Matthew Seiji Burns is responsible for some of the best and least-discussed narratives and soundtracks in games, namely those in the beloved-for-other-reasons Zachtronics works Infinifactory, TIS-100, SHENZHEN I/O, and Opus Magnum—not to mention the generally under-discussed Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, his Twine work, and his past-life AAA work on the Call of Duty, Halo, and Destiny series.
In this interview, we talk about basically none of those.
Instead we focus on Eliza, the new Zachtronics-published visual novel that finally puts his writing (and to a lesser, though significant degree, his audio) front and center. It’s a game about human connections, moral responsibility, burnout, and the problems that technology and futurism are ill-equipped to solve. So mostly, that’s what we talk about.
You can get Eliza on Steam, Itch, GOG, and Humble.
You can also follow Matthew on Twitter, and discuss Eliza on its dedicated subreddit.
And if you want to hear way more about Zachtronics, here are the episodes featuring the one and only Zach Barth:
• Thanks again to The Mysterious Ian K. for helping me get my thoughts together on this game.
• It was Arlie Russell Hochschild who first talked about emotional labor, most famously in The Managed Heart. What the hell was I thinking when I said Donna Haraway? “Manifesto for Cyborgs,” probably, since that’s relevant to Eliza for other, gender-and-tech reasons.
• Homosexuality became officially not-a-pathology in 1973.
• Here’s that Science Vs about eugenics.
• And here’s Matthew’s game The Arboretum.
• Full disclosure, for those who consider saying nice things about a video game to be the most sacred of trusts: I did some testing/proofreading/incredibly minor script consulting for Eliza.
“All The People Say (Season 3)” by Holly Hyperion.
“Reflection” and “Unease” from the Eliza Original Soundtrack by Matthew Seiji Burns.
Logo by Aaron Perry-Zucker, using Icons by by Llisole, Dávid Gladiš, Atif Arshad, Daniel Nochta, Mike Rowe, Jakub Čaja, Raji Purcell and IconsGhost from the Noun Project.