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Earok interviews Jonatan Söderström, aka Cactus

Jonatan Söderström, also known as Cactus, is a popular freeware game designer noted for his highly unique and imaginative art games. Both myself and some of my readers are huge fans of his work, so I worked up the courage to ask for an interview, and he was kind enough to provide one.

Special thanks to Sam Jeffreys for suggesting some additional questions.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jonatan Söderström, and I'm a 23 year old Swedish Independent Game Developer.

What originally got you interested in gaming?

I played games when I was a kid, and I enjoy creating stuff. Being able to create your own little worlds is a fascinating idea.

How do you get the inspiration for your unique creations?

I get inspiration from lots of things, sometimes it's games, sometimes it's another visual medium, and even audio can give me ideas. It's all about noticing things that could be interesting to explore on your own. Usually I find it harder to get inspiration from an idea that has already been perfectly executed, it's a lot more fun when someone has a cool idea, but they don't explore (or maybe don't understand) it's full potential, so I can get ideas of how I would have done it, had I thought of the idea first. Many times I can come up with ideas that are different enough for me to be able to use them without feeling like I'm ripping anyone off.

What tools do you use for creating games?

I've mostly been using Game Maker, which is excellent for prototyping simple game ideas. Lately I've tried using Flash also, but so far I can't say I like it much. It's a bit easier to work with than I would've expected, but it's got a lot of things that annoy me. Maybe it'll grow on me.

I have three questions that come from a friend of mine. The first one is, how did the deal with E4 come about?

They contacted us, and asked us if we wanted to do a game for them.

Second question, what do you think of Messhof's recent venture into commercial releases with 'The Thrill Of Combat'? Do you see yourself trying a commercial model anytime soon?

I've tried it. A while back I was making a game called Akuchizoku and asked for donations in return. The full version is yet to be released, though. So maybe it doesn't count.

I support Messhof, and hope he'll be able to make a living off of his games soon. From what I gather, not many of his fans are actually willing to pay to play his games, which I find very weird and sad (he's basically my favourite game designer right now). I'm not sure I would want to know how many people out there would be willing to open up their wallets for something I've made, although I've had some success with donations earlier.

Third question, Which project are you most excited about at the moment?

That's a tough one. I'd say that I'm looking forward to finishing Mondo 3 the most, but I've been so busy lately I haven't been able to get very far with it.

I have three more questions of my own now. What do you see as being the future of art games? Do you see art games ever breaking into the mainstream?

I'm hoping people will start making entertaining art games. Most of my favourite movies can be described as art flicks, but they're very entertaining at the same time. Art games these days don't seem to care too much about entertaining the person playing. It's a bit like a good song without the music, just the lyrics. Very hard to get completely absorbed in it. Then again, I think there are art games that are very fun to play already, but they aren't widely seen as art games. Messhof's creations should be called art, for instance, but it seems that games like Passage, The Marriage and The Graveyard gets most of the attention from art people since they take a more "mature" and obvious approach to it.

If art games become more entertaining, then they could break into the mainstream market, but I guess they would probably not top the charts.

I'm fascinated by the speech of the TV guys in the Mondo games, how did you create that audio effect?

Well, I normally don't like voice acting in games and didn't want to use a language that people would be able to understand, since that would likely make the content of what was being said sound silly. So I sampled someone giving an angry speech in an audiofile I found online, reversed it and added some reverb to make it less obvious that it was playing backwards.

Finally, I really enjoyed watching a video of your lecture at the GDC. Am I allowed to repost it on my blog?

I don't mind at all, and I don't think anyone else will, but I'm not sure it was completely okay for it to be leaked in the first place, but so far no one has said anything about it :)


Jonathan's website is, and his blog is at My personal favourites are the two Mondo games and Shotgun Ninja, but they're all worth playing.  There's a torrent of his hilarious yet educational GDC lecture on a certain Swedish website, but you didn't read that here.