A Profound Waste of Time may be the only place you’ll see those franchises this year
Physical gaming events are dead, at least for now. E3, Gamescom, and EVO have all gone online-only. Physical media, on the other hand, is thriving. Limited Run, the boutique retailer and publisher, had arguably one of the best showings at E3 this year. Collector’s editions for everything from Metroid Dread to No More Heroes 3, are selling out almost instantly. With COVID-19 vaccination rates leveling off and new variants of the virus causing infections to rise, people still can’t get together like we used to. Maybe that’s, in part, why we’re willing to buy physical things, made by real people, that we like and admire so much. In a lot of cases, it’s the closest we can get to each other.
When it comes to that kind of cozy intimacy, game stuff doesn’t get much better than A Profound Waste of Time. The second issue of the magazine (that’s really more like an art book filled with essays and prose), just went up for pre-order, and it’s bound to sell out soon. The first issue — which, full disclosure, features a massive Shovel Knight cover story written by yours truly — has been sold out for a while, and there’s no reason to think the next one won’t follow suit.
We took the pending release of the new issue as an opportunity to catch up with Caspian Whistler, creator of the ‘zine, and longtime member of the Destructoid community.
In fact, many of you may remember his posts in our cblogs about the project, back when it was something he was working on for college. A lot has changed for him since then, but as you’ll see, he’s still got the same love for games that brought him here in the first place.
Jonathan: Cas, you’re running a small start-up, working exclusively in print media, creating a physical product that’s only sold online, in the year 2021. How’s everything going?
Caspian: It’s been a bit bumpy but I’m hanging in there.
J: I know A Profound Waste of Time has been pretty much been the defining work of your adult life, and that frankly, you’ve been something of a perfectionist about it. So out of all the games you could have chosen to best represent this ongoing project that you’ve put tens of thousands of hours of work into, why did you choose Shovel Knight, and now Katamari Damacy, for your cover stories?
C: In a lot of ways Shovel Knight is the definitive modern indie game. I don’t mean that just because of its quality, but also in terms of how it was crowdfunded and supported after its launch. It has all the charm of the 8-bit games that many people grew up with, yet it’s also decisively modern and fresh. It felt right then that APWOT would have a game with that background our debut cover, as this is a project that is also steeped in the past with a contemporary edge to it. We’re a physical games magazine. Most of them have died out, yet our approach to games publishing is still viable, thanks to crowdfunding.
I think beyond that, while I can’t pretend to know any of them truly, it’s always struck me that the team at Yacht Club are really open to experimenting with their worlds and characters, so I figured there might be a chance that they’d be up for collaborating with us. I showed them the zine I made with people from the Dtoid community, and they said yes to letting us put Shovel Knight on the cover!
With issue 2, now that we were established, I wanted us to do something with a bigger and grander scale, focusing on many games rather than just one. I’d always been fascinated by Keita Takahashi’s work, and how unique his style is. All of his games are very different, yet you can tell instantly that he had a hand in them just from the aesthetics and energy. I wanted to see if we could capture that in an original composition. His career is incredibly experimental and interesting, so to try and unify it all and celebrate it in one image was an amazing challenge. We worked with architect and illustrator Doug John Miller, which has given the final image a really endearing mix of realism and surrealism. Working with him and Keita on this was incredibly fun.
J: I didn’t know that you showed Yacht Club that early version of the ‘zine that you made with members of the Dtoid community. And the way that process has stacked for you, how that little zine led to the big one with Yacht Club, and how that one led to this even bigger project with the creator of the Katamari universe and so many other amazing games. Well, it’s just incredible. I’ve heard that issue #1 of A Profound Waste of Time won multiple awards, and was even featured in a museum? Clearly, it scratched an itch that your audience wasn’t getting scratched elsewhere. But who exactly is your audience, and what’s, uh, making them so itchy?
C: Huh. Honestly, I’m not sure if I can define the audience.
I think a big part of creating the magazine for me was just having a space that spoke about games in a celebratory and positive manner, where at the time a lot of games discourse felt very caustic, at least in my opinion. (Note: this was back in 2015.) I also was really taken aback by how many beautiful and considered journals there are for other areas of the arts and culture sector, but there was almost nothing comparable for video games, even though they are such a huge part of our zeitgeist.
You see this disconnect when mainstream news reports on something video game-related, they often open with a little reminder of how big the industry is and how much money it makes, even if it’s just tangential to the story at hand. It’s almost like that cash flow qualifies games for our attention in some way, but that’s not really what’s important. We all understand that games make money, but there’s still a gap in terms of how games are discussed broadly and what they actually do for us as human beings. APWOT is trying to give games the same care and respect that we would give any other area of our art and culture.
When people see this magazine with no adverts, reviews, screenshots or ‘news’ to speak of, I think they’re baffled at first. Thing is, readers quickly recognize that dropping that stuff opens us up to do something really timeless and different with the format. I think anyone who enjoys good art and nice words can enjoy it, even if you haven’t got any real interest in games at all! That being said, if you are interested in games, or more specifically if you care about games as a medium, APWOT is for you.
J: I want to hear more about what you’re saying about how, and when, your readers first recognize that APWOT is special. You know that I’ve brought a bunch of copies of the first issue with me to PAX a few years ago, not to sell, but just to let people hold in their hands for a bit and flip through. Not everyone cared, but the ones that did loved it so much. The smiles on their face made the back strain from carrying around a magazine that’s the size of a small phone book around all day totally worth it.
More than any other project I’ve been a part of, I think APWOT is something you can’t really “get” by reading about it online or looking at screenshots. You really have to feel the weight of it, to feel the space it takes up, to get even close to the full effect I know I may sound a little like David Lynch ranting that you can’t watch a movie on a fucking phone, but, well, I guess there are worse things than sounding like David Lynch.
Was that always part of the plan? To make a magazine that was almost like a sculpture, in that it was only ever intended to be a real, physical object?
C: It’s completely unnecessary to release a new video game magazine in the age of the internet, so we try hard to justify it being a physical thing by including elements that you can’t really replicate on a screen. Fold-out sections, glow-in-the-dark ink, removable prints, cutouts and stuff like that. The things that make it a pleasure to hold in your hands are what make it special.
Also, I think when people have the full magazine they hopefully get a sense of impact from looking through the whole book in its entirety. This is going to sound a bit daft but I try to channel the Smash Bros. series when making the magazine. In Smash, when they’re representing a series or a character, you really get a sense that they did so with a huge amount of love and attention. The joy of seeing a series represented in Smash isn’t just from the fact that ‘X video game IP’ is now in the game, but also how that series is re-imagined and recontextualized in a wonderful way. The sense that the implementation was done with care and understanding for the source material is something we try very hard to carry over into the final magazine.
Hopefully, when people see A Profound Waste of Time and how we represent all the games in there, they can feel that it’s done with a genuine love of the medium and the worlds and characters within it.
J: It’s got to be stressful though. I’m not going to lie, part of me envies you for being able to pull off this amazing project two times in a row now, but I don’t envy the amount of work, and the number of risks, that you’ve had to take on in order to get it on. With the next issue about to release, what are you hoping for, and what are you most afraid of?
C: My main hope is that people like it and share it with people. It’s not simple to live through times like this, or to try and get something made during them. The magazine lives off of goodwill, both from the people who donate to our Kickstarters and the contributors who pour so much into it. It would be really gratifying if after all of that work, the magazine was a success and it resonated with people.
I think my biggest fear is that it’s simply ignored. Whenever you make something after a long period of time has passed, there’s always a fear that it may not be received in the same way. Have people moved on? Is this thing you’ve worked on even relevant anymore? Will it meet the expectations of the people who’ve stuck around? There are so many unknowns, but regardless of what happens I’m incredibly proud of what we made with this issue.
J: So for the long term, what are the best, worst, and most likely possible outcomes for the future of A Profound Waste of Time?
C: Best case is we sell out instantly and massively expand our audience, so there’s enough attention and support to be able to afford a reprint of both issues and begin work on a third!
The worst case, like I said, is that no one cares about it.
Despite the success of the Kickstarter and all the amazing people who have come on board to be a part of the magazine, A Profound Waste of Time is still my side gig. Most likely, I’ll need to take some time to work my day job until I can properly plan the next move for the magazine.
J: I pre-ordered two issues today Cas, and I plan on giving them out as gifts to Dtoid folks who I know will love it. So no matter what happens, I know you’re going to make at least those two people very happy.
C: Bless you.