little about Born of Foam, that initial project?
Pearlyn: Yes, Born of Foam was a very impromptu series. Me and a good friend of mine, Juliana, and I went to Iceland together. I think this was shortly after, I don’t know, maybe 2618, I want to say, and it was one of those things where this was my peak transition, like if you can imagine a persona morphing from a designer to an artist. This was the gateway project. We shot it first, so we didn’t ask for permission; we were shooting on the black sand beaches in front of– and then there are people in the shot that had to Photoshop out.
Then we were so intrigued by the– that’s so interesting because when I see this particular space in photos, just not even this photo to– If I went online and searched Iceland, it’s like this looks like a video game world. It looks otherworldly. Juliana and I were so intrigued by that, and we were like, “Let’s just shoot here, and let’s bring–” I think we drifted this orange dress. We were like, “Okay, you be the model, and I will shoot with your camera,” and-
Jamin: Of course.
Pearlyn: -what happened? Then we wrote, and we had to do some post-rationalizing. We had to write the story after the fact. We thought it was nice because so much about the design approach we’ve been taught has been that you develop a concept, do a few sketches and iterations, and then produce the thing. This is overly simplistic, but we were very refreshed by the idea of, like, let’s use the moment and then make the images, and then we can reverse our process of writing a story based on these images. I think that was incredibly freeing.
The story is about a neo-Aphrodite discovering Earth for the first time, and instead of the ocean tides, Aphrodite is mythologically born from foam. Instead of foam being something she is dancing with, the light follows her around on this estranged island.
Jamin: Yes. That process, believe it or not, is not uncommon in video game design, where you craft space and figure out what you want the game to be after the fact. It’s not unusual, that’s not an uncommon process, so something you fall in love with, something visual, mechanical, and then you try to back into, like, can I create a playable experience out of that? You unwittingly used a best practice there. Let’s discuss Reverb, A Genetic Opera, as the next project. Tell me about the transition from Born of Foam to Reverb regarding your work and establishing an identity as a creator.
Pearlyn: After I left local projects, I was incubated by the New Museum for a good two, a few years, and essentially this project was born out of that. My creative partner Connie and I devised this idea at the time together. There was a lot about matrilineage that we were both inspired by. Personally, for me, I was inspired by the fact that my grandmother, who is my sole heroine, I talk about her a lot. She was the one that nurtured me and my mother.
My grandma raised me. I was unaware that my grandmother and I were not related, and that’s what my sister had told me a few years ago. Then, what happened was that my grandmother raised a village of orphans in the south of China, and that my mother was one of them. I wanted, in a very desperate way, to find a genetic connection to someone that I loved. I sent my DNA to a genomics lab and had a superb soprano Emma Goldberg Liu singing back to me in a room-like environment.
This photo here is from an anechoic chamber. An anechoic section, it’s one of the most dead rooms in the world. That means that I could hear my blood rush through my head while Emma was singing to me, and singing something so close to my heart, and then also something that pulled me to understand the fact that I was connected to not only all the women before my grandmother but to everyone else.
When I sent my DNA to the lab, I realized we all share 1% of genetic data from mitochondrial Eve. That explains why we are all from Africa. This material connection that connects everyone was something that I found instead of a direct link to my grandmother. It was one of those things that this project, this performance art or piece allowed me to explore and discover for myself.
Jamin: Amazing. That’s an excellent throughline connecting your personal history to something, a new expression of your artwork. That story about your grandmother is fascinating. I feel like we’re having many conversations publicly about the definition of what constitutes a family. Is it purely blood? Is it something broader? Is it something you can see that the ties that bind us are not just about the ones that are tied to our genetic code, but also these familial relationships that are incredibly important? That’s great to hear that story. [crosstalk] No, go ahead.
Pearlyn: Oh yes, I will say that because I feel passionate about what you said. There’s this idea, I think, we traditionally have a very distinct, maybe like a humanistic framework of what binds us in terms of kin-making. It’s usually blood first. What I love about doing work that has to do with matrilineage is the fact that it’s about– and Reverb is really about choosing your family, which is, I think, the modern form of kin-making.
Jamin: Yes. It’s interesting. I’ve been, feel like I’ve seen more in public discourse. A woman on the Ezra Klein podcast was in the New York Times discussing whether we should revisit communes or more communal structures of raising children. The extent to which our postwar baggage has encouraged people to live these isolated lives, with the minimum nuclear family being the minimum expression of your familial or collaborative relationship.
It’s just like people related to and abandoned these other ways of thinking about what family, what constitutes family, live in a big country. People live all over the place. At some level, it’s nice to feel there are other ways to define our family that’s not just the kin. Well, let’s get into the meat of it. We will talk about the first section here: performing an avatar. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about it– I want to talk about The Real Girlfriend series because that’s what we’re going to focus on here. Can you tell me a bit about that particular series, its concept, and what led you to explore it as a subject matter?
Pearlyn: It’s an amalgam. The project is an amalgam of various female archetypes in the online space. We know the real-life female archetypes pretty well, from the female CEO to the pregnant woman, Hollywood glam, and the French new wave. That’s something that Cindy Sherman put in place. We know that because of her, and I can see this project as an exciting inspiration and departure from it because now we want to bring light to all the different women on the internet across all other corners.
Much research went into cyberfeminism and all the characters and people I read about in their accounts. It’s an amalgam of the cyber-dom. Then this idea of the girlfriend is encapsulated in this device at the ready. She is also just as inaccessible because she’s behind a screen.
There’s this paradox about, and also this is a satire on a lot of the internet girlfriend cafes you see in Japan, amongst the people that have an insane amount of hours put into, I don’t know, whatever their job is. Then after work, all they want to do is go and buy clothes for a virtual girlfriend. Many different points of inspiration have to– This is an online investigation of the female avatar.
Jamin: One of the most striking things about this piece is the eye contact. [laughs] Can you tell me a little about eye contact in avatars? Because it’s interesting in digital contexts like eyes are the gateway to the soul. It’s how we think about humaneness. Tell me about that relationship between eye contact intimacy when you’re developing this because she could be looking anywhere, but she’s looking right at you.
Pearlyn: [laughs] Yes. There is this uncanny valley aspect to it, right? Because she’s looking at you, and she’s also looking past you, and she might be looking– sometimes her eye glitches to the left or the right. It’s this idea of showing that however perfect she wants to be, she is ultimately imperfect. When I think about each persona, I will write a backstory for them, then slip on a wig and embody that persona.
The eyes because it’s a portrait from Bosta upright, so you really– the most powerful thing you have for this portrait are the eyes. I think that’s humanistically true; we are drawn to eyes, and I think there’s an exciting story in which I was doing a residency in Mexico City. I hadn’t thought about a real girlfriend because I was doing a new project.
I woke up one day to our criticism around a real girlfriend, and someone had seen it, and they were saying, “At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then the longer and longer I looked at it and then she looked at me, I felt maybe there was some sort of connection there.” I was like, that is the most I think interesting– and I look at the things all day, so it’s not like I don’t feel intimate with the girlfriends, I am the girlfriends almost, but I think the longer you prolong eye contact, their intimacy starts to form some way, shape, form. I think you might be–
Jamin: There’s no risk if you fall in love with yourself. No Narcissus, or do you spend too much time looking at your phone? Although, I guess, I don’t know. If you take enough selfies and spend enough time looking at your image, I suppose you could fall in love with yourself. As we talked about, you developed some digital masks for this, like conceptually embodying a performance for each of these girlfriends. Still, you also created some digital masks for them. Is that correct?
Pearlyn: Yes. For many reasons, I just remembered that these digital masks are modeled after my likeness. One, I didn’t want– I wanted to make sure that I felt comfortable wearing the mask like I didn’t want to wear the mask from someone completely different. It’s pretty much. I just took a page out of Tilda Swinton’s book because, for the most recent Suspiria, she asked, I think, the makeup department to make her a prosthetic penis because she was to play a man. She played both. Her role, and then I think she was also playing the male role in the film.
I felt this was a digital prosthetic that I wore to fit the personas and aspects of myself that started to make their way into the expressions of these girlfriends to bring them to life. The other part is that honestly, I just wanted something that was– the more I think close to my facial features, the more uncanny, so that was something that I wanted also to ensure, but I’m not– I feel the narcissist thing would never happen to me, because I feel I can be very self-deprecating, but yes, no, this is an exercise in trying to get out of my shell using those spaces, yes.
Jamin: Yes, no, of course. Can we talk a little bit about your performance? You talk about how you’ve integrated performance into your artistic practice because you had a performance with there’s some level of you with Reverb, there’s a video component for that, you record a short film for that, although I guess they didn’t feature you. You thought previously had been more like still imagery, which is dynamic. Tell me a little bit about how you’re starting to toe the line of thinking about how to perform as part of your artistic practice.
Pearlyn: Yes. I think it’s always been this, I believe, a platform for me to express different parts of myself, but then that’s what I think that’s relevant for Real Girlfriend. Still, if you look at Reverb, you’re saying I’m not performing any of those, I don’t have the beautiful angelic vocal cords of Emma Goldberg Liu, and that is something that I do believe in is to give space for people who are good at what they do to make a very holistic team.
I think Reverb, it’s about extending the legacies of other women working in matrilineage. We sequenced Michel Millar Fisher’s DNA, which she writes extensively about designing motherhood. Anne Liu, we sequenced her DNA at MoMA on Friday, where she talks; she is a research-based artist who works at the intersection of art, design, and care work. Sorry, art and science and care work. I think that the first and foremost thing I wanted to say is that it’s almost this legacy that is being created, but performance to get back to that it’s important, I think, in the way that I express myself and in work, but also a space in which you can suspend your disbelief to an audience whose precious time in which you are occupying.
There becomes this brief exchange in a way that maybe film comes close, and video games come very close as well, but it’s this undivided, immersed connection that you can make as a performer to the audience. Essentially, gift-giving is one of my love languages, so I feel that it is true, is that you, as a performer, are giving a gift to the audience, and then they can take it, or they can leave it, they can spend days with it or leave it at the scene in which it was given to them. I think that’s the primary reason why I love performing.
Jamin: Yes. It’s a good thing for us; I’d love to talk about your research-based graphic design practice, explore more with avatar performance, and set some groundwork for some of the things you will be doing next. I’d love to talk about Infinite Mother. This is your new project; it’s still in utero and in process for you. Can you tell us a little bit about that project? What you’re hoping to do, and obviously, some of the connections to your previous work.
Pearlyn: Yes, Infinite Mother is a video game film exploring the mother wound. I did mention that my grandmother raised me mostly, and my mother was mostly, I think, absent in bringing me up. I wanted to explore that feeling in a video game that is not against the layers of hell, borrowed by or inspired by the 18 Circles of Hell in Chinese lore. There’s also Dante’s version, but this is eight levels of these grottoes. As you ascend these grottoes, it gets more intense in terms of the mother wound.
This is for a generation of children who had to look to devices as surrogates for the kinship and guidance mothers typically offer. I didn’t understand what a period was because I couldn’t go to my mother for that so that I would Google a lot. I think that’s not a very unique experience at all. I think many people are not in that exact scenario, but we ask the internet to hold us in so many questions that we don’t want to, or maybe we’re too afraid to ask any other human being. Then the internet becomes some sort of maternal surrogate.
This open-world video game is a way for people to have their inner child and adult self process all these maternal wounds across these different Grotto-Heavens that live in circles of hell in this game.
Jamin: How did you make that pivot into game-making– I guess, because these are stills, tell me a little bit about that process of you’re starting with a graphic design background, and for anyone who’s out there who’s thinking about creating game worlds, what was that first step towards saying, “Hey, I want to build something interactive that plays with my interest in games”?
Pearlyn: I think it started from a departure from Reverb. What happened was that I began to think about how I could transfer the stage experience, which is a live experience that only a few handfuls of people can see, and then transmute that into a video game that many people can experience. I think that was the main thing. I felt more joy and pleasure in the fact that you can build a world built around a very mythological story like the Infinite Mother because, as it’s written right now, the deity in Infinite Mother is named Amma and is an inspiration and a cross between Mitochondrial Eve and Xiwangmu, who is this ancient Chinese goddess.
In the finale of this film, this Infinite Mother emerges right before the inner child tries to go into this pit, which is the peach’s pit, as a metaphor for the void. This child tries to traverse into the pit. Still, then the mother emerges and blocks the child from doing that and then sings a genetic opera to soothe the inner child as a way to connect legacies, as a way to use legacy and matrilineage to– instead of one mother soothing you, it’s like the mother’s mother and all their mothers collectively come and give you this warm hug. That’s why I think having it be in a video game environment allows for that kind of mythology and fantastical aspect to take shape.
Jamin: Yes, of course. Indeed, for a generation that’s grown up playing games, of course, these are going to be resonant touchpoints. The things that you were describing in many ways, the story world that you’re building for anybody who’s played games, is going to be– something that’s going to connect with them. Like, “Oh yes, it makes sense that this would be a work of art inside a video game context.” You’ve built out, put together some storyboards, and built out the narrative framework for it. It connects to your past work, but you can’t do it yourself, right? Tell me a little bit about the process of getting new tools.
How do you find collaborators because you’re in this early stage now? How do you find people you can work with to help bring this project to fruition?
Pearlyn: One of the collaborators, an incredible musician, is listening now [unintelligible 00:43:16]. They helped create this fantastic, intricately woven soundtrack that becomes a soundtrack for one of the scenes when I turn myself into an insect to be noticed by my mother. That’s because my mother would wake up at 5:00 AM every morning and tend to her roses in our garden. I always wondered why my mother would not return that love to me or nurture me. I had this ridiculous, crazy idea what if I was one of those insects in the rose garden?
I turn myself into that to dance, to do anything to be noticed. [unintelligible 00:44:05] beautifully composed that. I would say that it’s interesting because I think you see this a lot at [unintelligible 00:44:15] screen. We are curious whether it’s an indie game or a video game as art. What is the project? This is one of the most multidisciplinary projects I’ve had to work on, and a pleasure to work on. That means because you have the physical design, the architectural aspect of the environmental design of the world. Then you have the cinematics, the motion design of moving the camera through for the film. You have the music, the lighting, the scripting, the story writing.
All my experiences, from designing physical and interactive spaces to playing video games to performing, are all congealed into this project. That is a beautiful thing, but that means just more workflows to track. It’s so much fun.
Jamin: One of the practical things, and tell me a little about finding an Unreal engineer because I feel like that’s a specific thing. You benefit from being a graphic designer deeply wedded to digital tools. You’re accustomed to learning and updating your skills to create something new. Not all creatives are in that space where they’re trying to make the transition from common in architecture where you may have familiarity with, say, CAD programs, and then you’re like, “Oh, I can transfer some of those skills over to game engines,” but they’re structured differently.
Tell me a bit about that process, specifically around Unreal, where you’re at with that, and how you find someone to help create the scripting to create this vision and bring it to life as a collaborator.
Pearlyn: I think the first thing about that is the tool is important to the story. It’s almost like I work backward. I look at what the story I’m trying to tell is, and then I can pick up a hammer, I can pick up a chisel, it depends. It could be pen and paper. It depends on how the tool can help bring the story to justice. Something Infinite Mother, for example, if it’s going to explore the mother wound truly, it needs to be felt.
This first-person camera perspective into this immersive world where you experience layers of hell that is immersive storytelling. I think the film does that well as well too. I think it’s about– graphic design is a good gateway for this, and so is art, just because you must use many different tools. Because what happens is that you expand your arsenal, and eventually, when you come up with the most personal story, whatever story you want to tell, you can pick up this tool and be like, “Okay, I need Unreal Engine to make this video game world.
Maybe I want to stop using Adobe because I can use it daily. That’s what it is. It’s this flexibility to be able to learn these tools via project. I’ve been on learning Unreal Engine this year because Infinite Mother development started this year, so I was like, “Oh, well, maybe I should learn 3D.” I went into Unreal Engine and just toyed around and watched YouTube tutorials. It’s great. YouTube tutorials are great to a certain extent. You continue to do these sandbox things but learn and unlock new methodologies through the application.
Applying it to a real-world project you care about won’t burn you out. That often comes with choosing a project that is personal or has meaning to you. I think that is the crucial way to learn programs. The technical will serve the conceptual and then a ton of this cybernetic loop. By understanding these tools, I can apply them to my work, and then the work pushes me to use them more effectively, and so on.
Jamin: It’s interesting also because I feel like so many people go into learning Unreal or Unity or GameMaker or whatever it might be; the end in mind is often other video games. They’re doing this because they’re like, “Oh, I want to make a clone of, or I played this video game, I want to make something that’s like it,” as opposed to approaching it with like an evident, fleshed out vision for what the endpoint is going to be. The benefit of storyboards is having a narrative story to say, “Okay, I’m learning, collaborating. I’m pushing this tool because I have this specific goal.
It’s not just because I like video games [unintelligible 00:49:31]; I would like to make video games that are just like video games. I think it ultimately will yield something fruitful. One last question on Infinite Mother and team building before discussing the last part of your work. I did want to talk about communication. You mentioned this is an interdisciplinary project; you have to work with other people who are different from you. Tell me a little about your translating process, like your vision, to other people with different skill sets; how has that communication process gone?
What advice or guidance might you give someone looking to put a squad together, so to speak, to make something that they’ve imagined in their head?
Pearlyn: The first thing is that I realize that many games are made not with a single person but usually with this omniscient force. There is a little bit of this idea of being a God or a goddess when you are world-building. I realized that’s also how Utopias is made, and I wanted not to do that for this project. I’ve started to sweep stream on Twitch, which we’ll get to. I wanted, and I will, I think, to talk a bit more this upcoming month and share the process around Infinite Mother and the co-creation process with people that watch.
I can get feedback so that we can co-create and collectively world-build. I think this is a powerful way of modern kin-making, as we discussed earlier. I think that’s where this idea of performance as gaming links to world-building; it’s almost this collective action. In terms of team building, I think it’s about finding the people that are just as weird as myself, almost in the best ways. Because this project is so– I say I turned myself into an insect, people are like, “What?” Then the people that jumped at an eye are the right people.
Jamin: My people. Yes, exactly. My insect, my bug people, they’re out there. [chuckles]
Pearlyn: You’re like, “Oh, you’re just as crazy as me. Yes. Great. Let’s work together.” [chuckles] I think it’s that quality first and foremost. The second, it’s people that I talked to this potential studio who might help work on it, and I said, “You know what, I still want to learn Unreal Engine, and I know that I’m supposed to have you because you are such an expert at Unreal. I know you’re supposed to do all of it, but can I also learn Unreal and do this with you?” They’re like, “Yes, sure. We’ll let you know when the files update. We can work remotely in Unreal together.” I’m like, “Thank you for humoring me.”
I think it’s just people in the mindset of understanding and being flexible with collaborating with an artist.
Jamin: The last section of your budding practice. Tet’s talk about Twitch. I know it’s a new experience for you. I understand that you’ve started streaming on Twitch. Can you tell me a little bit about how you figured that out? There’s for fun and profit, I suppose, but tell me a little about your decision to start streaming, put yourself out there, and start playing games publicly. What have you learned along that process? How do you feel it connects to some of the other things you’ve also been working on?
Pearlyn: Haha, No profit.
Jamin: [unintelligible 00:53:27]
Pearlyn: It’s the perfect antidote to hiding my identity as a gamer for a decade; to show it publicly every day is the first thing. Secondly, I think a part of my brain likes getting into various personas. I feel like I’m not another person on Twitch daily, but being on camera and online on Twitch is a form of soft performance because I have to embody a slightly different persona. It’s not a huge departure, but I love this performing idea. I want to continue giving this gift that creates a space for people to hang out together and for kin-making.
I feel like when you have, for example, friends that live all over the world now, they still come to watch, and we can still hang out. That is a form, I think again, of modern– it’s a global praxis for modern kin-making is Twitch. We don’t share the same living room, but we can if you hop in and see me die in Zelda minute 10 because I always do that. I think this is the most pure form of friendship. Just to bond with someone else, this is that.
Jamin: It’s interesting as well, the one thing Twitch is not– no one’s quite figured this out yet, is the eye contact, except for VTubers. People use digital performance capture because they’re playing a video game. There’s no way to orient the screen directly in front of your face, and you don’t get that same level of intimacy as you’re saying. However, people develop parasocial relationships with streamers. Interestingly, that’s the one thing that Twitch streamers– there’s no way to both play a video game and look someone dead in the eye yet.
I guess there’s still in IRL, you can do that digitally, but that does feel like a piece that’s, you’re not there yet. That’s one thing that I would love to see moving forward. I guess that maybe the last thing is, I think along those lines, what were some of the practicalities around setting up a Twitch stream for anybody interested in trying to– because it sounds like it’s both because you enjoyed playing video games, that global practices for kin making, the idea of connecting with the community and then also as a way to the workshop and think about how to present things to the public.
What were some practical things regarding getting stuff together to go out doing your first stream and ongoing stream efforts?
Pearlyn: I recorded myself on Zoom every day for 10 minutes. It’s very excruciating to watch the playback. What I’ll do is I’ll wake up in the morning and do the recording and then the next morning, I would watch my previous day’s recording and then do a new recording so that I have enough time away from it. You can learn a lot about yourself and how you perform to the camera by watching yourself, as excruciating as that is.
Over time, I stopped watching the playback and felt more comfortable being completely unfiltered. If I was just home and someone was holding a camera, that’s pretty much what I became that this idea of growing up would have a little stage fright. Because I can be so wholly unfiltered and maybe unhinged on stream, it’s almost like I can freely speak, and that fear gets squashed. I think that’s one thing. It’s almost like a mental exercise of daily performance. Then the second part is downloading OBS and having that.
I had to find an adapter to connect my switch to my computer. It’s a video capture card that will record what’s playing on the control in real-time and relay it to the computer, and then from there, OBS captures that, and then that’s what gets streamed. It was one of those things where it took a little bit of fiddling in terms of the hardware because that’s one of the things it’s endlessly customizable, and you can look at any streamer that you like, and they’re set up, and they’ll usually post it.
Then you can get all the equipment, but then once you get it, it’s like, “Okay, time to YouTube, how to connect OBS [unintelligible 00:58:53] this. Do I get a stream deck or not?” I think it depends on what you want to stream. If it will be on a console, that will be a different setup than just on a Steam game or something.
Jamin: Yes, absolutely. Would you encourage other artists to stream regardless of– particularly ones that might be interested in adding game-based artwork to their practice? Is that something you recommend, or do you feel like watching streams is sufficient to learn what you need to know?
Pearlyn: I think gaming is a great pastime, but it becomes meaningful when you do fold it into your practice if you want to. If that’s something that you resonate with, I think we need more people in this space. When you log into Twitch, for example, you’ll see a lot of musicians, you’ll see a lot of VTubers and a lot of eSports and NSports. We need more discourse around art practices, performance, and design. I think people would love that. I think people love watching people create art on stream, but then there’s also the intersection of art and tech that’s not necessarily in the mainstream, but I think we need more people within that community.
Jamin: Yes, absolutely. Let’s open it up for questions. Does anybody have any questions for Perlin before we leave for the day? Let’s see here. Indeed, one question I would have for you is just a more practical thing. How did you find the process of when you’re picking something to wear and how to present yourself for a stream? How is that or not like the process of building some of the characters for Real Girlfriend?
Pearlyn: I think it’s interesting because, for Real Girlfriend, I don different wigs in different outfits that linked to the backstory of the girlfriends, but then every day when I wake up for stream, it’s just pretty much like dressing to go to a job at a design studio. It’s like how I would present myself to the world. It’s the perfect way to get out of being in sweats. It’s one of those things; you wear what you want to embody. I believe this is an exciting fashion principle folded into performance and persona.
Jamin: Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate you spending time. If you would like to keep up with Perlin’s work [unintelligible 01:01:45] on Instagram, for us for killscreen.com the website and killscreen.com also on Instagram. Oh, we do have one question from Andy. Andy wanted to know; let’s see. Andy wanted to know if Infinite Mother would be playable by a general audience.
Have you considered where this will be hosted and how you would distribute or share a game like this? That’s both a practical question, also one that I think we’re all probably curious about as you’re thinking about distribution.
Pearlyn: I think it’s a great question. It’s one of those things where if you do want to contribute to the project, come on stream, and let’s talk about it. I think that’s the first thing I love being able to see and read and directly interact with the people with the feedback. That’s one, and secondly, I know the work as both a piece in the gallery, but then to have the critical discourse around it, but also, again, for anyone to play.
That’s really important because I think games like this it’s the purest form of play, and play is anti-work. We live in a capitalistic society, and this is almost the highest form of protest against that. I’ve thought about releasing it on Xbox Live for people to play and also for the gallery setting. Then whoever wants to collect the piece can have the game files and the package, but then also get some of my Twitch VODs, in which I talked about Infinite Mother. Then that also receives the collective recording into that. Whoever comes into the stream and contributes, you become a part of the collected piece.
Jamin: That’s awesome. Thank you. Oh, we got one from Eric. Thank you so much, Eric. Eric asks, what is it like to create a particular world when there is a giant corporation with a similar theme, specifically Diablo? Diablo has been around for quite some time as well. I think it’s thinking about how you intersect with your content. Do you see any continuity between those two? Tell me a little about how you would answer that question for someone curious.
Pearlyn: With Diablo, that’s very close to my heart because I love Diablo very, very much. Anyway, Diablo 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. With that being said, though, I’m not a triple-A company. Ultimately, I’m an artist and on the other spectrum where I believe this is something that everyone should be able to play. Then also, it’s an open-world combat LIS exploration of a particular type of storyline that has to do with healing and processing generational trauma and maternal wounds.
That’s mythologizing the way through the song, whereas I think Diablo is incredible, but the lore is very iconic; trust me, I do believe that, but it’s not the main focus of a lot of people that enter the game. It is traditionally, and in the most basic form, a hack and slash. Sometimes I play that because I don’t want to think about mythology and lore because I had a long day of maybe making Infinite Mother. To me, there’s this idea of advancing and grinding.
That type of play only engages a specific part of your brain that might release dopamine. I think Infinite Mother is more like a slower game. You are slowing down your body to take a step back and take a body scan. Were you traumatized as a kid? Did you escape playing video games because you didn’t have enough time with your mother? I know I did. Infinite Mother is almost like that big hug, a safe space for us to look at the mother’s wound.
Jamin: I also thought that Blizzard doesn’t have a– hopefully, as far as I know, knock on wood, they don’t have a copyright and exclusive license to the underworld. I think just also your cultural context, as well as the beyond, is something that’s shared by a lot of different cultures, and you’re bringing a particular context. You mentioned the 18 levels of hell and Chinese mythology. You’re getting a different set of mythos to a common theme: what happens to us.
Like you’re saying, what are our relationships with our friends and family after we die? What do we look for? I think there are some ways in which it’s probably helpful in terms of having a reference for people looking for a game to play and that world. Something that happens, the afterlife, is appealing to them, but at the same time, you are bringing a different point of view in many different ways, and the scale is obviously like a big one. It’s a big one as well; you need to work with several 100 people to bring this to life, which has its upsides and downsides.
Some great things about working with big teams, and there are obviously some challenges in making sure that you’re trying to be as many things to as many people as possible. It’s a great question, though.
Pearlyn: Yes, it’s a great question.
Jamin: Thank you so much, everybody, for joining us. I really appreciate it. Have a great rest of your week, and hopefully, we’ll see you again soon. Bye.
Pearlyn: Thank you, everyone.