Monthly Archives: February 2014

Once upon a time: Alexander Francois


Photo © Alexander Francois

Every now and again we interview an erstwhile Structo author for the blog. This time it’s the turn of author Alexander Francois, whose story ‘Barcode’ was featured in issue seven, the final edition of Structo to be printed on tabloid newspaper. ‘Barcode’ can be read, in full, over here.

We recently found out that Alex is also a game designer, and recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his studio’s first game: The Slaughter.

How did you come across Structo? Why did you choose to send ‘Barcode’ here?

A friend of mine, the ‘zine artist Jimi Gherkin, directed me towards Structo when I expressed interest in contributing to a magazine. ‘Barcode’ was a very experimental piece of writing for me, and I was unsure how it would fit into a genre-focussed publication before finding Structo. Structo‘s characterisation as a magazine which ‘tends towards the slipstream end of things’ sounded like a perfect home for ‘Barcode’, and a publication I’d be proud to contribute to.

Can you tell us a little about Brainchild Studios?

Brainchild is a design studio which acts almost as a pseudonym for my name. I wasn’t quite ready to divorce myself from all of the norms of the gaming industry and create a game purely under Alexander Francois as a literary author would, so Brainchild was born from a desire to have an intriguing name which doesn’t necessarily scream game design. This means the studio, and its creative output is never bound by the typical expectations of the gaming medium. Brainchild’s first project The Slaughter was successfully funded through Kickstarter in December, and I’ve been hard at work creating all aspects of the game since then, from writing to animation.

Are you doing any other writing at the moment, or is The Slaughter taking up all your time?

I’d love to say I’ve been writing on the side, but The Slaughter requires a huge amount of work. I write each scene much in the format of a play, but with the addition of multiple choice dialogue options, and the resulting dialogue trees. On top of this, I have to write several meaningful responses to interactions with almost every object or piece of scenery in the game. The game’s plot allows me a lot of creative freedom as it incorporates everything from nursery rhymes and poetry, to songs, dialogue and inner monologues. It’s almost like writing a play, album and poetry anthology at the same time – something which is often as intense as it sounds!

Which other games do you rate for their writing?

There are countless games I adore for their plot, but when it comes to the quality of spoken and written dialogue, it becomes trickier to decide. A few that spring to mind are Psychonauts, Portal, Tactics Ogre, and Broken Sword. Despite its often convoluted plot, I love the Metal Gear series for its playfulness and realism, with dialogue often following obscure tangents such as discussions about the original Godzilla movies. I also love the writing in Dark Souls for its minimalist quality; you are forced to gather some semblance of a plot through sparse encounters with other characters in a world where even item descriptions are intriguing and help to build the lore. I feel this is where games set themselves apart from movies; creation of a formidable and personal atmosphere in which the audience is deeply invested.