Fisher Wagg – Singer, Songwriter & Indie Game Dev

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Interview Detail

Date: Sunday March 10th, 2024
Location: South Burlington
Length: 1:21:20
Episode Number: 47
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Becca Hammond: What’s New 802? I’m Becca Hammond and you’re listening to Vermont Talks. Vermont Talks may include graphic or explicit content. Listener discretion is advised. Welcome to Vermont Talks. This is Episode 47 and I am here with Fisher Wagg. Fisher is a Vermont based singer and songwriter. He released Leftovers in 2024, the year 2007 in 2023, and the year the planes came down in 2014. So that was a while ago. And Fisher is also an indie game developer and a game dev community organizer. He’s got a portfolio at Fisher, welcome on the show. Thank you. Thank you for having me. So let’s talk about music to start with. We’ll talk about the game dev stuff. I actually met Fisher a year or two ago. I don’t remember when that was exactly at, what is that called? The game?

Fisher Wagg: So it was called The Loaf. It technically still exists, but yeah, The Loaf, yeah. It’s a game developer meetup where we would invite all the local game developers to come and show off projects, or at the very least just meet other local game developers. Nice.

Becca Hammond: So I didn’t know that you were a singer-songwriter when I met you there, so it’s cool. And clearly you’ve been doing it for a while. So let’s talk, let’s go back in time to 2014.

Fisher Wagg: Oh yeah, well actually. The years of planes came down. Actually, you want to go back even further than that. So when I was, let’s see, it starts with when I was, I think 11, it was in fifth grade. And somebody in my class noticed that I was just tapping and drumming along on stuff in class and just being a nuisance. And basically, that person was in a children’s rock group that was called The Minor Key. And they basically went to the leader of that group, Buddy Dubay, and said, like, hey, there’s this annoying kid in my class, but I think he likes drumming, so we should get him in here. And so I got invited to that.

I was 11, we started doing that. And The Minor Key was unique because it’s children’s music group, but it’s not like a school program. I mean, it’s kind of a school, like it was kind of like running like a school, but it’s really more of like, it is a performance group. Like we acted like a band. We more or less toured, not really out of state very often.

Although one time we did, maybe actually two times, I don’t remember. And it was interesting because we wrote our own songs. It wasn’t just like, oh, we all come together and sing Christian favorites or whatever. It was like, no, we were writing songs about things kids want to sing about. So there’s songs about macaroni and cheese or whatever, which is whatever. We had a few, what I like to call the preachy green songs, which were really like, oh, what can we do to save the earth? The earth is doomed unless we stop producing fossil fuels, etc. etc.

You’ve heard it all. And so we had a lot of songs that were like that. And that was where I basically learned how to write songs was just like going through that process in a group setting with people who like, well, really just one guy, Buddy, who knew just how to do this on the fly. And then he taught me guitar. He also taught me a little bit of keyboards. And yeah, from there, I just kind of started doing it on my own. And it all culminated eventually in 2014, when I released that album, the year the planes came down, which is named that because there were two planes that went missing that year.

And no other reason, it has no significance to me whatsoever. I just didn’t know what to call the albums. I thought, oh, what if I did an album a year and every year I just called it something weird. But that was what I decided to call it. Were the planes in 2014?

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Becca Hammond: Was that MH370? I feel like there was one that was like a Russian airliner and then there was one that was a Malaysian one.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, the Malaysian one, I don’t remember. Was it a Russian one? I don’t remember. I truly don’t remember. That’s the one. Yeah, that was tied to the Russians in Ukraine, wasn’t it? And it was a whole conspiracy.

Fisher Wagg: Both of them are. Yeah, yes. I remember this very distinctly, just being a recurring theme of jet liners in like Europe and Asia disappearing. And it was like, this is weird and creepy. You know, what’s going on?

Becca Hammond: Yeah, they’ve still, I know they think they found the Malaysian plane. Yeah, yeah, that’s crazy.

Fisher Wagg: Don’t know what happened to that other one. I mean, if I’m remembering that correctly, but so yeah, I mean, little did I know what a precursor to the future we live in now.

But yeah, that was a really, that album was really just my first. All right, well, it basically ties into like this philosophy that I have. This philosophy is, if you can do something, but you don’t have the resources to do it, like the best way possible, do it crappily, because otherwise you just won’t do it. So it’s like, so I just basically started recording first, I started just recording. I had a MacBook, you know, I was a garage band warrior for a while. And then my friend, Willie Brezee, who helped me run the cabaret at my high school, he basically started a little mini studio in his basement. And I just went over there, recorded the whole thing and like, I want to say, little under a month of weekend sessions.

And just popped it out. I had a friend, Nick Doulson, who actually is kind of big in the EDM world now, his handle is fate, I think. He did the mastering. And then he immediately had, it was his first time mastering a song.

And so like, he mastered them. And then he sent them back to me and they were like really bass heavy. And he was like, Oh, I’m sorry, I just out of a ton of bass.

I didn’t realize how bassy that was going to be. And like, well, okay, because this is the process. And that’s fine. Because it was just like, you know, it was friends, like I was still paying people, but it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to a big studio.

I wasn’t going out of state. I wasn’t, you know, I did have session musicians like Jeff Meyer, Lawrence and of shy Husky was my drummer for that particular album. And then I had some friends come in and do vocals as well. And that was like, it was a lot of fun, like a couple standout songs from it, like Drunken Monday was one that I had written in high school about how I was going to go to tech school. And I was like sad that I wasn’t going to see my friends.

And just like the pain of growing up. And then like, and then just my favorite song on that is probably the least produced one is American Shadow Boy, which is just this like song that just kind of came to me. And it was just, it was kind of like an attempt to do like a neutral milk hotel kind of style of storytelling through songs and lyrics. And it just kind of evolved into this, like just like kind of poppy like, she will take me. And it’s, it’s really, I don’t know, in my mind, I was like, Oh, I’m just like writing like a radio pop song. And then I like heard it, I’m like, no, it should just be just acoustic and me. And then it sounds nice.

And that’s just kind of in my philosophy going forward. Just like, I write songs that will sound good with just me and a guitar. And then if, you know, I take it to a studio and I start producing it, I’m like, Okay, now it’s time to go for electric.

Sure, then but like, before then, everything has to sound really good with just like me and a guitar. And so because of that, I’ve just kind of fallen into like the folk punk genre, because that’s all like everything in the folk punk genre is like very like we, it’s acoustic by default. You know, like if you’re ever, if you’re ever electrifying something, it’s like you’ve lost the folk part because oh, it’s there’s no acoustics, there’s no, you know, where’s your, where’s your Google Bordello, you know, like accordion or whatever.

Becca Hammond: Folk Park sounds an interesting genre. I think we talked about the, we had a whole ranting session a couple of weeks ago, but I think we talked about how it’s not, when you think of folk, so many people immediately go to like country. Yeah, but it’s not country. It’s kind of just our music. It’s what you feel like creating.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah, it’s protest music. It’s like, it’s just folk tales sometimes. It’s like, it can be so many things. It’s the cultural byproducts basically. It’s like musical cultural byproducts. And it’s, and it’s so vast that it’s just like funny to even consider that there are things that aren’t folk in ways, right? Because like, total tangent, but like, for example, like Ash Niko is an artist who she did a cover or I guess the new correct term is interpolation. It was an interpolation of Skater Boy.

Becca Hammond: This is the first time I’ve heard that term. Oh yeah, well, welcome to it. Well, you’re hearing it everywhere because all the songs on the radio now that you have, like, they’d like bring back those like 80s choruses or whatever, like, those are interpolation. They’re not covers. They’re just borrowing elements. And that’s what interpolation is. It’s not a complete cover. It’s just you borrow an element. Okay. So every time we’ve sampled music Okay, well, kind of complicated.

Fisher Wagg: Interpolations are also kind of a politically fraught thing, I think, but especially in the trade park world. Yeah, the but so Ash Niko did what is a cover of Skater Boy, Avril Lavigne Skater Boy, and but she changes the lyrics. And it’s like, that’s really cool. But I was like, when I heard it, and like I was in the car with my friends, I’m like, Oh, so it’s a folk cover. Because when the folk people cover other people stuff, they change the lyrics of, you know, everything, they’re like, What are you talking about? It’s like, this is not folk at all. Because in their mind, they’re like, Oh, if folk is old guy with the guitar singing about like the Great Depression or whatever. But no, folk is is is the process. Folk is not the product. Yeah.

Becca Hammond: America is such a weird melting pot. Yeah. And I think we’ve kind of forgotten what because you talk about folk music in other parts of the world. And I think they get it. It’s just the music that you’re making locally. Like, like you said, cultural community, what’s happening in America right now. And like Vermont folk music can cover like every freaking genre because people in Vermont are making their own music in every single genre like folks to me doesn’t really doesn’t mean country. But like it’s so people just like to narrow things

Fisher Wagg: and then we subdivide and then we generalize and it’s a whole thing. Genre itself is a mess. Like just the concept of genre for me personally.

Becca Hammond: Yes, I agree. I think we draw too many lines. Yeah. And I think we do that with all of humanity. We draw too many damn lines. Like, can’t we just be like, can’t we just be musicians? Can’t we just be artists? Can’t we be neighbors and, you know, part of community without being like, no, you’re a middle, whatever, whatever. Like, you know, you’re falling under the screamo category, but I am hardcore. Yeah. I can’t quite like I lose it. I don’t know what the differences are.

Fisher Wagg: And I guess I could not effectively tell you the difference between hardcore and like punk slash emo. I mean, I probably could tell you the difference between hardcore and emo, but like punk is so broad that I’m like emo is punk hardcore is punk. It’s all just punk. Like, I don’t know, punk is just when you make music in your mad and punk is folk. I said it.

Becca Hammond: Punk is 100%. The best punk is coming from that world of people making music for their friends, their people local. Yeah, all music should really be considered folk. It’s when you get so produced, yeah, where you’re creating things for a profit and there are 17 producers on a song and it’s, you know, they’re they’re billionaires making music for the masses to sell them on the radio.

That’s not what cultural music is about. That’s, I love the local stuff. I love people actually making their own stuff. Like, I get that you’re trying to make money, but I don’t think there needs to be 17 fucking producers on a single song. That’s just my opinion. Yeah, I agree. Okay, all right. So we’ve talked a little bit about the plane, the year the planes came down. The year 2007.

Yeah. What was the, and I read the blurb about it and it was all the songs you’ve made that you’ve had recordings of over the years. So it’s not like you wrote all of this last year. No. What’s the significance of 2007?

Fisher Wagg: What is the significance of 2007? So that’s a really good question. Because I think I just was like trying to remember, I don’t really know what the significance of the year 2007 is, but it’s just I knew I wanted to name it that and I knew because I think in some way I was like, I really want to find like creative joy in songwriting because it wasn’t that I wasn’t already feeling that. It’s just I was like trying to like look back and feel like, all right, when was the last time that I like personally felt as a human being like happy and fulfilled like with myself as a person?

I’m like, oh, okay. So I mean, I don’t look like way back because I think I think I wasn’t like honestly like really depressed until I was 12. So I was like, okay, so I turned 12 in 2008. So 2007 wasn’t been pretty good.

So that must have been my thought process there. I mean, that’s I couldn’t really tell you because it was so long ago. Like I can’t put that idea like, I want to say seven years ago. So it was so the year the planes came down came out and nobody cared. It was like whatever.

And that’s fine. Like what had happened was I went wanted to start playing shows. I want to start playing out. And I played this like singer songwriter contest, like the point put it on.

I want to say was at Halversons in Burlington. And they I went up and I just bombed really bad, which was weird because up to that point, like, you know, unlike many other people who were like quote, just starting their like musical career, I actually had a ton of performance experience. So it’s like really weird that I bombed so hard. And like, my mom was there and she was like, oh, it’s just because you didn’t practice enough.

And I’m like, I don’t think I don’t know if that’s true. Because I definitely went into it feeling really ready and like feeling well prepared. And I knew what that felt like. So it was it was just really odd. And that really just like put a damper on like my spirit to actually perform for a really long time. And I just didn’t really put any effort into trying to find shows. I’m going to interject.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, because I have the same experience. I grew up playing music out. I played so many concerts. I was in three different bands in high school. We played at bars when I was like a kid.

And I was fine. And then all of a sudden I got to like adulthood college age and I something happened so anxious, like, oh my god, I’m hyperventilating. I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m going to die. I can’t get on stage anymore. And like, I mean, I sang at my high school graduation and I’m like, I can’t breathe enough to.

So I haven’t played out since I was like 19 myself. So I totally appreciate the like why, you know, I can do this. I can do this at home. I can do this with my friends. I cannot do this in public anymore. And I don’t know what the hell.

Fisher Wagg: That’s exactly how I felt for a while. Yeah. And it was it was sad because I kept writing songs and I specifically started like, I knew I wasn’t going to be performing because I was like, I can’t work up the nerve. I don’t care. So I just started working on a new album and I just started writing these songs. And they were all based on this like dream that I had had. Like, pretty much right towards the end of finishing the year the planes came down, where it was at the time I was like working at Staples.

And I just like had this dream where I was back in high school. But it wasn’t me. It was like the worst version of myself. And like somebody in my at the school had died. And for some reason, they were visiting me as a ghost. And like we were like interacting and like, you know, over time, I remember this so vividly. I remember like specifically being like, oh, we’re falling in love like me and this ghost to this person who just died.

And just like, eventually watching like this worst version myself make the obvious mistake of saying, oh, well, now we’ll be together and then like killing myself. And just like that was really shocking to me, like in this dream. And like I woke up and I was like, this is like a really bizarre psychological phenomenon because it wasn’t like me. It wasn’t a lucid dream.

I wasn’t in control. I was just kind of like watching this like version of myself that I’m like afraid of and like just feeling really, I don’t know, just feeling both like it wasn’t really, it wasn’t really about an anxiety I had in my life. It was just like this, like say goodbye to being a teenager kind of moment of like, yeah, this is, you know, you turned out way better than you could have. I felt and in a lot of ways it was like gratifying, but it was just really sad.

And I really wanted to encapsulate that sadness. And so I started writing these songs. I had a tape deck that I had purchased at the Radio Shack right before it closed. And I just started writing songs, putting down scratch tracks there. And I started the next year I did start doing studio sessions for that album with Willie again.

And it was sounding really good. And then it was like, I just, I had like my Brian Wilson moment. I said this earlier today and to Tristan, but I had like a Brian Wilson moment where it was like, I just want to add so much to this that it’s not like physically possible. Like, there is no way on earth I will ever get like this sound that I hear in my brain to come out into this. And so, yeah, that was totally like my give up moment where it was like, I can’t make it the perfect way.

And I couldn’t really bring myself to do it crappily. So it just was left dormant for a while. So it was like eight years of it just like sitting there. And I just kept like writing little, little more elements, kept recording that to the tapes.

And, you know, like there were like, there was poetry, there was like sound experiments that I would do. There it was, it was just chaos. And so at the end, like last year, the end of last year, I was laid off in July. And I at the time, in current year, at the current time, game developers in general are just being like laid off on mass, like across the board.

Yeah. So at the time, the advice I had received while it was being laid off was like, you are really good, you should stay in this industry. And they’re like, you should do everything you can to stay in the street. And I was like, okay, cool. So I will do that, which meant every day I would apply to jobs. So I applied to like well over 100 jobs and only got like, I think two interviews.

Becca Hammond: Right. It’s hard because every single company basically is laying off game devs.

Fisher Wagg: So it’s not like global and it’s not just AAA, it’s Indies 2 and it’s not just like PC games or console games, it’s everybody. It’s a total capital pullout. And it’s on one hand, like.

Becca Hammond: Do you think it’s because the industry got over bloated?

Fisher Wagg: COVID has played a big role in the I think it’s not over bloated, I think it’s over investing. I think in COVID, specifically, people were seeing people moving to digital and thinking this will be how it is forever. Like it’s the new normal messaging, right? Or it’s like this is, we’re just stuck like this forever, and it’ll never return to normal ever again. And it’s like, that wasn’t really true, you know, like people weren’t ever going to just sit at their computers all day and play like League of Legends all day.

So that wasn’t going to happen. So anyway, I got laid off. I spent a while trying to reinsert myself back into game dev, which I had already done earlier that year.

I had I had left global foundries to go do game dev again. And that was already like a huge jump for me. And it was just I just was really crushed. I was like, I just feel like I haven’t done anything like meaningful. Like I felt like I like my entire like career and like creative journey up to that point had been just totally annihilated in one fell swoop.

And it’s not really like the company’s fault. Like I liked those guys. It was just like this. I felt like like how my 20s had been robbed for me by COVID.

I felt like this was like the aftershock. It’s like, oh, and now your career is gone too. Like now you’re just screwed. Now you’re just reset to like you just left high school. So congratulations, which isn’t true.

Becca Hammond: But right, but you can feel I could feel I felt this like this way. And so I just started looking back at music and like, like, yeah, I’ve just been writing a song. Like, I think at that time, I was like averaging like I wrote like four or five songs a year. I just started writing songs. I started averaging a song at least a month, one song a month.

And just pumping them out. And I was thinking like, oh, man, I really want to like get back in the recording really want to perform. I’m just like, I feel all this angst. I just really want to like get it out there and start like making noise and getting people’s attention. And I just was like, well, you know, this reminds me a lot of how I felt like after, you know, the planes came down, came out and I felt and I just couldn’t perform. And I’m like, oh, man, I want to perform, but I couldn’t like bring myself to do it. And I was like, okay, well,

Fisher Wagg: I just started looking at those recordings again. I was like, oh, man, like, you know, these are weird. They’re kind of cool, though. Like, I don’t know. Like they’re they’re not, I don’t know. Like, so I put out a I put out a Facebook post just on my page that was like, hey, I’m going to release these.

They’re not good. Like, this is a new album. It is an album. It is not like complete. It will never be complete. That’s on purpose. And this is just how it is.

It has to be in the state. And I and I said in either this project would die and like go away forever or I would die. It was like one. It’s like it’s like I, you know, this was something I felt really, really passionate about. And so I put it out. And again, much like the planes came down, no fanfare.

Like nobody really cared that much. And that’s fine. Because it’s for me.

It’s for me. And it was like, again, I did it crappily. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it.

And I’m glad I did it because I did that. I start performing again. I start performing new songs that I was writing, like just last December. And because of that, I’ve met more people and now I’m back in the studio again.

So it’s like I’m right back on the horse. It wasn’t even that long. It was like three months.

And that basically takes us to the present, really. Because it was it was really, it was just so long of waiting to feel like I was ready for these songs, which are like really personal songs like the year 2007 is is filled with some songs that like honestly have lyrics that I regret writing in a lot of cases that are just like really dark. They, you know, they say things that I don’t really necessarily feel represent me, I feel like. But I put them out there because it’s a snapshot of not necessarily myself, but of a version of myself that I felt like I had perceived and was like important to to like explain to people like, you know, hey, you know, there’s a world in which I’m this guy that like is really obsessed with, you know, like a ghost, like nobody cares about, nobody else can see or like, you know, has this just like weird obsession and like these things carry into my personality because I have a lot of weird obsessions. But anyway, I’m rambling a lot about this.

Becca Hammond: This is also valid because I think like we were talking about with subdividing stuff and you know, I didn’t pick on Taylor Swift for a minute. I like picking on Taylor Swift. She deserves it. I don’t like hate Taylor Swift, but she is a manufactured musician and always was from the very beginning.

Fisher Wagg: Her parents were record industry people.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, they spent like $300,000 and they made country songs and they made pop songs of the same thing to see which would stick. Like she was a manufactured musician with money behind her to make her famous. So like she has this like AABA like specific format, everything’s exactly the same every time which Britney Spears falls into that. So it is a lot, like look at the offspring, right?

Fisher Wagg: Like look at all the bands that see that. And to be fair, a lot of my songs also are like that.

Becca Hammond: Oh yeah, well that’s totally fine. But I think that I don’t, you could listen to every single Taylor Swift song on the planet and you would know nothing about her. Yeah. Like there’s no, like the human experience is incredibly complicated. There’s darkness, like unless you’re a very boring, flat person that hasn’t felt anything in your life, which is the whole point of music. Yeah. The whole point of our like, what do you actually feel versus like what can I sell you?

And I think that’s one of those things that the media looks at something like Taylor Swift, you listen to her a couple of her songs. That’s the whole thing. Like that’s what we’re going to sell.

We’re going to market it as this. And then you look at these really complex, interesting bands, a lot of folk punk bands where each song is a different genre, a different vibe, a different world. Like that speaks to the human experience. So like, yeah, like it might not be you. It might be like a dark experience you had, just something you went through. But like that representation of the human experience, I think is super valid, like very important.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. And I think that’s going to show up a lot on this new album that I’m preparing. Who knows when that’ll be done. But it’s like, but yeah, it’s, and it shows up a lot on leftovers as well. If you want to keep going down the album line there.

Becca Hammond: Yeah. So leftovers.

Fisher Wagg: So leftovers is literally the leftovers from the year 2007. Because you 2007 came out New Year’s Day 2023. And then, sorry, New Year’s Eve 2023. So the day before 2024.

Got it. And then leftovers came out the week next week, basically, while I was just basically figuring out what songs I want to put on it. And that one’s interesting, because it’s not, it isn’t, I have called it an album. It’s really a compilation. It is basically a collection of songs that either were from those tapes that I felt didn’t really fit the vibe anymore, or songs that were like too produced for that, for that record.

Some of my favorite songs are actually on the leftovers and not. So there’s a version, there’s, I included all the versions of Drunk in Monday, because I hadn’t officially published the demo version of Drunk in Monday. So I hadn’t officially recorded the demo version or released the official demo version of Drunk in Monday before then. And there’s the, then there’s a new version Drunk in Monday that I’ve released that I called the Freeway Mix, which is actually, I don’t know if I’m supposed to announce this or not, but it’s actually going to be in, it’s going to be one of the song packs for a game called Yet Another Rhythm Game, which is a guitar hero clone. And my friend Will is working on that, and he was like, hey, I see you’re releasing new music.

So we worked something out there. And that’s really cool for me, because I’m the guy who plays guitar hero, knowing how to play the songs that are like, I’m playing in Guitar Hero, and everyone’s like, I’m like always complaining, like, that’s not how it’s played. I am that guy really badly. And now I’ve, and I can do it for my own music and speak definitively. And I actually, I told him specifically, because he did Will, Will Frick did the tracking for it. And I specifically was like, Oh, cool, this instrument that you have is two instruments, it’s one instrument, actually.

I just made it sound like two with with my production tricks. And it’s, it’s, it’s been cool. That’s actually like a real highlight of that project was like, just surprise. Yeah, now you get to be in a video game, which is cool.

Becca Hammond: So the song you were recording today, that’s going on your new album.

Fisher Wagg: So that’ll be on my new album. That’s going to be, I have no idea when that single is going to come out. But it’s for, it’s a song called When You Get Home, which I have been playing out live.

Often, it always gets a pretty big reaction. So I’m excited to get a really nice single out. And this time, this time around, I’m not doing it gravely. This time around, I’m taking it really slow, making it right, getting it in, getting it like, you know, how I hear it in my mind.

And to like really professional, you know, nationally, internationally recognized standards of like what music should sound like from Spotify or whatever. So it’s, I hesitate to say that I’m like, oh, it’s a hitmaker, you know, I really want to like, you know, put out a bunch of hits, like how this be like my best album ever. It’s like, not really, I’m not really looking to grow. I don’t want to tour. I don’t really want to. I think it’d be fun to tour, but I don’t, it’s not, it’s not, I don’t desire it.

I don’t think that’s like, I don’t need my career to go that way. If like, people came, if like touring bands are coming, and I get to open for touring bands, that’s like my ideal scenario as a musician is I just get to, you know, it’s like, oh, you know, for example, like speedy Ortiz, because they played at Monkey House last year and they were really good. It’s like, if they came and they’re like, oh, hey, Fisher Wags is in town, like, yeah, let’s hit him up. It’s like, yeah, that would be the best scenario in the world for me. But I don’t really want to go anywhere. So I don’t know how to make that part happen without touring. But we’ll see. Because I’m quite happy just hanging out in Vermont, which is, you know, it’s just a nice place to be. Yeah.

Becca Hammond: The world’s a weird place, right? Because everybody’s got attitude, this is how you do things. And this is how you write a song. And this is the format. And this is the formula. You know, like everyone’s got the buckets.

Yeah. But it’s a brave new world. Like we live in a whole new reality where people who don’t tour, like, yeah, there’s a certain point where a lot, you know, if you get big enough, they are going on tour. People are getting famous on the internet.

Fisher Wagg: You don’t need to go anywhere. I mean, you know, it totally depends on what you want. Like the classic example is like, you know, neutral milk hotel, right? Like Jeff, Jeff Mangum doesn’t like they did the tour, like in 20, was that 2014, 2015? I don’t remember. Like they did like a they did like a one time tour. And like they had done touring back when they were like active and like in the early 2000s, but then it was like so long for nothing.

And now there’s nothing. And it’s like, but they’re still making money, big money. And they keep releasing these collections. Like they just released a full new terminal hotel, like tapes and vinyl and CDs collection and everything. And it’s it’s cool.

And I want one. But it’s like, you know, they’re not actually actively producing anything. And they’re making a ton of money on this music. And it’s just people on the internet being like, have you heard in the airplane over the sea? Like he says, I love you, Jesus Christ. It’s weird and fun. I’m assuming you’ve heard in the airplane.

Becca Hammond: I have not. Oh, you’re missing out. Oh my God. Yeah, it’s I mean, I’m writing it down. A million and one people will tell you it’s the best album ever. And it gets me for that. But rightfully so, it’s worth listening to it is like such a journey and it’s like it’s folk music. But it’s like Scott, it’s so many things. And it’s good.

It’s really good. Yeah, you don’t have to tour anymore. You can make the world whatever you want it to be, right? Like you don’t have to fit any mold. If you want to like be a video game music person, like you can do that. You don’t really have to go tour anymore.

Fisher Wagg: I have lots of friends who are like very successful video game music people who are just they just they’re at home. They just write songs, they put them out. They’re musically satisfied. They’re creatively satisfied. You know, they’re making money. You know, where’s the problem here? Yeah.

Becca Hammond: And that’s it. Like, same has many different. Yeah. If that’s what you want, there’s many different avenues that you can do it. It’s complex, weird world. And I think you know, AI is growing, but I don’t think things like AI music, AI music is a non-starter. Maybe for like background music.

Fisher Wagg: Where I think AI will work.

Becca Hammond: So, I mean, I would never like intentionally be like, I’m gonna listen to an AI track with an AI voice with AI.

Fisher Wagg: I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t do it not for laughs, I guess is how I’d put it. Like, I’ve definitely heard a lot of like really funny AI horrible music. It’s like laughing at AI art, right?

It’s like, it’s like, oh, it put like seven fingers in that guy’s hand or whatever. But it’s like, I do think AI is a useful tool. And I know I’m, I know people get mad about that, for sure. But it’s true. AI is a useful tool specifically for text.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, large language models are like, people don’t want to do.

Fisher Wagg: Exactly. It’s really good at things people don’t want to do. Exactly. And we should keep using it for things people we don’t want to do. The problem is is that there are a lot of people out there who misunderstand that for, oh, it’s for things people can’t do, which is like, well, but there are people who can do these things as they, you can’t do these things. And you, and I get the accessibility aspect of it as I think there are people out there who are like, you know, for example, like tone deaf people, like I need AI to sing this for me because I can’t sing, I, you know, I can’t do this. But it’s like, sure. But there’s also like a billion singers out there.

Becca Hammond: A lot of them aren’t kind of like, you’re a huge amount.

Fisher Wagg: Exactly. Just go, just go talk to people, you know, and then, you know, the accessibility AI crowd would then react with that to like, well, I, I can’t socialize, etc, etc.

Becca Hammond: Yeah. Well, that’s that. That’s a whole different. Yeah. Now you’re entering into the, so I, I, I understand the argument, but I do think it’s ultimately boils down to like, well, you should, you should not act in a way that will, that will incentivize companies to replace creatives. You just like doing that is like baseline immoral. Oh yeah. It’s already affected the graphic.

Fisher Wagg: Oh, I mean, EA just yesterday announced that they’re laying off a ton of people directly because of AI. Yeah. Replacing, you know, lots of people.

Becca Hammond: There’s so many companies that are saying that there’s another one just in the last week that said the same thing. They got rid of 700 employees because AI can answer the chat messages just as well. Like, but that’s going to get them in trouble.

Fisher Wagg: That’s going to get them in trouble.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, it probably will.

Fisher Wagg: Because that happened in Canada Air. Did you hear this story?

Becca Hammond: Oh, I think yeah, the BAI agreed to some refund or something.

Fisher Wagg: It made up a new, made up a policy and then Canada Air had to honor it because, you know, that’s what they said. This is the face of your company, you know?

Becca Hammond: Yeah, it’s definitely a weird time to be alive. I, I do see the whole creative side of it kind of flipping because I think humans in general, like you might be able to make a buck today by laying off employees to use AI. But I do think humanity in general is going to look at your company like you are using this trash that’s clearly AI generated to do your marketing, your customer service, every single thing that actually means something to a customer. I don’t see that working out for them long term because not only that, the AI is getting stupider too because there’s so much

Fisher Wagg: AI generated content that it’s learning from. More data it has, like, how it works is the more data it has, the better it should be at replicating things. But now it’s using its own stuff as data. You’re just, you’re polluting the pool.

Becca Hammond: It was also trained. One of the things that calls for me, I, we’re going on around here.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah, this is totally, this is relevant though. I mean, this is really relevant to our times, I feel.

Becca Hammond: Yeah. As someone who works in the software industry and just knowing the pitfall, like we, I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the 90s and early 2000s where you didn’t trust what you read on the internet. And the whole world has forgotten that the internet’s full of bullshit.

The internet is massively full of bullshit. So it’s really disappointing to me to see these huge AI companies. I get that you need information to train your AI model. But what the hell, like why didn’t they train these things on peer reviewed articles? So they have a definitive metric of what truth is, not just this is a bunch of crap humans said. So I think it’s all true.

Fisher Wagg: My main issue, I mean, to build on that is we actually don’t have any, any clue at all what they’re built off of. Like we, you know, we, we have data sets we can look at, but they’re huge. They’re not actually human legible in a lot of cases, especially when it comes to the art AI, like the way they skirt copyright. And I say skirt copyright because that’s exactly what it is. You know, they don’t actually have to amalgamate this data in this way to produce their results that they have been.

And the way they do it is just like mashing up the raw data of all these images and like descriptions of the images. And it’s not work. It’s it’s it’s not reversible. That’s the thing. It’s not what’s the word deterministic. You can’t reverse it and get back what you put into it.

And that’s because of that. It’s kind of not useful for a lot of things, specifically, I think music, because especially in music, the product, the way things are made is like so important to like a recorded song, like the actual process you go through. Things as like, you know, things as as simple as like how far away you stand away from the microphone, whether or not the door in the studio is open or like, you know, if if you like, micro, mic your acoustic or went di like all these little things, which, you know, you can’t even quantify, we can’t quantify really these things. Like we can, we know what happened to recordings.

Like for example, like, just today, in the studio, we were talking about like, we talked a lot about Nirvana and how Nirvana recorded and was like, okay, we know how they recorded because they wrote it down, they explained their process, they can’t do that. We won’t learn from AI. We will only produce with AI will only get we will only get crap. AI can’t produce original things, it can only produce amalgamations of things that are exist.

Becca Hammond: Yes. Yeah. To me as a software engineer, it’s a it’s based on a data model, it’s not artificial intelligence.

Fisher Wagg: No, people talking like this thing is, you know, it’s not the terminator, it’s not smart, it is stupid. It’s just mimicry data. Exactly. And it’s, it’s really, I don’t know, I get that. Oh, it’s really cool, but it’s also not really cool.

It’s really stupid. mimicry. mimicry is important. And the thing that makes me mad is when people confuse mimicry from a data model with mimicry in the psychological sense, which is like, yeah, mimicry in a human is a sign of intelligence, because a human is a bag of meat. But it’s really easy for a machine to mimic something like that’s that’s trivial. You know, these are not we can’t compare these things this way.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, they don’t work that way. The non traceability is such a problem. Yes, that’s really like not only from a trademark perspective, but like that. We won’t we won’t touch on politics much button 2016 and Facebook and all of the other social media platforms. We have pretty definitively proven that Russia spent huge amounts of money buying ads. But the thing that really irked me is that they were already using the AI data models to target groups of people in advertising. They don’t know the groups. They literally don’t know the subdivisions. There’s no reversing. They just know that there was a group of non determinate voters that were easily swayable, basically really not intelligent people who can’t determine truth, regardless of where it’s coming from.

And they were fed flat out lies from foreign governments. And you can’t reverse engineer it because it’s a black box. It’s a it’s a black box sitting on this huge database of all of this information that you stole from writers, artists, musicians, like you stole all of it.

Yeah. And then you don’t know what it’s doing. And sometimes it does evil things. And you claim you’re not responsible for the black box. You are responsible for that black box. Yeah, you built it. Yeah. Yep, exactly. And what other thing I wanted to bring up because you were mentioning all of the things that go into recording audio from a human standpoint.

They actually, this is so random. And I don’t have the name of the study, but very recently, they actually proved scientifically with an MRI machine that the human brain responds entirely differently to live music than it responds to digital music. And there’s even a difference between analog recordings and digital recordings, which is crazy to me.

Fisher Wagg: Because like, when you look at the like raw data of a digital recording and analog recording, they look the same. But yeah, I do buy it. Like, obviously, I can tell the difference between Pink Floyd albums, like really fast. Like the second, because like when you were here, I think when you were here was their first time using digital recordings, I think. And you can tell right away, it sounds mostly because at the time, it wasn’t like very it wasn’t like, fully developed. But you can tell it sounds like a little bit tinier. It sounds just like a little bit.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, it loses some piece of what’s in humanity. Like there’s, you can’t like the way the digital recordings work is they just take a split second moment in time and then they they tack it all back together. So as we listen to it, it’s 44,000 pieces of a song per second, like tied together. But that’s not a smooth sound wave. Like we might not be able to perceive it at a human level because we can’t tell a microsecond. Like obviously, we can’t tell a microsecond.

But something’s clearly missing if our brain actually responds differently. Yeah. Yeah, I just find it really fascinating because I think a lot of can overly produced music, it just doesn’t evoke even sort of the same sort of raw emotional feeling. My favorite sound ever recorded was from the Simon and Garfunkel album where they put the drum into the elevator shaft.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. And that crash something about that like to this day, I still get goosebumps when I listen to that recording because it’s just so iconic and like you can feel the if you can afford and like have the space to do real reverb or get the real thing, it always sounds better than whatever is synthesized or even through the spring coil or like through a coil or through even before springs, they did they ran it through like a symbol, basically a giant symbol and it created like a rumbling effect. But you know, the effect will never sound as good as the real thing. It’s again, it’s imitation, you know, it’s like at the end of the day, it’s all, you know, we can we can imitate things and that’ll create its own sound like because we’re humans and we know how to identify like, oh, this is a new sound that I’ve never heard before. The AI doesn’t know that. I just, you know, I’ll just make, you know, this like a mess of things that can only have learned from us, basically.

Becca Hammond: Yeah. And then claim ownership and then claim ownership. Yeah, which I find hilarious. There’s a really good meme of in the software groups going around where the AI take it’s like a ball, it says code, the AI takes the code from Stack Overflow and says, I made this and then some kid takes it says I made this and then they put it on Stack Overflow because it doesn’t work. And then the AI picks it back up and the code just gets worse and worse and worse. And it’s so true.

Fisher Wagg: I mean, it’s kind of scary because people think that this thing is going to replace software engineers, but then the things that it does, I’m like, you clearly copied this off like an incorrect answer. And sometimes it will, I will put this, I will say that I think it is extremely funny to mess with AI and it is extremely funny to post stuff that is purposefully incorrect. Like it will take, like for example, I think there were several Stack Overflow posts that are like, what’s the worst way you can enumerate something? Like what’s the worst way to just add one plus one? And you can ask the AI like, hey, I just need something that adds one every time it does things like, okay, here’s a five layer four loop. Here’s the least performative way imaginable to add.

Becca Hammond: I bet it’d be really good at that. Yeah, it’s really not even a lot of developers are saying that they’ll be like, what, what, can you make this piece of code more performant? And it like doubles down on the wrong answer. And the funniest thing is it’s getting snarkier and snarkier about code, which I think is hilarious because I think it picked it up from Stack Overflow and read it.

It’s like, oh, everyone talks to each other like arrogant assholes. So I’m going to be like, well, obviously you are not talented because my answer is correct. And then it’s not correct. And the four, you know, these people think that they’re, I feel bad for the students who think that this thing is actually intelligent.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. And learning from it, like it’s not intelligent. Or the professors that are grading papers with it. That’s a thing now is like professors are grading papers with chat GPT, which is like, what is the point of you?

Becca Hammond: Right? Yeah, I’ve had those moments in my online school, because you can’t use chat GPT,

Fisher Wagg: but as a teacher, well, yeah, the teacher, well, yeah, they don’t care. Saves them like 20 minutes. Yeah.

Becca Hammond: Let’s swing back around to your game development. That’s a fun tangent, though. Yeah. Oh yeah, for sure. This is all about fun conversations. So what games have you worked on and like what kind of community events have you put on?

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. So, um, so again, like with that same philosophy of like you either, you, you, you either do it perfectly, you don’t do it all. So you should do it crappily.

So I basically started Game Dev out of pure force of sheer will, I guess. Like I didn’t go to school. I didn’t learn to program at school at all. It wasn’t possible for me to learn program. No, it wasn’t a thing. There were no computer, there were computer science programs in Vermont, not an M.U. So I went to school at M.U.

in Jericho. And I actually advocated very heavily. I was like, I know you have teachers who can teach this. It’s not a hard thing to teach to students. And I think, and I said, nobody ever agrees with me on this and they’re wrong for disagreeing with me on this.

I’m very passionate about this. You do not need more than basic algebra to understand how to program. And I think, and I think it’s very frustrating because they were asking for requirements of like algebra two.

They were like, you’d have to have at least been in high school for three years, doing high school math for three years before you can understand the basics of programming. And that’s just bullshit. It’s just bullshit.

Becca Hammond: Oh yeah. Yeah. Little kids can write code. Yeah. Yeah, you don’t need, depending on what you’re doing, if you’re trying to do like 3D modeling

Fisher Wagg: yourself, maybe, but everybody in the world thinks that programming, everybody who is not a programmer, at least at the time, in like 2012, they were like, oh yeah, learning to code is really hard. It’s like really hard. It’s impossible. And I can’t do it because I’m just a little kid and I haven’t taken trigonometry yet. And it’s like, what the hell? You don’t need trigonometry to print Hello World. Like, come on, man.

Becca Hammond: It’s the same. There’s some gatekeeping going on in a lot of industries. It really is. I mean, anything with engineering involved.

Fisher Wagg: And it’s definitely intentional. Oh, 100%. Like, for example, like, I’m sorry, this is another program tangent, but like git, for example, I love git. Git is a super useful tool. I totally understand it. At first, when I was first introduced it, I thought it was the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. I was like, why would you do this? Is that I’m just saving copies over and over again?

And the moment I had a time where I had to like, regress like some small text that I made, and I just did it instantly with git, I was like, oh, okay, this is an obviously superior workflow for everything. And but it’s made difficult to understand on purpose. Like, there, I think it was actually Linus Torvalds, actually, who I might be wrong about this. Maybe there are nerds who will correct me on this. But there are actually like, you can look back at the RFCs and like forums and stuff. It’s like, yeah, he’s actually like, no, we can’t simplify this because simplifying it will like reduce its functionality, which isn’t true. Thank you for those things. It’s like, and it’s just like the terminology is like difficult, like even like scrum, are you familiar with scrum?

Becca Hammond: And it’s, I’ve read that term, I don’t think

Fisher Wagg: it’s, it’s a production level thing in games is very relevant, where you you do scrum, which is just you you meet every day, all it is just meeting every day and tasks. That’s what scrum is like a rugby scrum.

Becca Hammond: Yes, yes, yes, it’s exactly like a rugby scrum. That’s why it’s called that. And again, it’s obfuscation of terminology. All it is, is you have tasks, you meet, and you evaluate those tasks. And every day you make sure you stay, everybody in your team says what they’re doing. And then you check in and see if it’s actually done. And then you just address the challenges. That’s what scrum is. It’s, it’s agile development, because it’s literally agile and you do it like what I want. And I think it’s shocking that it’s so obfuscated.

And you have to like, well, you don’t have to, but there are classes to get certified in scrum that are like thousands of dollars to become certified in this thing that’s the most simple to understand like thing. I don’t know, maybe I’ll catch flak for that. But anyway, back to me.

Game. So yes, I, I peer force of sheer will learned how to program and do game dev stuff, but I wasn’t good. I was not good at it. What language did you learn?

Fisher Wagg: That’s a great question. I thought, oh, Python would be the smartest thing to learn right away, thinking like I want to be a game developer. Pi game is the thing. And like not really realizing that nobody uses pi game to make video games like really. Like it’s basically a toy, which is fine. I was like, oh, I have a Raspberry Pi. I want to learn how to make like pi game games on like Raspberry Pi. That’s, that’s fun. And of course, I never, ever actually made anything with that.

Becca Hammond: But I got you into it. Yes, it got me into it. Python’s good for that.

Fisher Wagg: Python’s really good for like, you want the simplest.

Becca Hammond: It really, yeah, it flattens that learning.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah, it does. And then I started using construct two, which is basically a visual version of JavaScript. And it was, I never had to like learn the JavaScript syntax, which is, you know, chaos, as I’m sure you’re aware.

It is finicky. Yeah. So I just used construct two, which was a visual programming thing. And I just started making like funny little games.

I just like, okay, here’s a Mario clone, like that takes like three seconds in construct two, because it has all of these pre-built parts. And I just kept going on that path. And eventually, I worked at the courage to join like a game jam for, it was actually for tech jam. It was run by a game theory, who’s another studio, if you haven’t talked to game theory, you should talk to them. But a game theory co, they, they ran a game jam. And I just was like, okay, yeah, I’ll join this.

It’ll be fun. It was a block breaking game that it was like breakout, like the Atari game, which Steve Jobs made. I don’t know if you knew that.

And Steve Wozniak, Steve Wozniak. And, but instead of having your paddle just like constantly bounce the ball, your paddle was also made up of breakable blocks. So as you went, you broke these blocks, the blocks would fall down. If you caught the falling blocks with your paddle, then you could like survive basically.

So it was like survival breakout. So it was, you know, it was kind of like a fun, cutesy idea. And I took it to this jam.

And I won, which was just, it was just popularity contest. It wasn’t like it was the best game there. It certainly wasn’t.

They were much more interesting and better games with better art because it was literally just blocks. But it did, it did wait until I was like, oh, what, how cool. So I should put together like a real release for this. And then my like creative like, oh, but what if you made this insane?

What if you screwed up? And I just like took it into this direction where it was like, yeah, here’s the block breaking game. But and it’s like, we recognize it as its influences.

Like we see breakout, we also see like, Arcanoid, we see all these other like block-breaking games. But what if because it’s just, it’s just a little bit different. What if it was like a Mandela effect thing? What if it was like actually, what if this is just a game from an alternate universe? You remember this game, right? But it’s from universe two, where computers are just a little different.

They’re kind of familiar, but they’re a little different. So I started developing this lore of like, what happened this alternate reality? And it got weird.

It got weird really fast. But it basically centers around computers that are developed from an organic source, not from, you know, not from transistors. Just it uses an organic source that somehow biocomputing that results somehow in perfect ternary computing. So we’re totally incompatible with our world. And in this world, I’m imagining like, oh, what if there was like a Commodore equivalent? I needed Ensign. And in our world, Commodore failed, like the second computer started to like enter 32 bit world, it was like Commodore couldn’t keep up. Yeah.

Becca Hammond: So they were very loved for their love. I love Commodore. I have a Commodore 64. I bought it. I love using it. But yeah, like they couldn’t exist alongside, you know, IBM clones and or the Mac, God forbid.

Fisher Wagg: So in my world, what happens is the Commodore equivalent, a company called Ensign, it’s a naval thing anyway. They work with the secretive lab who’ve developed secret processing technology that took them like 10 years in the future. So in the 80s, instead of Commodore, like releasing, you know, Commodore 128 Commodore, like whatever, here’s the C64 as a laptop. It’s no, no, no, they jump ahead far. They are suddenly they’re like building the internet.

Like they’re like, we’re already in like mid 90s, like they’ve they’ve got full color graphics, like, you know, they’re including CRTs and ever she’s like something something has happened here. And they destroy everybody. It’s a monopoly. Like it’s literally they become this like ubiquitous computing force, not unlike Microsoft or Apple today, where they are it’s just everything is Ensign controlled. And we’ve because of that ubiquity, one day something happens, and that triggers the the processors and all these devices, it’s not just computers, it’s phones, it’s like security cameras, it’s your router, it’s your electrical panels and your houses, like all these things run off this like ternary fluid, it’s called a fluid ternary computing. And all of these things are all interconnected. And one day a switch flips. And it’s like, Oh, actually, we’re alive.

We’re sentient. So the game of breakout is you discover over time, like, this this computer is like haunted, dude. There’s a guy in here. It’s like, there’s a little man, he’s flipping all the switches in the background. But so it’s a really weird game. But I did I did I did really set myself. I put it on steam, which was kind of a feat at the time. Cool.

In like 2015. And because I put that out, self published, I then went to apply for a QA position at Sunday month, another local game developer. And by that time, I had learned more stuff I had started working as as a rest database developer at a company called Effective Assessment as a Java guy. And I’d learned enough Java to like, learn how to, you know, some basic object oriented computing pro patterns. And from there, I just learned Unity at Sunday month, and I started going to work I worked on a game called paparazzi, which was a first person photography game where you take photos of dogs.

So it’s a paparazzi. And you it’s really fun. So I worked on that as a level designer. And I’m really proud of that work.

And it’s featured on my website, Fisher That’s on steam. That’s on Xbox, on switch. That was like a pretty big deal for us.

Because we got picked up by an Xbox game pass. And that was like, yeah. And after that, unfortunately, what happened was the company basically was like, we can’t afford to care about young projects. So it was like, we were all contractors anyway. So we were all just let go. So I went to go work for one of the owners of Sunday month.

Again, Ryan Huggins at weather sweater. And so then I worked on skater Gator, which was a high speed platforming, lane jumping kind of game. Again, as a level designer, that was a really interesting project because the game was like really fast. It was really hard to build levels for that game that wouldn’t just be long and frustrating. So you had I was I so I specifically was like, I need to find a way to make this game both easier, but also fun. Meanwhile, there was another guy working on it who was also a level designer, who his approach was I need to make these levels as hard as possible.

This gives me like extremely difficult. So we were both like working on different ends. And because of that, I feel like the game feels really whole.

Because I was like really interested in like teaching players how to like maneuver certain things. But anyway, so that game came out, it wasn’t really a hit. Like it wasn’t really people weren’t super like into it.

But that’s not really, you know, anybody else’s fault. It was just like, we didn’t really have money to market it really. It was really just to have a proof of concept that we could make games to get funding later on. Anyway, so unfortunately, that I couldn’t really maintain that as like full time employment. So I had to go work for global foundries.

But I had some free time. I started working again for whether it’s whether on like a part time contract, which was the sequel to Skater Gator Skater Gator 3D, which is way more fun. It was like a console platformer kind of like Mario 64 kind of game.

But you still have that like lane jumping aspect. And it’s I not only did I work as a level designer on that, but I also recorded vocals for the theme song. So if you ever play Skater Gator 3D and you hear this guy singing at you suddenly, that’s me. And I wrote those lyrics to, which is kind of an interesting challenge.

Because there aren’t a lot of example, or I would say there aren’t a lot of good examples of video games with songs written for them that aren’t just like, yeah, man, you’re in the video game, jump, here’s what’s happening to you right now in the video game. And so I was like trying to like abstract that. So like, like, for example, I really dislike the there’s a song and I know you’re not like a huge gamer, Becca.

So I’m sorry, that’s like a tangent like whatever. But like in Super Mario Odyssey, there’s a song in there that’s like, jump up superstar, get the stars and coins or whatever. Like this is so like, yeah, you’re just describing what you do in the game.

Becca Hammond: So like, all right, I’ll just rip that off. And so I just like wrote a song that’s like, yeah, jump from side to side and songs called side to side. And it’s kind of like fun. It’s kind of like a Skaw.

It’s like it’s like a Skaw dance kind of song. It’s fun. Nice. And that was like my first time, like recording and showing people my music for a long time. And if surprised a lot of my friends who had like had been hearing me like play, you know, everyone’s like post like, oh, here’s a recording of a song, I just wrote whatever. And they would just hear this and they’re like, what the hell is this? Like, this is like pop music?

Like, where did this come from? So I, you know, I like to think I have some range there, I guess, but it’s not, I wouldn’t say I’m like super interested in like doing more stuff like that. But it was a lot of fun. But anyway, so I worked at that game. And now I’ve now I’m like, trying to work on my own games for myself.

Because after that, I went to go work on some other big NDA projects that I just can’t really talk about at all. And now I’m just like, it’s back to being a hobby for me. Now it’s like, I’m just kind of done. It’s not just that I’m done with the industry right now. The industry is done with people like me right now.

Like, there’s no room for, you know, creative level designers right now, unless they’re like integral to the company. I think that it’s one of those markets that there’s just so much. There’s so many video games. There’s so many like it’s too many.

Tappy, Tappy, pay to play. And they there’s massive companies that are building these things as fast as they can in different countries, not America, but like they literally just have people.

Fisher Wagg: I mean, in Asia, yeah, it’s a huge market.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, just cranking these things out.

Fisher Wagg: And a lot of American companies are just trying to compete with those companies. So that’s why, you know, we’ll see a lot of games that like, why is this game of a battle pass? It’s like, because there’s a ton of people out there who are like, I only play games with battle pass, which is insane for us to think about. And it’s like, why do we want to pay money for games?

It’s because for a lot of people, that’s the perceived value. They want that. They want this continuity. They want like these games that will just always update forever. They want these live services. And it’s not sustainable. It’s just it’ll never be sustainable.

Becca Hammond: Right. Yeah, I feel I love video games. I’m a very odd duck in terms of video games, because like software engineering, a lot of people immediately assume I two things. One, I’m obsessed with video games. Right. Two, I’m obsessed with anime.

Yeah. And neither of these things are true about me. But I grew up with a Super Nintendo. Like I love certain types of video games. However, I’m one of these people that I get incredibly nauseous when trying to play new games. I cannot play Skyrim Skyrim about Made Me Pukes. Really?

I tried to play I cannot put a VR headset on. Yeah, it immediately makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. So I there’s a huge there’s like 35% of the population. Yeah, it’s a big problem. And the whole industry kind of went, oh, look at how beautiful the graphics are. This is the most important thing about video games. It’s excluding people.

And right, it’s excluding people. The playability often these games suck. Every game is like a copy of another game. And to me, I think the ones that always, I still think of World of Goo.

Fisher Wagg: I love you know, there’s a World of Goo too coming out.

Becca Hammond: Yeah. And that’s such a beautiful, like creative, weird and love World of Goo. Things like World of Goo, Plants vs. Zombies, which the craziest thing about this is that everyone saw those games and the way they were designed and ripped them off.

Fisher Wagg: They ripped them off. They didn’t fulfill the like there’s no heart. There’s so much ripping off.

Becca Hammond: And it kind of kills me like I want to be a creative like I’d really love to work on this stuff someday when I have free time. I’d love to work on these things for myself as a creative type person. But the way you talk in that industry is so weirdly off putting to me because everyone’s like, well, it’s a first person shooter. And I’m like, can’t you come up with like, and they’re like, well, I stacked six other concepts from six other games onto the first person shooter. And I’m like, so you came up with nothing original.

Fisher Wagg: Where’s the, there’s this beautiful world you can explore while playing knockoffs of six different games. I think, and I think this is super relevant to our earlier discussion about genre is like genre is in my opinion, genre is killing the game industry. I think this adherence to like, that’s why indie games are so popular now. It’s because indie games, indie games is the genre. It’s like, you know, oh, indie games are genre, but that means there’s no constraints for what an indie game is. Yeah, you know, indie games could be freaking anything.

And that’s why I like living in that space. I don’t like working on AAA games, because they’re, they’re like this, this is a rogue like, or like this is a first person shooter action RPG. Yeah. And anything that don’t fit in these like terms is like, I’ve discarded this from, from any design discussion. And that’s your, you’re just missing out on not just like the creative fulfillment of making games, like you are building something like truly original, because there’s so many mechanics in the world that can just interact with each other. And like thinking about these things as like, you know, oh, because I’m a first person shooter, I can’t also have like a match three element in my game. It’s like, yeah, you totally can. And there’s games like, I mean, I don’t, okay, I don’t love Jonathan Blow.

I know you don’t know who that is, but I don’t love Jonathan Blow. But the witness is a classic example of somebody being like thinking like, Oh, I like these puzzle games. And I also like these first person walk around, look at pretty things. I can combine these things into a game that’s called the witness where you just walk around and solve puzzles.

And that’s the whole freaking game. I really liked it. You know, I think a lot of people, I mean, it’s not, it’s not the perfect game, but it’s, it’s a really good game. I think it’s, it’s very, it’s really good.

And he’s, you know, he was really smart for just thinking, I could just put these two things together. And it’s like the two cakes problem is that a lot of people are just constantly like worried that gamers are picking between cakes. You know, the two cakes problem. Have you, are you familiar with this? No, but I think I see where you’re going.

Yeah. So it’s, you make a cake and you bring it to, you bring it to like a bake off and you’re like, Oh, it’s shit. Somebody else already made a cake and it’s bigger and it’s better than mine. It’s like, God, it’s like fancy icing on it. Everybody else is coming is, uh, cheers those up to the, to the bake off.

They’re like, Holy shit, there’s two cakes. Like, you know, this is great. And that’s, that happens a lot in video games that people are constantly looking at other people’s video games and judging their own video game on that. It’s like, dude, you know, like from a marketing perspective, I understand that because they’re, because, you know, games are expensive and they always have been expensive and they’re actually, frankly, $60 for video game is actually not enough. It’s like, they should be, if we were coming for inflation, we should be paying like $100 for a triple A game, you know, but the, the perceived value of a game is difficult for players to understand until they actually are in it. And because the way marketing works for video games, you have to be like, you have to look as flashy as possible. And that’s like, you can’t get people to play unless you market correctly. It’s, it’s, unfortunately, it’s a downward spiral of eventually resulting in like, as many art does under capitalism, um, where it’s just like, you end up in the, like the minimum viable product, which is those like four letter acronyms, you know, it’s like, oh, this is a MOBA. Oh, this is an ARPG. Oh, there’s an FPS. And it’s, and it’s, uh, the homogeneity of it is, is, yeah, it’s, it’s kind of cancerous, I think, because like a lot of people are like, oh, I just want to make roguelikes for the rest of my life. I’m like, that’s, that’s boring. Right.

Becca Hammond: And it all comes down to what you want to do with it. Right. I think one of the most inspiring, well, two, I’m going to bring up two. Yeah. The guy who made Minecraft, that was solely coded by one dude. Yeah, I’m sure.

Fisher Wagg: Well, yeah, there’s a long story. There’s all sorts of stuff that obviously that’s grown into a what, three billion dollar company. Like that has changed. He made it as a fan game for another game, but yeah.

Becca Hammond: Right. Right. Well, that’s kind of it, though, is like, what did he do it for? Didn’t he do that for his kid?

Fisher Wagg: No, it wasn’t for his kid. So, Notch, uh, Marcus Person, um, is the name of the guy. Uh, he’s also a giant asshole. Um, but, um, I’m calling you out. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.

A million other people have also called on ever this. Um, but, uh, he did not make it for his kid. He didn’t, he didn’t have kids. Um, but he was, um, he was, he played a game called Infiniminer, which was basically a game made by, uh, I forget, Zack something. I forget. I’m a bad game developer. I don’t know this guy. Um, but he, uh, this game was like really exciting because it was like, Oh, wow, I can like build these blocks like, like this, the world is generated.

It’s infinite. Like he saw that and said, Oh, I can make better world generation. That’s basically all he thought. And he’s like, Oh, and I can have these like survival mechanics, I guess.

And he just started playing with it. And the thing that Minecraft did that Infiniminer didn’t was that Minecraft was like a workable, secure multiplayer game. Infiniminer was multiplayer, but, um, this is a true story. The code was not obfuscated. So when you make a multiplayer game, your code has to be obfuscated. Otherwise, you’re introducing extreme risk to the players because somebody else can log in with a client that is identical, but he’s a malicious actor in that network. Um, so if the second you do that, if you do it even once, your entire multiplayer is screwed, you have to start over. Right.

Becca Hammond: That wasn’t the intention.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. Which is how things evolve in code. Yeah, exactly. So Infiniminer is that is what happened to Infiniminer. You can’t play Infiniminer multiplayer securely. It’s just, it can’t be done. Um, so Notch just was suddenly the only multiplayer. Um, you know, Minecraft was suddenly the only multiplayer block building game out there. Right.

Becca Hammond: Which multiplayer is kind of a thing in and of itself. Yeah. It just blew up. Like that wasn’t a concept in the nineties.

Fisher Wagg: We didn’t have, well, yeah, it’s split screen, but yeah. Right. You’re sitting with your buddy or your four buddies, which I miss very heavily. And video games were very like something you did with your friends. Now you, now you sit hundreds of miles away from your friends. Yeah. And you’re cussing out some guy you’ve never met. Yeah. Right.

Becca Hammond: Uh, well, my point of bringing that one up though, and uh, see, bad, bad example, you know more about, and like things like Whirl, Whirl’s stupid. Whirl’s so cutely stupid, but he made that as like a fun thing for him and his fiance to do. It wasn’t like, oh, I’m going to try to make a flashy game. I’m going to try to fit the mold. I’m going to try and market it. No, like the first iteration of Whirl, which sold for a frickin million dollars is literally just like HTML, text screen, JavaScript.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. Oh, and it’s even dumber than that. It’s like, it’s like all of you could just look in the code and see all of the words. Right. Oh yeah. You just, you could just use the inspect like console or whatever and just be like, oh, there’s the source for all the words for every day for the next like year. All right. Yep. That makes sense.

Becca Hammond: Right. Cause it wasn’t, that’s, and it’s funny that stuff like that breaks through the noise. Like this is so simple. It’s really fun. Yeah. It’s actually something a little bit intelligent versus another.

Fisher Wagg: Well, do you remember? Yeah. I mean, do you remember 2048? That was like a slider game. It was based, it was a ripoff of a game called threes, which was a really like a really fun slider game. And you could still, you can still get it online. And actually it was very popular back in like 2014. And they only just now rereleased threes on Steam and it’s doing well.

It’s doing really well. Cause the story of like, yeah, this simple concept that was ripped off by a million people of just like, you combine similar things together and they produce a bigger thing and you have to match bigger things. Like this very simple concept was really well done the first time around. And it’s just cause somebody had this really original idea and like did it well. And again, like it became a genre and that genre kind of kind of ruined it. Like it just over time. It just wasn’t as fun.

Becca Hammond: Yeah. Oh man. Okay. Well, I feel like we’ve discussed many things.

Fisher Wagg: Yes. Sorry. It’s been broad. Oh, don’t worry about all. Do you have any upcoming shows that you wanted to talk about? Yeah. I mean, I don’t know when this will go live, but Tuesday of this.

Becca Hammond: So the coming 12th, the 12th. Okay. So I’ll have all the show that Friday, March 15th at Despacito. And then I will play at Despacito again in April, potentially twice.

I don’t know. It’s in the works. But I’ll definitely play on April 21st. And then I’m working on getting a show in May. I’m trying to do at least one show a year.

Sure. One show a month. Talk about one show a year, that would be sad. So I’ve got, you know, a lot of stuff. So I mean, stay tuned. Follow me on Instagram and stuff. What’s your Instagram? My Instagram is atfisherwagg. F-I-S-H-E-R-W-A-G-G.

Becca Hammond: Do you want people to look you up on Spotify?

Fisher Wagg: Yes, please. Even though all my music there is bad.

Becca Hammond: Oh, it’s not. I like to listen to some songs this morning. I appreciate it. And you also have, do you want to share your email? Should I share that with the Yeah.

Fisher Wagg: I mean, if you want to, if you want to chat, you can email me at fisher.wagg, email. Just because I don’t know. I like to talk to people and every once in a while, I get into interesting discussions with people.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, for sure. Okay. All right. So and your website for your development portfolio.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. If you’re interested in level design, yeah, Awesome.

Becca Hammond: Okay. I think we have covered everything. Thank you so much, Fisher, for coming on the show. This has been a really fun conversation.

Fisher Wagg: Yeah. You can also follow me on Twitter, which is horrible, but I’m sorry. I mean X. Yeah. No, I really don’t mean X. Yeah. I’m also on Blue Sky. They’re both at Stupid Massive, which S-T-U-P-I-D-M-A-S-S-I-V-E. And you can find me there. Thanks.

Becca Hammond: Okay. All right. So the show notes for this episode will be at forward slash 47. Thank you so much, Fisher, for coming on the show. Thank you all for listening and have a great day.

Thanks. Thanks so much for listening to the end of the show. Subscribe to Vermont Talks on your favorite podcasting platform. You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, all over the web. Contact Becca at if you’d like to be interviewed or if you know someone who should be. Thanks so much to Jason Baker for creating the show music. The views and opinions expressed by the guests are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vermont Talks. Any content or statements provided by our guest are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, anyone or anything. And that’s what was new in the 802. Have a great day.