Hot Seat: Lorne Lanning

Hot Seat: Lorne Lanning [Hosted by IGN]
Date: June 11, 2008
Interviewer: Michael Thomsen
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning


Hot Seat is a new feature on Insider where we’ll bring you a more personal portrait of some of the most prominent game developers in the world. Instead of asking them to pitch you their latest games, we’ll be digging deeper into their personal lives, tastes, and inspiration in the hopes of creating a better understanding of who they really are. We’ll be aiming to show you the human being behind the game. In the tradition of all good Hot Seats, nothing will be considered out of bounds or off-topic.

Lorne Lanning is a pioneer of sorts. He began his long and audacious career as a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City before moving to the California Institute of the Arts. After completing his education he began working in the film industry as a Visual Effects Supervisor and Art Director helping to implement digital effects into film and television. In 1994, Lanning made the leap into gaming, and with partner Sherry McKenna, established Oddworld Inhabitants. Lanning and McKenna set out to create the “next generation of interactive entertainment,” by melding animation, technology, and interactivity. The result of their work, the Oddworld Quadrilogy, is one of the most unique, endearing, and wickedly subversive games in popular culture. The most recent game in the series Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath was widely acclaimed as one of the most innovative shooters of the last generation, combining addictive shooting gameplay with an impassioned parable about deception, exploitation, and consumption. It’s one thing to make a fun game, but it’s something else entirely to make a fun game that speaks to the world we live in with such open-hearted idealism.

We had a chance to put Mr. Lanning in the Hot Seat and find out more about the man behind the ambition. Here’s what he had to say.

1. What’s something you tried to do in your life that you failed at? How or why did you fail?

Lorne Lanning: It was a mission of mine to get my mom to take responsibility for her health. I tried, I failed, she’s gone now.

2. What’s something you do that you wish you didn’t? Why?

Lorne Lanning: Bikram yoga. I just started doing this. 115 degrees in the class. Man, it’s a killer. But being unhealthy is unbearable, so it’s the price we pay for good health.

3. Does your work say anything about you?

Lorne Lanning: If your work doesn’t say anything about you, then it doesn’t say much about the passion factor in your work. Striving for excellence, relevance in content, inspirational material in the creation and designs, innovation… all of these things reflect possibly too much attention on the dysfunctional nature in the world of humans, along with that never ending feeling that my work is never quite good enough.

4. What’s a place in the world that you love going to?

Lorne Lanning: Alaska. Few people, big mountains and rivers, big bears, hairy women and big fish!

5. Who do you envy?

Lorne Lanning: Jack Thompson and George W Bush. Both are living proof that the mainstream media will relentlessly give lying, self serving asswipes full-scale attention while never revealing them for the cynical, moronic frauds that they so obviously are. Now that’s a skill!

6. What would you be doing if you weren’t making games?

Lorne Lanning: Making fine art and designing sustainable communities and architecture.

7. What are the last five songs you listened to?

Lorne Lanning: Not a clue, they were all part of a long DJ mix from Gabriel & Dresden – Toolroom Knights Vol. 2.

8. What movie do you hate?

Lorne Lanning Star Wars… the last three that George wrote and directed himself. After being so inspired by the first couple of films, the new ones have proven even more painful to watch.

9. If you had to choose someone to interview you, who would it be?

Lorne Lanning: Bill Moyers.

10. Where are you from?

Lorne Lanning: Connecticut, New England. USofA.

11. What’s it like there?

Lorne Lanning: Some parts are nice, some parts are decrepit. Nice place to visit, but too conservative for my tastes.

12. What was the last scary thing that happened to you?

Lorne Lanning: I’ve been in a high speed pursuit (I was just a kid, not my fault, I wasn’t driving), motorcycle crashes, car accidents. fallen off a bridge, fallen thru the ice skating, fell into category 5 rapids, stumbled into a well populated snake pit, met a full grown wild grizzly bear who stepped out of the woods and into my lunch plate, even lived in a haunted house. But none of these compare to when I had to let a live skunk out of a cage that I accidentally trapped. Man, THAT was scary. My heart was racing so fast I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I knew if I failed I’d be projectile vomiting for a week.

13. What’s the last book you read?

Lorne Lanning Noam Chomsky’s “The Imperial Presidency”. An incredibly well documented account of a little man with a little brain who incompetently rules a once great nation.

14. What did you think of it?

Lorne Lanning: Impeccably researched, astoundingly insightful, and utterly depressing.

15. Name one thing that you wish one of your hero’s would do that they haven’t yet done?

Lorne Lanning: Overthrow our government.

16. When was the last time you laughed?

Lorne Lanning: This morning. Squirrels are hilarious.

17. When was the last time you felt embarrassed?

Lorne Lanning: Two days ago. I sat too long at a greenlight – reading my email till someone honked. Everyone hates when others are doing it, but you know everybody does it themselves.

18. What game that you have worked on do you feel didn’t get a fair shake?

Lorne Lanning: Stranger’s Wrath. A long story told too many times.

19. When was the last time you left the country?

Lorne Lanning: A few weeks ago… during a shamanic ceremony in Oakland 😉

20. When was the last time you were drunk? 

Lorne Lanning: Wow. I think it’s been years – likely at the Abe’s Oddysee wrap party. Not a pretty sight. I think as you get older alcohol you feel the post affects more. I drank like a fish as a youth, but the more I pay attention to my health and the way I feel, the less attracted I am to alcohol.