Seanbaby speaks: “Calculords is a weird idea that I’d never get to see unless I made it”

I always knew.

You are the last Star Nerd. I always knew.

It’s hugely unfair to keep referring to Seanbaby as a late-90s internet comedy sensation: the man has been working steadily for over a decade, writing for EGM and later, Cracked. The man is probably as tired of hearing about Hostess Fruit Pies as Skynyrd are of playing “Free Bird”.

Fortunately for Seanbaby (and possibly for us) he may soon have a fresh claim to fame: Calculords, a forthcoming iOS & Android collectible card game whose distinguishing characteristic is a lot of math: to deploy a card, you need to combine numbers and arithmetical operators to equal its cost in points. Seanbaby seems to have a lot of faith in the intelligence of the general population. Sarcastic on the outside, but just a big teddy bear on the inside, it seems.

I talked to the man about Calculords — that conversation is after the jump.

1Which I still associate with the monthly comedy mag that competed with MAD when I was a kid.

At least if you want to win it does.

Does compute.

Here’s the basic gist of how Calculords works, taken from the game’s official website:

[To deploy a card with a cost of 20]: This part is easy: add, subtract, or multiply your numbers until you can make that 20!

Okay, here’s where it gets tricky: numbers vanish after you use them! If you’re clever enough to clear all of your numbers, that’s called a CALCULORD BONUS!! It earns you a fresh set of numbers to cast even more cards!

To help you picture this conversation a little better, please note that the head of Seanbaby (if his email avatar is to be believed) is still adorned with the same day-glo mohawk he was sporting back when Bill Clinton was the president. The dude is consistent.

 Owen Faraday: So where the heck did this game come from? It’s a big departure from your nine-to-five.

Seanbaby: At any time, I’m working on 5 or 6 side projects. Some of them are as simple as “Final Fantasy, only for boys” or “A movie just like Bloodsport.” Calculords was a weird idea that I’d never get to see unless I made it.

OF: Why make a CCG –and a pretty unusual CCG at that– as your first game?

Seanbaby: I’ve always really liked CCGs but thought CCG video games were sort of a mess. SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighter’s Clash was amazing, then the sequel sucked. The Magic: The Gathering games barely let you collect cards or edit your deck. And I think your house shows up on Megan’s Law if you play Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon.

I’ve been approached about making games that were wacky platformers or RPGs, but I’m not crazy about video games as a hilarity delivery system. I’ve never written something where I thought, “This joke would land so much better if it was being typed at someone while they played video games.” Plus, a lot of my career has been spent making fun of the cultural wasteland of licensed games. The last thing I wanted to make was some bullshit Seanbaby side scroller where you hop around shooting me references. That’s like punishing the people who like you and asking them to give you money for it.

Not the Bob Villa kind.

There is deck-building.

OF: Tell me about the arithmetic in the game. What’s the reasoning behind that?

Seanbaby: I’m going to sound like a nerd talking about that, and there’s no way around it. I find there’s something satisfying about getting equations to work out. And it works really well as a CCG resource system. You have a pile of numbers, and it’s your job to clear them out while at the same time using them to cast cards. You add in the pre-game deck building strategy and the battlefield tactics and now your brain is thinking in every direction at once. It’s rad, if you’re into that kind of thing.

OF: Are you worried that will make the game a little less commercially appealing?

Seanbaby: Worried isn’t the word. I’m sure many people will glance at Calculords, assume it’s educational, and then forget they saw it moments later. Other people just hate math. I absolutely hope the Calculords is successful, but I made it because it’s fun, not because I’m collecting money. When “commercially appealing” is a person’s motivation, they’re probably an asshole. They should be running a mail fraud scheme, not creating entertainment.

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