One of my absolute favorite videogames of the last five years is the insanely hard, often times frustrating, but always engrossing Darkest Dungeon from Red Hook Studios. The game’s creative director, Chris Bourassa, was at MIGS 2018 hosting a panel and I was lucky enough to sit with him for a chat during the event.
At a panel called “Paint it Black: The Art and Design of Darkest Dungeon,” Chris talked at length about the game’s design and artistic choices. He related many items back to superheroes and in particular Batman. I noted that in the talk he mentioned Batman no fewer than eight times, so as a card-carrying Batman megafan I felt obligated to chat with him not only about his game, history, and process but also about the caped crusader.
We started our conversation about Batman in earnest, with questions about favorite storylines, opinions on Robin and the Bat Family, and why Batman is so damn cool. SPOILER ALERT: I do spoil the Batman/Catwoman marriage story arc, so listen with caution if you don’t want to know the outcome.
One of the more interesting points he made about Batman also relates to Darkest Dungeon.
He stated that the coolest thing about Batman compared to the rest of the DC universe is that he’s grounded and tied to Gotham, and not at the godlike levels of Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. His mortality and organic relationship with Gotham make him a more tangible and real character; without Gotham there is no Batman and vice versa. This grounding and raw reality is what makes Darkest Dungeon so engrossing. Without the perils and danger the game would not have the pull it does.
We then moved off Batman and on to Chris’ journey to form Red Hook Studios with his partner Tyler Sigman. Chris always had a talent for art, and grew up drawing superheroes. As a kid of the ’80s he was fascinated by Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Arthur Adams and others. He lived in Yellowknife so he got monthly comic book deliveries, and a pivotal moment was in a special X-Force issue when part of the comic shifted from Liefeld to Mike Mignola. The contrast was glaring: Liefeld’s work was over the top and colorful, Mignola’s simple and dark. This shifted Chris’ artistic perceptions and led, in a long convoluted way, to his art style in Darkest Dungeon.
He had a long schooling and work path, having gone to University for a Sociology and Philosophy degree and later a degree in Animation. He then worked freelance and for assorted game studios, but most of the major projects he worked on were cancelled. This led Chris and Tyler to form their own company just so they could control the path and future of their time and projects. The end result after five years is the insanely successful Darkest Dungeon.
Please listen to the full interview above to hear all about Batman, the road to Darkest Dungeon, how Red Hook Studios came to be, and more from the energetic and supremely talented Chris Bourassa of Red Hook Studios.