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Napoleon Dynamite doesn’t have as much time to game anymore, either

Image used with permission by copyright holder
The actor best known as Napoleon Dynamite has been busy exploring voiceover work of late, including Almost Heroes 3D, Pickle & Peanut and the new indie video game from Pencil Test Studios, Armikrog. A classic adventure game with a claymation aesthetic that was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2013, Armikrog is a spiritual successor to The Neverhood. Heder, who’s currently filming Ghost Hunters with Justin Long and David Krumholtz, hasn’t been active in the video game space — even though he’s a pretty big gamer. Heder explains why that’s likely to change in this exclusive interview.

Digital Trends: Outside of Disney’s Epic Mickey 2, you haven’t done a lot of game work. Why did you decide to get involved with Armikrog?

Jon Heder: Doug TenNapel is a friend of mine and he’s super talented. When he came and asked me to do the game — I’ve been doing a lot more voice work recently and I play video games — but I really liked the concept. The fact that it’s stop motion animation is great. I’m very intrigued by that. And it was good getting out there and putting my voice or face or whatever behind someone who’s trying to do something different and something new.

Can you talk about your character Vognaut and what it was like to bring him to life?

Working on this game has been fun, but it’s such a lengthy process in animating and programming and everything. You realize Vognaut is a bad guy in the story and I typically don’t play villains, so it was fun for me to play that. There’s also this evil brother relationship, which I relate to and really respond to in a lot of the work that I do. Doug is friends with both me and my older two brothers, so he was able to see a lot of our own interactions with each other and the kind of relationship that we have.

Would fans be able to learn things about your relationship with your brothers by playing this video game?

Like how much hatred there is? (Joking.) Probably not. But there is a little of that stuff like when you’re dicking around with your brothers and giving them crap. It’s almost what he’s doing here, but in a loving way. I don’t know the entire story of the game at all. I know that Vognaut is the bad guy and he’s centered around Doug’s crazy drawings, which I think are great.

This is obviously an indie game. What role do you see indie game developers playing in the industry today?

Some of my favorite games that I’ve ever played are indie games that you find on Xbox Marketplace or PlayStation Store and download them. Indie games have really blossomed and really found a place where artists and creators can come together, just like there are different outlets for filmmakers to get on now with YouTube channels and Netflix and the Internet. It’s great to see the stories and characters and new gameplay that comes from indie game developers putting their art out there and doing it in a format that’s kind of small.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

What are some of your favorite indie games?

Braid, Limbo, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. When you think of Limbo and Brothers, you’re really following a story and this mood, more so than you would sometimes with a film because you’re spending more time in the world. There’s so in depth there. They indie developers create these soundtracks that I really care about. I have the game soundtracks to all three of these games in my music collection, which is just kind of weird and funny to me to be able to start adding those to my collection. But they’re beautiful and they really capture an essence. The BioShock soundtrack is pretty incredible, and Red Dead Redemption is another amazing soundtrack. Those are the main ones I can think of now.

How big a gamer are you today?

I’m a gamer, but I’m not a hardcore gamer. I don’t play every game that comes out. I surround myself with my core gaming circle which is a couple of my close friends and my two brothers and they play a lot more games. My oldest brother he works for WB Games and he worked for Activision for quite a while, so he’s been in the gaming world and he’ll play a lot. My twin brother plays a ton. He plays everything.  So through them I distill the best games. I’ll take their suggestions and I’ll find a couple of games I’ll play them each year. I used to do a lot more online gaming, but now I’m more just single-player.

What’s a recent single player game you liked?

They had been bugging me for years about playing the Batman games and then Arkham Knight just came out and that looked amazing, so I got all of the games and played Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Arkham Knight this summer.  I sat down played them straight, so I got a little hardcore gamer this summer.

One of these days maybe I’ll play Skyrim. All my friends and brothers keep telling me that I have to play that. It’s like a no-brainer.

What are some of your favorite games?

Mario Kart has always been my go-to game. I have my social games, I have my in-depth games. BioShock and BioShock Infinite were always my favorite, aesthetically, but Red Dead Redemption blew me away.  Those are games that just take you in and put you in another world, and I really enjoyed those. But then I like sitting down and playing a good Mario Kart game with my wife. I’ll play Super Smash Bros. with my kids. I played Halo for many years, but I haven’t played it in a long time. I used to play Halo with my buddies online quite a bit and then we got into Gears of War and we played a little bit of Call of Duty. But Halo and Gears of War really were the games we’d hardcore play. But then my gaming has tapered off the last couple of years.

What changed?

We started having more kids, and less times and earlier mornings. You had to get up early, so we couldn’t stay up as late. But we go every year to E3 and we’re always like, “Dude, we got to find a new game to get back into online gaming.” Some people are telling me Destiny.  Some people tell me Halo 5. I’m really excited for the new The Last Guardian game. I don’t think it’s an online game, but it looks amazing.

You can’t go wrong with Destiny and it’s from Bungie.

The Halo games are extremely fun to play online and on multiplayer, and I guess I felt Destiny was just so similar in terms of the look and creating that similar-looking world that I’ve held off.  It’s like I need something a little bit different, but a lot of people are recommending it to me.

What console are you playing on these days?

It’s weird making this transition.  I was playing the Xbox 360 for years, and then I switched over to the PS4.  And now I’ve got to get used to a whole new control scheme.  I’ve got to get used to triangles and squares instead of X/Y/A/B. It’s been too long since I’ve been on my Xbox.

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering video games for over 25 years, dating back to his work for The Washington Post while in…
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