This is the Sound of Futura!

Join our ‚timeless conversation‘ with Jorin Lee.

What is ‚Ludens‘? really is a thoughtful piece of video essayism and that’s why we reached out to the creator behind these 25 minutes. Lucky us, Jorin Lee – the mind behind Futurasound Productions – could spare some time and participated in our „three questions“ format.

Rudolf Inderst (RI): Let’s put this Shelby in motion then – please introduce yourself and your channel to our readers. Please also include „your one video“ that captures the essence of your work online (I know – somehow that’s not ‚first gear‘ anymore!) 

Jorin Lee (JL): Alright then! My name’s Jorin Lee, my channel’s Futurasound Productions, and I make something I call Electronic Video (or Virtual) Essays. I try to do for the burgeoning medium of YouTube videos, what luminaries like Hideo Kojima have done to video games. In my case, this is a ‚digital fusion‘ that combines formats and disciplines you don’t normally see together – one that draws no hard distinctions between not only forms of expression, but between high and low art. This fusion idea is enshrined in the name ‚Futurasound‘, given it combines a typeface and a sound, and conveys my interest in creating a future for the form. In essence, I try to combine a similar rigor and analysis you’d find in academia, with the production values, sociability, and style, you might find in a music video, a movie, or just a well made, conventional YouTube video.

If there’s one video that illustrates what I do the best, it would probably be Episode 5 in my first miniseries unpacking 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V, Diamonds & Ashes: Can’t Say Goodbye to Yesterday. It’s probably the boldest and clearest I’ve been at trying to make the concept in my head of an ‚Electronic Virtual Essay‘ a reality. There’s no traditional YouTube voiceover. I say what I want to say in this video purely through a postmodern bricolage taken from pre-existing sources. In this I drew inspiration from music genres, particularly those with lots of sampling like hip hop and plunderphonics.

RI: To me, video game essays seem to be a heterogeneous expression and manifestation of artistic ambition, journalistic curiosity as well as academic receptiveness. From your creator’s point of view, how do you feel about this impression? 

JL: I’d say you’re spot on! I think you’re hitting on the hybrid nature of this relatively new medium, and honestly that’s what excites me the most about it – and what sometimes scares me too! To make a video essay on YouTube, you have to wield many blades, often double-edged ones. It can be easy to just look like you know what you’re talking about, given a general audience may not be as well informed or discerning as, say, an art critic, news editor, or professor. The more different formats you bring together, the more you risk becoming a dilettante, and for me that sometimes feels daunting. After all, it’s pretty hard being great at one thing, let alone three or four! 

But more importantly, the disappearing relevance of more traditional gatekeepers not only gives New Media creators like myself power, but with it, responsibility. As someone who once tried becoming an academic, I’m well aware that YouTube has no peer-review process, no grading. Everything tends to be driven not by accuracy, or even quality, but by popularity; and that often puts the creator in a curious constellation regarding truth. After all, the three formats you mention all lie at cross purposes. In academia and journalism, unlike in art, you’re expected to care about the capital T Truth: you’re meant to form arguments through sound reasoning. Art, on the other hand, is something else entirely. But for me, that’s what makes the video essay the perfect medium for bringing these dissimilar forms together. You could even compare the various jobs of a video essayist, to digitally fusing together things once considered as distinct from each other as water and oil.

In 1998, Hideo Kojima explained that in the digital age, former mutual exclusives like water and oil can now be molecularly combined inside simulations. That’s because, ultimately, they are no longer entirely composed of different substances: at least in the digital realm, like in the void of Democritus, there is nothing but the atoms of binary code. In other words, things can be formally synthesized today in ways that were impossible before. Kojima was discussing the original Metal Gear Solid, and how with it, he set out to digitally fuse together film and video games. But the same principle is behind my EVE. 

What makes the video essay in particular the best medium for my work within digital spaces and across disciplines, is this. At the end of the day, an essay, either on-screen or on the page, has never been solely about objective truth. The essay is meant to convey first and foremost subjective truths, via the interplay between fact and fiction, or if you’d like, reality and mind. So while I do my best to apply a similar degree of research, quality argumentation, and formal expertise, to what I do as I would an academic paper or news article, at the end of the day I don’t pretend my work is anything more than my own personal vision – just one version of the truth.

RI: Unfortunately, this already is our last question: Which gaming youtuber channel would you love to take over for one day? 

JL: Oh, that’s an interesting one to end on! I guess I’d have to say The Gaming Historian. I love his work, and I think making mini-documentaries about the medium’s history would be both fulfilling and fun.

RI: Thank you very much for your time! By the way, we also had the chance to chat with Norman aka the Gaming Historian back in 2016.   

Please follow our guest on twitter and do pay a visit to his Patreon page.

Rudolf Inderst

*1978 in München. Lebte in (und ♥️) Kopenhagen. Er leitet mit Norman Volkmann das Ressort "Digitale Spiele" hier bei Nahaufnahmen. Liebt Genrefilmkost, Hörspiele und Podcasts. Spielt Videospiele seit etwa 40 Jahren. Lehrt als Professor für Game Design an der IU Internationale Hochschule. Einmal pro Woche bringt er den Newsletter DiGRA D-A-CH Game Studies Watchlist heraus.

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