Seven Questions for Nicolas Massi

Think games are fun? Think again. Such is the disclaimer-cum-slogan of Atlanta-based Persuasive Games, the four-year-old company behind such videogames as Points of Entry (in which players compete to award green cards under the merit-based evaluation system included in legislation recently debated in Congress) and Food Import Folly (in which players work as FDA inspectors to protect the country from contaminants in foreign food imports using extremely limited resources). Launching later this month is a game about the politics of nutrition (“Fit or Fat? Live or Die? You Decide.”) funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. To get the skinny on the design process at Persuasive Games–not to mention a peek inside the brain of its head art director–we posed seven questions to Nicolas Massi, a former freelance graphic designer who now oversees art direction, creative, and production departments as a partner at Persuasive Games.

1. Can you tell us a little about the design process at Persuasive Games? How do you go about creating and shaping a game’s aesthetic?
Creating a visual aesthetic for videogames is much different than art directing for other forms of media. The interactive nature of games allows the player to become the art, therefore careful attention to both the game design and message we are trying to convey in the game. The unique nature of our work at Persuasive Games also allows us to experiment with the visuals to enhance the message.

2. What are you working on now?
We are about to release Fatworld, “a videogame about the politics of nutrition exploring the relationships between obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in the contemporary U.S.” This game will be available this month at www.fatworld.org.

3. What’s the first thing(s) you read in the morning?
As every morning, the first thing I do is turn on my Mac and read my Netvibes (my RSS Feed), blogs like Kotaku, Design Observer, Guardian, to name a few–then email.

4. Last movie you saw?
XXY (Argentinean movie)

5. Last book you read?
The Pilars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

6. Best/most memorable design-related encounter?
This last summer I spent three months in Europe. I was able to experience the old and new world through architecture, art galleries, exhibitions, and events. As a visual professional, it was an invaluable experience.

7. Proudest design moment?
When a game we did, Disaffected! [a videogame parody of Kinko’s, a source of frustration from its patrons], was named finalist at the Slamdance Independent Games Festival in 2006.