You are viewing gloomforge

Keith Baker
12 February 2008 @ 04:01 pm
Over the last few days, I've had a number of people contact me and say "Hey! Why don't you acknowledge Edward Gorey's influence on Gloom?" One went so far as to say that the artist had clearly used tracing paper to duplicate some of Gorey's art.

There's two issues here: the art of the game, and the overall style and humor of the game. While I may be a novelist and a designer of RPGs, computer games, and card games, there are many fields I haven't mastered, and one of those is artist. I didn't do the artwork for Gloom; that would be the work of Scott Reeves, Lee Moyer, and Todd Remick. For that matter, I didn't even commission the art for Gloom; that was done by Atlas Games. So I can't tell you exactly what instructions the artists received, or what inspirations they drew upon. But more on that in a bit.

As to the game itself, was Edward Gorey an influence on the game? Indisputably. I've loved Gorey's work since I was a child, when I first saw the animated titles for the TV show "Mystery". I especially love "The Raging Tide", and I'll admit that when I first put Grogar (the Frankenstein's Monster for Girls teddy bear) in, I was thinking of Hoogleyboo. However, Edward Gorey was not the sole influence for the game... and what annoys me most about these "It's a Gorey ripoff" comments is that they ignore the excellent work of many other artists and authors.

Now, one of the original complainees was upset that I didn't even acknowledge this influence on my website. Obviously I can't retroactively add acknowledgements to the game. But I can certainly give an honorable mention to the people who influenced me here, and it seems like a worthwhile thing to do. I think that they're all geniuses, and encourage you to seek out their work.

EDWARD GOREY: A master of morbid humor. One of his best-known works is "The Gashleycrumb Tinies", an alphabet primer that chronicles the unfortunate demises of children from A to Z. This is an obvious precursor to Gloom's untimely deaths. With that said, we never hear anything of the children of TGT other than their deaths, while Gloom requires players to build up tragic stories before death can occur; likewise, Gloom actually includes POSITIVE things, allowing people to be comforted by cocoa or married magnificently. Admittedly, you don't WANT these things to happen, but my point is that it's not just a direct "Faster, adorable orphan, kill kill kill" translation of TGT. Nonetheless, Gorey's dark sense of humor is an obvious influence on the game, and the use of alliteration in the titles of the modifiers is certainly an echo of his style.
Suggested Reading: Amphigorey; Amphigorey Too; Amphigorey Again.

CHARLES ADDAMS: Gloom is a game about eccentric families going through bizarre cycles of fortune and misfortune; I'd think the parallels would be obvious to anyone familiar with The Addams Family in any of its forms. Of course, Addams' work extends far beyond that one set of characters, and his sense of morbid humor was just as much of an influence on me as Gorey.
Suggested Reading: The World of Charles Addams.

STELLA GIBBONS: A lesser influence, and far less known, but important to me nonetheless. Stella Gibbons wrote a novel called "Cold Comfort Farm", which was published in 1932 and later translated to film and TV (most recently in a 1995 version starring Kate Beckinsale, Ian McKellan, Rufus Sewell, and others). While only the Old Dam is an especially close tie, the Blackwater (green) family was inspired by CCF - the doomed country clan with their grim matriarch.
Suggested Reading: Cold Comfort Farm - both book and film are worth checking out!

LEMONY SNICKET: AKA Daniel Handler, author of "A Series of Unfortunate Events". Among other things, it was Lemony Snicket who convinced me that there was a modern market for morbid humor. I knew that *I* loved Edward Gorey and Charles Addams, but what about the kids? ASoUE showed that the youth of today could appreciate a doomed family tossed from one tragedy to another, which is what Gloom is all about.
Suggested Reading: A Series of Unfortunate Events (begining with "The Bad Begining").

MARK BEYER: Another modern writer/artist, Mark chronicles the miserable lives of Amy and Jordan. Balthazar the Unfaithful Hound may have been inspired by Beyer's City of Terror "Mugged by a Dog" trading card, which has always been a favorite of mine.
Suggested Reading: Agony

GAHAN WILSON, MATT GROENING, and GLEN BAXTER: Three more artists whose sense of humor has certainly inspired me over the years. Gloom's "Devoured by Weasels" death was a variation of Groening's dissertation on love: "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."

If I sat down and looked through the game, I could draw out other sources; just looking at the Wellington-Smythe family, you've got The Omen, The Crucible, The Others, and Damn Yankees. But I consider all of the people named above to be important influences on the game, and if you like the game, I advise you to check out any of them that you're not familiar with.

So given that this is the case, why haven't I done this before? Because, honestly, it never occured to me. First, it seemed to me that the inspirations will be obvious to anyone familiar with the work. Second, I've never actually seen a card game do this before. Magic: the Gathering doesn't say "Thanks to J.R.R. Tolkein and Jack Vance", not to mention the artists who inspired various styles within the game. Most art draws on inspirations. Games are no different, either in flavor or mechanics; there are few entirely original ideas. If I had based the ENTIRE GAME off of Edward Gorey's work - actually quoting the Gashleycrumb Tinies or using characters from his stories - not only would i have mentioned it, I would have needed to license it. As it was, Gorey was *an* influence, but not the only one - and again, I've never personally seen a card or board game provide a list of artistic influences.

As for the art, again, I can't say what the artists had in mind. Obviously Gorey is a strong influence on the art, at that makes sense, because it fits with the flavor of the game. Some of the characters have an especially strong Gorey feel, such as James DeWinter from Unhappy Homes. On the other hand, I feel that other characters have a very different look. As I said, I was thinking about Hoogleyboo when I came up with Grogar, and to me the final Grogar doesn't look like something I'd expect from Gorey. The lines of Goody Zarr don't seem to fit his style at all, and the entire Circus family has a very different feel. Todd Remick's work in Unwelcome Guests has a completely different flavor; if anything, I think it's more like Gahan Wilson than Edward Gorey. So I can't speak for the artists, but sure, I think it's only logical to assume that Gorey was an inspiration for them... but not the only one, as shown by the variety of styles throughout the work.

In any case, all of these artists and authors have been an inspiration to me, along with many others - if you're not familiar with any of them, check them out now... before you suffer an untimely death of your own!
Current Location: Boulder
Current Mood: gloomygloomy