Caspian Whistler is the creator and publisher of A Profound Waste of Time, a stunning magazine which pays tribute to the art of making videogames. Featuring renowned figures from in and outside the games industry, and incredible artwork ranging from illustration to sculpture, he is pushing the boundary of what a gaming magazine can be.
Where did the idea for A Profound Waste of Time come from? As a graphic designer was it a case of merging work with play?
APWOT initially started as a self-made publication as a student zine when I was studying for my graphic design BA around 2014. I found that games were often dismissed as being aggressive, violent time wasters, so I wanted to create something bright, hopeful and positive, that celebrated games as a medium in the best possible light. I also loved drawing and writing, so it was fun for me to do all the different bits myself and work all my interests into the project.
As the project grew beyond being a solo student project, I was able to transition my experience into art direction and editing. Collaborating with writers and illustrators became even more rewarding than the work I did on the initial zine and allowed it to become much more compelling.
What is your own connection to the videogame scene?
I have been playing games in some fashion since I was very young, so as I got older I naturally transitioned to following and examining the wider industry around them. It’s a very dynamic and entertaining scene to follow, with a distinct calendar of press events that happen throughout the year, not to mention myriads of subcultures and creative communities. As of now, a huge amount of my friends are in game development or game adjacent.
The magazine has been widely hailed for the beautiful design and illustration accompanying articles. How did you set about achieving this and removing the “white guy with a gun” take on gaming?
As a student I was really impressed by publications that use illustration in imaginative ways, like Little White Lies for example, and wanted to make an equivalent arts and culture magazine for videogames. I felt that by focusing on illustration instead of screenshots and creating content that wasn’t dependent on being current I could create something curated and appealing to as wide a group of people as possible. Games and play are a key part of the universal human experience, but the way games are marketed can be quite off putting for many, leading people to dismiss the whole medium outright.
With APWOT you don’t need to have any interest or prior knowledge about videogames to be able to enjoy it, as long as you like illustration and writing. My hope is that the magazine can be a bridge between interests, and people have told me that they started playing games for the first time after reading APWOT, so it might be working!
What surprises have putting APWOT out into the world thrown up?
Since releasing APWOT, some illustration heavy magazines have sprung up around the world touting it as an inspiration. It’s nice to think that APWOT might have invigorated the independent press scene around videogames.
What games are you playing at the moment? What are your thoughts on the industry and where it is heading?
Recently I’ve been playing ‘Poinpy‘, a mobile game by designer Ojiro Fumoto distributed by Netflix. It’s incredibly tightly designed and compelling, and I didn’t even need to pay for it in a traditional sense. The subscription model that Netflix pioneered has been truly disruptive, with them now even publishing videogames as an extension of that service. Major companies like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are all pivoting into providing online services that give you access to many games and features through a subscription. In one way this competition is good for the consumer, but a side effect of this business model is the increased focus on acquiring properties you can exclusively have on your platform.
We’ve recently seen seismic, staggering acquisitions of gaming companies like Activision Blizzard for over 67 billion dollars and it really feels like a monopolisation of the industry is in full effect. When this is coupled with how expensive it is to produce blockbuster titles it means major releases are looking increasingly alike and risk averse, which is disheartening. Then again, the scene of independent game makers continues to show how wildly inventive and exciting this medium can be, so it’s all about where you choose to look really.
Issue 1 & 2 available now, £25, special editions £40.