A Profound Waste of Time: Caspian Whistler celebrates video games as an art form
There's always been some negativity around video games. That they're a distraction or perhaps something only children should enjoy. London-based graphic designer and creative director Caspian Whistler hopes to smash this outdated misconception with the publication of A Profound Waste of Time, a beautifully designed print magazine that celebrates the gaming industry and all the people within it.
A Profound Waste of Time (APWOT) began life as a student zine while Caspian was studying Graphic Design & Communication at the University of the Arts London. Featuring no screenshots but instead 200 pages of bespoke, world-class illustration each issue and with writing from internationally renowned contributors, the publication aims to humanise the video game industry – showcasing it not as a business, but as a fulfilling creative pursuit by passionate individuals.
Launched on Kickstarter following graduation in 2016, Caspian attracted enough support to bring his passion project to life. In fact, he worked almost singlehandedly on the design and layout of the first two editions – the latest was only released in August. It proved so popular that it sold out immediately and so Caspian is back on Kickstarter again, hoping to raise funds to re-print them both.
"I never could have imagined APWOT becoming as big as it has," Caspian tells Creative Boom. "The very first student zine got a bit of attention on a gaming site I posted it to looking for feedback, so I sensed there might be an audience for it. That being said, the extent to which the magazine seems to have resonated with people is just beyond my wildest expectations. It’s immensely gratifying to see what it’s grown into, that there is such an audience for it and that people love it as much as they do."
The fascination with gaming doesn't just come from Caspian's love of computer games; it's about respecting the amount of work that goes into creating them, too. "Games are such an incredibly difficult thing to make," he adds. "Coding, music composition, mathematics, writing, 2D artwork, 3D modelling, UI/UX design, acting... I don't think there's another medium that requires such proficiency over so many different fields and disciplines.
"The games industry is such a confluence of different talents, so much so that every game released that is actually functional is honestly a bit of a miracle in itself. Especially when you consider how much has to align. The people who make games are particularly passionate as a result of all this. They're driven and creative individuals who are trying to make the best art they can, often without the resources and time they really need, all because they inherently understand how compelling and captivating games can be. It's that shared, passionate love for the medium that makes the scene so special and covering it so enjoyable."
Does Caspian have a favourite video game himself? "My favourite game changes all the time depending on my mood so I don't think I have a definitive answer for you. Recently I've been thinking a lot about The World Ends With You, an absolutely bonkers and inventive DS game set in modern-day Shibuya. The game follows a reclusive and untrusting teenager who is thrust into a life or death situation (think paranormal Squid Game) and then learns to open up both to people and the world around him. Art and culture is a big part of that game's identity and theming, from its loving rendition of Shibuya's streets and youth culture or to its protagonist's passion for graffiti and graphic design."
Caspian continues: "The game's core message is about opening up to the world around you and experiencing as much as possible. Being a reclusive and sad 19-year-old myself during my first playthrough meant TWEWY deeply resonated with me, not only for its messaging and bizarre gameplay concepts but also because it was an exciting representation of a place and a culture I'd never experienced."
As for the bad press game design has had over the last few decades, Caspian believes many people don't fully understand how big the industry has become: "It's gargantuan," he says. "It generates more cash than the film and music industry combined." That being said, the financial side of the games industry isn't really what Caspian is aiming to celebrate with the publication. "I'm more focused on the deep impact these games can have on us as human beings, which is something that I feel isn't really articulated enough."
"It was very interesting growing up and feeling that there was more to these cartridges and discs than I could articulate to the adults in my life," he explains. "I think APWOT is very much about trying to correct the dissonance between how games are perceived and how they actually are. They aren't just violent time-wasters with a great capacity to make money but in fact, are deeply impactful and genuinely enriching experiences for us as human beings. This is why APWOT has no news or reviews and is instead long-form writing with bespoke illustration: I want to show that games are inspirational."
A five-year project in the making, APWOT isn't just a kind and humbling tribute to game design and digital art, it's also been a chance for Caspian to flex his creative muscles. He even believes it has been more educational than his undergraduate degree. "I've learnt about art directing illustrators, editing articles, project planning, editorial layout, printing and manufacturing, legal contracts, communicating to an audience and more. This mag has been a driving force behind all of my twenties so far, and the list could go on for ages but I'll spare you all the minutia."
But the main thing he's learnt from this venture? Persistence and self-belief. "If you work enough on something it will eventually bear fruit. There have been so many setbacks and problems on the road to getting the project to this point, but learning to keep at it and not be disheartened is something I really will try to take forward for the rest of my creative life."
Once the reprint has taken place, Caspian hopes to create a third edition of A Profound Waste of Time. "It would be weird to do two issues and stop, so there has to be an APWOT trilogy at least," he says. "Ideally, I'd like to have a bit of a rest and take some time to focus on other projects for a bit, so I'm not sure when the third magazine will emerge. However, I already have so many ideas for the next one, so I hope people are excited for it if it's eventually announced."
If you'd like to support Caspian, head over to Kickstarter to back the magazine. Or you can find out more about Caspian at caspianwhistler.com. "It really is a special project that only exists because of the generosity of its audience, so I'd love to keep doing it as long as I can. I'm very grateful for the opportunity," he says.