Interview: Onion

Today we’re joined by Onion. Onion is a wonderful game developer and 3D modeller. They’re a small game developer who mainly uses the small game engine Bitsy and is currently experimenting with Unity. They’re background is in animation. Their games are a mode of storytelling, allowing Onion to explore experiences and share them with the world. It’s clear they’re a dedicated and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

Last year I helped make some assets for a collaboration on a
game jam where I made a game with a friend and since the start of this year I
began making my own games. I mostly got into making games by using Bitsy (ledoux.itch.io/bitsy) which is a small
editor to make simple usually narrative games. We have a sizeable community on
discord and plenty of awesome people who actually know code (unlike me) that
make hacks and edited version of the bitsy editor for more complex games.

I mostly just experiment with trying new things in bitsy and
just telling whatever stories I want. I think most of the time I just come up
with a narrative I want to tell and then I figure out how I can actually do it.
I like to challenge myself with the way I use hacks in bitsy. Considering bitsy
itself is rather simple, it’s always fun to see how far I can go making the
specific game I want to make. A lot of it is faking effects and “cutscenes” and
figuring out all the things that can be done with variables when you use hacks.

I’m slowly learning other game engines too. I’ve made a
unity 3D game by myself with the help of some friends since I really barely
understand any code. I feel like that’s almost one of my goals- to learn to
make games without specifically going out of my way to learn code. My goal is
to make the narrative games. I like creating a narrative, characters and
writing dialogue. Creating a sense of a relationship between the player
character and the NPCs (non-player characters.) So I will use every hack and
every resource I can find or buy. I don’t need to build my games from scratch,
I’m not the most interested in the game mechanics.

It depends on the game but a lot of times I want to create
games where people can just relax. I want people to feel cozy. Of course these
aren’t the only kind of games I make since I don’t want to limit myself but it
is very important to me. I’m still learning and checking my own biases but I
want to make inclusive worlds. Even in a game that makes you feel unease or
mystery, I never want it to come from bigotry.

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What inspires you?

My friends. I think they are my biggest inspiration. Of
course a lot of my ideas come from media- what I like and what I want to
change. Same with trying to include many non-binary characters and different
sexualities. I really like romance so that always ends up in my games in some
way (or at least I ship my own characters together.) But the inspiration to
continue making games, to get excited and actually strive for my goals…that’s
all my friends. Practically all of them are LGBT+ especially those making
games. So I think we all try to empower each other through our games. There’s a
special kind of feeling that playing a good game, reading a good book, watching
an amazing movie can give you and it’s even more special when it was something
created by a friend. It’s very inspiring. It makes you want to create.

It’s very almost magical to find a welcoming community full
of friends who all support you and enjoy what you make. It’s like having a
safety net so you aren’t as worried when you experiment and aren’t sure if
whatever you’re making is any good.  

What got you
interested in your field?  Have you
always wanted to be an artist?

I always wanted to be an artist but what’s always changed is
what kind of artist. I think as a kid I mostly only knew fine art so that’s
sort of what I guess I wanted to be. I don’t think I really thought about it
properly at that young an age. Later I realized I wanted to make comics since I
really love making up stories. I’ve tried starting a few webcomics but always
sort of quit after making on average three pages. At the end of high school, I
thought that I wanted to be an animator. Which is kind of funny when my
favourite parts are messing around in photoshop and not like…animating. But
well I tried getting into a 2D animation school but my art wasn’t up to their
level. So I went to college for 3D animation. I learned that I do NOT like
animating…. but I do like 3D modeling. I thought until this year that I’d be
fine just doing 3D modeling. Turns out 3D modeling to just make something is
very annoying but 3D modeling to make games? Now that’s fun. It’s mostly very
satisfying seeing all the assets you make come together and look good. Most of
my games are pixel art though because bitsy graphics are pixel art. Also pixel
art is well faster to make especially the small tiles in bitsy.

It’s kinda hard to just decide on one thing I want to do
though. It’s really fun to just switch it up. I think I get bored very easily
if I only keep doing a single thing. I want to get better at 3D modeling but
also at pixel art and graphic design. There’s always a pressure to just get
good at one single specialization and I dislike that. It’s not easy to fight
your brain that tells you if you don’t get good at something you won’t ever
find a job but it’s good to be curious and want to learn more. I actually
watched some lectures about user interfaces and redesigned my website for the
third time. It’s good to learn if you’re actually interested.

Do you have any kind
of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work
that you’d be willing to reveal?

I guess most of the characters in my games are non-binary. I
leave it open to interpretations though the general rule is all my characters
are LGBT+. Most of my games use “they/them” for basically all characters. It
was something I started it as a way to maybe help me explore my own gender or
just to get something to ground it in reality. There aren’t that many
non-binary characters in media so I wanted to create worlds with a large
variety of different non-binary characters.

Also I guess since I’ve taken the name onion, I’ve made
plenty of content staring onions. But it’s not something I add into everything
I make. It is sort of my mascot now. It’s probably a little confusing for some
people that I have a character who’s name is “onion” but who isn’t actually me.
Then again, I write a lot of myself into my characters so maybe in a way it
still is me.

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What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Not wanting to create every day is valid. It’s good to take
breaks. Even long ones. I know a single activity doesn’t sustain me for long. I
loom knit, doodle, even got into doll customization when I got very burned out
from doing 3D modeling. Even currently I’m barely making any games since I
stretched myself too thin and tried to do to much. You have to pace yourself
and allow yourself to rest. Don’t try to do like 3 different game jams, a small
zine and camp nanowrimo in a month and then continue to do like 2 game jams
each month. It doesn’t matter if you make short games.. it still saps away all
your energy. Learn from my mistakes.

Also you really don’t have to have everything figured out. I
keep having to remind myself I’m only 22 years old. I can’t have everything
figured out. There’s so much pressure from society and it makes no sense. I
know I myself get trapped in such thinking but I try. I think the best thing I
ever did for myself was somehow teach myself to be happy for people’s success.
I still get jealous but it doesn’t make me quit. I just get inspired. Seeing
someone enjoy what they do and be good at it is inspiring. So let it inspire
you.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I’m a bi ace/aro (and also non binary 🙂

Have you encountered
any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not in the field but sure in personal life. Mostly I
surround myself with people who if not understand, but accept it. The most
pushback I’ve gotten has been from my mom who didn’t believe me the one time I
tried telling her while I was still in high school. And so far I haven’t tried
again. I guess I haven’t really had much pushback in my life so I’m pretty open
about it. I don’t know if being open about it is why no one has ever pressured
me to date them or not but I guess it works out alright.

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What’s the most
common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I think the biggest is that we don’t want to have sex. Or
that many people lump ace and aro people together. I mean it’s funny for me to
say that as I am actually both ace and aro and also sex repulsed. But that
doesn’t mean everyone is. I mean as sex repulsed as I am in real, sex
fascinates me a lot in media- and I’m someone who can’t even look at two people
kissing each other. There’s a spectrum for everything.

What advice would you
give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their
orientation?

As someone who always wants to have myself figured out,
believe me it’s alright to just sort of leave it be. You can always change your
mind or figure out something new. Your sexuality could be fluid/flexible or
not. Just know that you can totally feel like you are ace & aro and still
be bi or gay. I think for a long time I struggled with that. Even earlier this
year. But I guess it’s just good to know that you can still say you are ace/aro
while you’re on a spectrum for one or both of them. You don’t really owe anyone
all the details or to prove yourself. I kinda wish I felt that before but I
think the imposter feeling is always more internal.

Finally, where can
people find out more about your work?

My games can be found here: https://le-onionboi.itch.io/
My portfolio website is: tzvezdina.com
And my 3D models are over here: sketchfab.com/tzvezdina
You can talk to me on Twitter at le_onionboi too!

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Thank you, Onion, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.