Meet the Team: Thomas B.

 
 
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Who are you?

Thomas Barrer, graphic designer and game dev. I make pixel art and very unoptimised low-poly junk. I also deal with most of the ShelfLife social media, I guess??

 

What games or stories inspire you?

The Persona Series. I appreciate Persona 4 especially for exploring some LGBT themes with Kanji, one of the main characters. Kanji is like a rough, juvenile delinquent who has some intense internalised homophobia / biphobia. In this game the characters enter dungeons that materialise the dreams and desires of those trapped inside. Within the dungeons are Shadows - which are basically suppressed feelings and emotions that must be defeated. The whole setup is pretty much a metaphor for finding self-acceptance, and overcoming insecurity. Without giving too much away, Kanji must face his own negative bias' towards effeminacy and sexuality, and metaphorically defeat his "Shadows". Cool!

Grandia. Solid, excellent adventure game with delightful characters and generally pretty awesome settings. You start this game as a young guy and his friend having pretend adventures in their hometown, acquiring "legendary" armour and weapons (which are like pots and pans and a wooden sword). Eventually after gaining some light combat experience you set off from your home on an adventure, which gets you embroiled in a shady military plot. There is this one really spectacular moment where you reach the "end of the world". You find this gigantic ancient wall that you climb and climb and climb. Reaching the top and then seeing the unexplored land stretch out on the other side is just this really epic moment. This game gets the “sense of wonder” award.

The Earthbound/Mother series. I was delighted to play Earthbound on an emulator as a kid. It's so different from most fantasy roleplaying games, since these are typically set in a kind of alternate-universe middle ages or Victorian era. The real-life, modern setting of this game was my first experience with how slice-of-life and Role-Playing can be combined. I really enjoy how the early enemies in this game are like rabid dogs and crows and snakes and police officers which you fight with household items. One of the highlights of this game for me is taking the bus, where you just chill for a bit while the characters jump on a public bus which travels through strikingly beautiful and minimalistic game world.

Suikoden 2: This is basically my Skyrim. A pixel art fantasy epic set in a sort of feudal Japanese inspired land. This game has a really solid "the country is going to war" narrative, and explores themes of friendship, family and shifting loyalties. There are a lot of characters in this game (108) and they all have enough traits to feel reasonably believable. There's a plethora of sidequests, minigames, and emotional story beats that are so satisfying to see unfold.

What's your ideal breakfast?

Summer: Cold leftover pizza, Winter: Vegemite on wholegrain toast, specifically with a hot chocolate.

What are some characters you really like?

Tiffany Aching from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.
A young but mature witch from a farming background, Tiffany is an extremely fleshed out character with believable inner monologues and behaviours. She spends a lot of time considering her actions, usually using a process of "first thoughts" "second thoughts" and "third thoughts" which is a technique one can use to analyse and critique their own, flawed, human behaviour by examining reactions and emotions as they are happening. Tiffany is strong in all of the right ways, and has a kind of diligence that is very moving - she is always very quick to insist that "magic" is mostly just practical assistance, like making cheese, midwifery and giving stern advice.

Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Buffy is a very complex, flawed, sassy, and ultimately fun character. Throughout her TV series we see a lot of different sides of Buffy, moments of extreme strength when she is fighting ridiculous villains and moments of complete vulnerability such as when she experiences the sudden death of her mother (which is probably one of the best episodes of television across the board). There is a character arc I particularly love when Buffy is working a job at a fast food place and has to deal with the trivial but still frustrating stresses of a service job alongside her duties as a Slayer of Evil. The juxtaposition between pleasing a grumpy fast-food manager who has it out for you, and the pressure of still needing to fight evil after work is amazing. Plus Buffy has delicious fashion.

Kira from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.
I'm of the mind that Dio (generally the most popular and widely recognised Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Villain) is a lame, flat, vampiric idiot. Kira is a much more well-realised Villain, and definitely a huge part of this is due to the viewer getting to spend a lot of time with him "behind the scenes" and sort of empathise with him in a very twisted, uncomfortable way. There is something really sinister and interesting about a small-town serial killer with a fetish for hands.

Vivi from Final Fantasy 9.
Vivi is very sweet. This character is a malfunctioning Black Mage, a kind of combat golem originally made for war with a limited lifespan. Vivi does not have warlike tendencies. I guess there is some parallel to The Iron Giant here. Vivi wants to find out more about his origins, and the reason for his existence. He kind of goes from being quite clumsy and insecure to finding strength from the support of his friends. The allegory for finding your identity and finding a group of friends to accept you is especially strong with this character, and I think this kind of motif resonates well with people who have experienced prejudice, rejection and isolation.

 

What's your favourite song(s)?

"Patience" by Entertainment for the Braindead. "Paradise" by Noname. "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!" by Sufjan Stevens. “Soft Cars” by Pickle Darling.

 

What is your favourite and least favourite trope/cliche?

Favourite: villains becoming friends/working together with the protagonists. The cliche of a quiet, lazy, small hometown where time passes slowly. The Wizard of Oz-esque journey from the normal into the bizarre.

Least favourite: Unhappy endings for LGBTQIA+ stories. Also overly "cool" and edgy character designs with no quirks, character or substance.

You're pretty cool, do you want to come for dinner sometime?

Yes, can you pick me up though? I'm still on my learner's licence.... Actually, let's just eat at home. I make a reasonable curry.

 

What do we need to see more of?

Thoughtful, kind, non-reactionary feelings. Enthusiasm, forgiveness and big companies phasing out single-use plastics.