Ninterview: Dan Clarke And Jake Smith Talk Project Dolphin, A Print-Based GameCube Tribute
Posted by Damien McFerran
"More games consoles need to be bright orange and have a handle"
By day, Dan Clarke and Jake Smith run JP74, a digital design agency based in the UK, but by night they're passionate gamers with a love of retro. Given their design background, it should come as no surprise to learn that the duo has successfully combined interactive entertainment with art, having already produced limited edition prints celebrating the Sega Mega Drive. Their next venture focuses on one of Nintendo's most underrated pieces of hardware: The GameCube. We sat down recently with the pair to discuss the project.
Nintendo Life: Can you give us a little background on yourselves, from a gaming perspective?
Dan Clarke: Like a lot of people my age, I grew up with consoles. I have a brother who's three years older and I remember him getting a Mega Drive / Genesis for his birthday, but I was always a bigger fan of Nintendo stuff and my first console was a SNES. We spent a lot of time travelling when I was younger so I probably went through every iteration of the Game Boy, and my dad happened to be in Japan when the N64 launched so he picked one up for us. I've since owned every major Nintendo console — apart from the Wii U.
Jake Smith: Being older than Dan, I grew up on 8-bit home computers and moved into consoles with an imported Japanese Mega Drive. Since then, I've had pretty much every console, learned Japanese at college to help with translating Japanese gaming mags, worked at Sony Europe play testing games, and now collect rare and interesting consoles and spend far too much time on eBay while running a digital agency.
Dan Clarke: I think a lot of people in the creative industry who are of our generation will definitely cite video gaming culture as a big influence on their work. I don't get as nearly as much time as I'd like to play games now, but I've just bought a 3DS and I'm hooked on Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Nintendo Life: What inspired you to start this project?
Dan Clarke: It's really just about combining two things we enjoy: graphic design and video games.
After we completed the MD-001 project me and Jake had a bit of back and forth about what to do next. We had initially discussed some of the more obvious ones (NES/SNES) but I feel like they've already been covered quite extensively in terms of design/homage/tributes, so we decided to go for something much less obvious — we both really like the GameCube not just from a games perspective, but as a piece of design and as an object.
Jake Smith: We were discussing which consoles were iconic, and that'd be coming up to "collector" status soon in their life span, and we started discussing GameCubes. We agreed early on that we both had to agree on the subject matter, but once we'd mentioned the GameCube, nothing else really got a look in.
Dan Clarke: In comparison to the previous project — which felt quite "arty" — this is a little bit more intricate and crafted. We're also involving people from the gaming press to contribute their own experiences with the GameCube and we'll be applying those to the prints. We're also keen to tap into some of the excitement that comes from collectable things, so we're restricting all the prints to very low numbers with no reruns.
Nintendo Life: What are your aims with this venture?
Dan Clarke: I don't think we have any specific aims other than to have a bit of fun whilst creating something nice. This certainly isn't a money making exercise — we would have just done a 10,000 print-run of a SNES poster if that was the case! As with the last project we'll be pushing anything we make from this one into whatever we decide to do next.
Jake Smith: It's our way of contributing back to the gaming community that we've enjoyed so much for so many years, fuelled more recently by Twitter and the ability to connect with gamers, writers and producers across the world. We want to feed back into that, and do something that people will admire, and we'll be proud of. Even if it's small scale, we want to do this to the best of our ability.
Nintendo Life: When do you expect people will be able to place orders?
Dan Clarke: I don't think we're very far away. We have some parts to finalise in terms of layout and materials but I'd like to think some time in September. I think it's important that people are able to see exactly what it is that they're getting as opposed to just mock ups, so we'll only put it on sale once we actually have everything ready to send out — and we have some nice photographs to prove it.
The Japanese GameCube launched on September 14th, so that would certainly be a nice date to aim for if we can.
Nintendo Life: Do you consider the GameCube to be something of an underrated system?
Dan Clarke: I think so. For me, it's the last home console there was that felt more like a toy and less like a set top box. New consoles are so serious and inconspicuous, they just don't look like they're designed as objects you have fun with — which I guess is a bit of a reflection on the way the mainstream industry is heading these days. More games consoles need to be bright orange and have a handle.
Jake Smith: I agree with Dan. It's the last real "fun" system, and despite being overshadowed, it's still got some great games. I really like Luigi's Mansion, Mr. Driller: Drill Land and I adored the art direction of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It gives me a type of gaming experience I don't get on other systems…and I love that controller!
Nintendo Life: What other Nintendo hardware do you have a strong connection with?
Dan Clarke: I can't decide between the N64 and the SNES. I'll go with SNES as it was my first console.
Jake Smith: Game Boys. I must have about twenty of them, from a biverted modded original Game Boy, Tezuka Osamu Game Boy Light through to a screen-modded spice GBA.