KILL SCREEN 031: Digestor is No Fake Gamer GHOUL

Photo by Hillarie Jason

Since its inception, the video game industry has been largely dominated by Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom with names like Super Mario Bros., Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto having reached a level of ubiquity such that even our technologically impaired editor-in-chief has some idea of what we’re talking about. For today’s entry, however, the co-nerds at Kill Screen have been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore gaming’s most remote and unknown market to date: Creepsylvania. The nebulous region, not found on any map and pending recognition from any official government entity, remains best known for its two major exports of turnips and splatterthrash, courtesy of the hooded mutants in Ghoul. The quartet’s latest offering, the five song EP Noxious Concoctions, sees their first recorded output in nearly a decade. Though Ghoul are no strangers to tabletop gaming—2016’s LP Dungeon Bastards came packed with an authentic Creepsylvanian board game—it was the emergence of the band’s two axe slingers Digestor and Dissector on the popular gaming platform Twitch that set this adventure into motion.

With the release of their new EP and scheduled appearance on the Brainsqueeze Tour with Municipal Waste, Necrot and Dead Heat, tyrannical leader Commandant Dobrunkum permitted a very small window of opportunity for the outside world to interact with his subjects. Going to the impoverished nationstate was out of the question, seeing as we’d already blown our travel budget on V-bucks and G-Fuel. But after many backchannel connections routed through questionable websites, clandestine negotiations with a cast of shady characters and a $3 donation to his OnlyFans account, Digestor donned his least bloodied hood and agreed to answer our questions. To all the Ghoulunatics with us today, sit back, stare into the Mezmetron and whatever you do, don’t say the word “golf.”

What was your earliest gaming experience?
I had an Atari 5200. Actually, that’s my earliest home gaming experience. But my earliest arcade experience was probably playing Space Invaders when it came out and just being so frustrated by it that I just wanted to destroy that fucking machine.

At what point did you realize that gaming was going to be sticking around as a hobby?
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that it would stop being popular. Although I kind of remember that pre-Nintendo Power System or whatever… Is that what it was called? The Nintendo Power System? No. Nintendo Entertainment System. Whatever it was called, pre-that Nintendo System coming out, I kind of remember that the home video game thing had died a little bit and there weren’t as many arcades around at the time. But it never really occurred to me that video games would not be popular.

What is the gaming scene like in Creepsylvania?
Well, we have a game where we try to throw as many turnips as we can into a barrel. And, you know… that’s pretty much it. Whoever gets the most turnips in the barrel wins. It hasn’t advanced beyond that, really.

Is that quite competitive?
Extremely competitive. People people get seriously hurt and maimed playing Barrel Turnip.

What have you been playing lately? What are the types of games that you typically prefer to play?
My favorite franchise right now is probably the Far Cry franchise. I’ve liked all of those that I played a lot. But right now I’m playing Baldur’s Gate 3. We play Baldur’s Gate usually every Saturday, sometimes Fridays on Twitch. Me and Dissector and two other guys, Flabbath and Duck__King play Baldur’s Gate 3 at the moment. But we’ve been doing this Twitch stream for about three or four years, I think. We played all sorts of stuff including Far Cry. One of the last games we played before this was Golf With Your Friends. Have you ever played that game? It was designed by sadists. It’s a horrible, horrible game.

Clearly designed by somebody who does not understand what the meaning of “friend” is.
Right. Or “game,” or “fun,” or anything.

Honestly, even “golf.”
That’s true. I’ve never even been to a putt-putt course that looks anything like that.

But yeah, we’re playing Baldur’s Gate 3 right now, which is great and the closest thing we could do to playing Dungeons & Dragons together. That’s been really fun. I like games that aren’t totally frantic constantly. And we’ve played some games like that, too. Like, what is that game called? ZB3 or something? The zombie game? It’s, like, Nazi zombies that you have to shoot. I think it’s an offshoot of Sniper Elite or something. It’s a cool game, but it’s just constantly throwing zombies at you. There’s never any time to breathe. And I like those games like Baldur’s Gate or Far Cry, where you kind of explore a lot. And sometimes you fight, but sometimes you’re just exploring and walking around.

Has playing games on Twitch with your group caused you to play some games that you wouldn’t play otherwise?
I think so. I mean, a game like that zombie game—which again, I can’t remember the name of—but has a great soundtrack that sounds like old John Carpenter music. It’s a really good soundtrack. I think it’s called ZB3, Zombie Something 3. But anyway, that game I wouldn’t have checked out probably and I liked it. I thought that was fun. But mostly, we’ve played a lot of things like the Friday the 13th game, the Evil Dead game, stuff like that. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre game recently, that seemed like it would be up my alley, but by, like, the third time we played it, we were like, “We have to find something else to play.”

What was the big hang up for TCM?
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I thought was kind of fun sometimes, but we you would end up just wandering around and never seeing the victims or just getting killed immediately. It might be fun if you’re playing with a group of friends or something, but for the stream it was not fun at all. Although I did appreciate getting killed immediately in that game and just lying there while everyone else played and I could just check my email or whatever.

Typically, the games that you play on stream are multiplayer experiences—you mentioned Far Cry, you mentioned Baldur’s Gate 3, I think you played Dead Island 2 and you were doing multiplayer for that. Do you typically prefer the multiplayer-style game or is that more just what you think plays better on Twitch? Do you have any interest in the single player experiences?
I mostly have interest in single player experiences, but not streaming them necessarily. I like playing games just by myself and that’s kind of how I think of video games—as a solitary thing. But for the purposes of the stream, we kind of need to have a game where you can at least have four people playing at the same time, or else we’re getting rid of people who are on the stream. So that’s pretty much why we do that. It makes it kind of hard actually to find things that are fun to play and also include for people and aren’t constant frantic action where you can’t talk to people and read the chat and all that stuff. That’s why we end up playing stuff like Golf With Your Friends, which cause serious mental problems playing that for six months. I’m still working it out in therapy.

You mentioned Dissector also joins you on the stream. Are any of the other fellow ghouls into gaming or is it just the two of you?
No, it’s pretty much just us. Cremator will stream but Cremator streams himself cooking pizzas and stuff. He doesn’t stream games. I don’t think he ever plays video games. But there was some talk at some point about us doing a D&D campaign or something, but we’ll see.

You mentioned that what appeals about Baldur’s Gate was that it’s as close as you could do to sitting down and playing a real D&D campaign. Do you have enthusiasm for D&D or is that not really a thing that you have spent time with?
Yeah, me and Dissector used to play D&D together, but that was a few years ago or whatever. It’a actually one of the things that I’m not crazy about with Baldur’s Gate: The combat stuff is so close to D&D, and that’s the thing that I don’t like about D&D. When you get into combat, it takes so long. You’re just going one by one, making decisions and figuring out what spells you’re going to use or whatever and it takes forever. They’ve recreated that pretty accurately in the game, and that to me is not that fun. But the rest of the game, I really like a lot.

What would be the changes that you would make to the combat system?
[The Elder Scrolls V:] Skyrim is basically D&D, but all of those little choices are being made behind the scenes and it’s not turn-based. That, to me, is more satisfying and fun to play when you just go in there and do the thing. Nobody’s taking turns and it doesn’t take forever. That’s just my personal preference. I don’t love the turn-based aspect of it, but I like everything else about it. I kind of got used to it now and it’s not annoying me as much anymore when I do it.

We just did a game of the year video and two separate people picked two separate golf games, like, sport games. They’re just like, “It’s a nice come down. I can’t deal with the high intensity shit anymore.”
Well, one of the last games we played was, I think it’s called PGA Tour. The learning curve for that for me, the first time I played it was on the stream and I almost put my fist through the television. But then once I got it, it was a lot easier, but it was so frustrating. I wanted to jump out a window.

For these multiplayer games, who’s the dead weight?
That would be Dissector, for sure.

There was no hesitation, no, “Well, for this type of game…”
No, across the board.

You had mentioned putting your fist through the TV as compared to a monitor. Are you playing on console or PC?
Console. I never play video games on a PC. I have a PS5 now. I had a PS4 until kind of recently and the extremely generous co-streamers, Flabbath and Duck__King, bought me this PS5. It was very nice of them and not necessary for them to do, but it was really a nice gift. But yeah, I only play on consoles.

Was there any interest in playing on PC?
I think I tried at some point and never got the hang of using a keyboard to play video games. And then at some point, I think I did have a computer controller. But at some point, I just kind of gave up on it. I had Steam installed at some point, I think, and I might have tried to play something on it. I just couldn’t figure it out because I’m too stupid and I just kind of dropped it. I use OBS [Open Broadcaster Software] to stream, so I have a computer that I could use to play games. I just don’t. And that never really even crosses my mind.

You had mentioned you’re on the PlayStation 5 now and previously you were on the PlayStation 4. Were you mostly on the Sony side or did you spend time with other consoles? You had mentioned Atari in yesteryear and then it jumped to the PlayStation 4. There’s a couple of years in between there.
I’ve had a Atari 5200, Nintendo Entertainment System and a GameCube? And I think I had the N64 in there as well at some point. And a PS2, PS4, PS5, and I also had at some point an Xbox. I was using an Xbox 360 for a while. I think the reason I switched over to PlayStation is because Dissector had a PlayStation. He was like, “We could play together!” So, I just ended up buying one. I know people have preferences—I can’t tell the difference. They seem pretty much the same. The only thing that kind of sucks about having one or the other is all those games that only come out on the one console. And you’re like, Eh, I kind of want to play that.

We recently did a video where we talked to [2023 Kill Screen interviewees] about their favorite games of the year. Do you have any favorites from 2023? Were there any titles that you were hoping to play that you didn’t get around to?
I’m not positive when everything that I played came out. But the last thing that I really, really liked that was a small thing that I downloaded was that game… What’s it called? It’s like a side-scroller, it’s kind of like Metroid. [Pauses] What the fuck is that game called? It’s kind of like The Thing.

Oh, Carrion!
Yes, Carrion. I love that game. It’s super fun and it looks amazing. The way the creature moves and grows and stuff, it’s insane. And I think there was only a tiny number of people who worked on it. There was, like, four people who worked on that game or something. And it’s great.

Other than that, I can’t remember really anything new that I’ve played that wasn’t something we did on the stream that I ended up really liking except for The Last of Us 2, which I just finished and I like that a lot. But yeah, that’s pretty much it. I don’t get to play video games as much as I would probably like to because I’m so busy. But the stuff on the stream is all just, like I said, stuff that we were like, “Well, this might be good.” It’s always Golf With Your Friends or whatever, because it kind of fits those few categories that we need for the stream. But I wouldn’t say that I really enjoy most of the games that much that we play on that thing. It’s mostly about talking shit to each other.

Now that we can understand: Talking shit and masochism, being together while you’re all upset.
Sometimes the games like Golf With Your Friends—which we did play for a long time—they’re almost better because we just end up sniping at each other and talking about how shitty the game is and how much we hate our lives. It’s more entertaining than playing something that we enjoy.

One time, I don’t know what happened, but we ended up playing this fishing game for just, like, one stream and we didn’t know how to play it. It’s like a fishing simulator. There’s a lot to know about how to fish and what lures to use. You can get fined by the park ranger if you catch over your limit or whatever. We didn’t know how to do anything. That was a whole maybe two hours of us just not knowing anything about what we were doing and getting angry at each other. So anyway, if you want to watch that—tune in Saturday nights on Twitch!

At what point are you guys going to try Farming Simulator to recreate the Creepsylvania experience for farming turnips?
Is it multiplayer? That’s all I need to know.

I feel like it has to be.
It must be, right? You could have, like, the guy who drives the combine harvester, but also other people doing, I don’t know, support? There’s one guy who bails hay?

If Creepsylvania was ever to break into the video game market, what would you envision a Ghoul-specific video game to be?
Well, it’s funny you should ask. I would say a fighting game would be good for Ghoul, like a Street Fighter II-type game where all the characters have their own moves and it takes place in different parts of Creepsylvania—in the catacombs or Dobrunkum’s fortress or the turnip field. I would love to see that game. If anyone else wants to see that Ghoul game, stay tuned, kids!

Typically Ghoul’s lyrics focus on really over-the-top horror and excessive violence and the influence of comics and movies is pretty apparent. Would you consider any video games to be any kind of influence in terms of subject matter?
Yeah, I think Splatterhouse, Castlevania, things like that for sure. I guess Resident Evil 4, actually. I wouldn’t say Resident Evil 4 was a influence on us, but when I first played it, I was like, This is a fucking Creepsylvania game! All this stuff from Ghoul lyrics and ideas are in this game. I’m not saying they ripped us off at all, but it’s the same kind of tropes and stuff in the game. It was kind of amazing. The first 15 minutes I was playing it, I was like, Holy shit. This is Creepsylvania! It’s insane! But yeah, those early games probably had some kind of influence, for sure.

“I wouldn’t say Resident Evil 4 was an influence on us, but when I first played it, I was like, This is a fucking Creepsylvania game! All this stuff from Ghoul lyrics and ideas are in this game. I’m not saying they ripped us off at all, but it’s the same kind of tropes and stuff in the game. It was kind of amazing.”

Do you have any interest in the Resident Evil 4 remake now that you have a PS5?
Yes, I do. I want to get it for sure because that was one of my favorite games of that era.

It’s incredible. It’s not a one-for-one remake either, which makes it even better.
I mean, it’s been so long since I played it, I probably wouldn’t even notice if it was. As long as I can have that teenage girl tagging along with me and have to pay attention to everything she does, that’s all I’m looking for.

Splatterthrash is not the most one-to-one connection in terms of video game music, but would you say that there are any game composers or game soundtracks that stick out in your mind as being pretty important to you?
Sorry, I’m gonna look up the name of this thing so I get it right. [Keyboard clicking sounds] It’s not Zombie Bloodbath 3. What the fuck is that thing called? Well, the soundtrack for that zombie game—which I’m going to find—I downloaded it. I have it here. “Soundtracks”… Zombie Army 4 is what it’s called. The soundtrack to Zombie Army 4 is really good. It sounds like John Carpenter music. It’s, like, really, really good. I love the soundtrack to Metroid. I’m sure there’s a bunch that I’m not thinking of right now, but those are the ones that stick out to me at the moment. All those old games had cool soundtracks—Castlevania and stuff like that. All really, really memorable, neat soundtracks. Contra had a good soundtrack.

I’m sure you guys have heard Minibosses, that band. They were kind of an early internet band. Like, they got popular on the internet. They’re kind of a metal-y, rock, kind of post-punk-ish sound band, but they just covered video game music. They were kind of like Powerglove before Powerglove, maybe 1998, 1997 or something like that. So, if you like that kind of old video game music and you want to hear it played by a real band, look up Minibosses. I’m sure they’re still on the internet somewhere.

As a gamer ghoul, is it tough to be able to play with only one eye?
Yes. In fact, it’s so tough that I ended up making a mask with two eyes. Because even on a flat screen, having stereoscopic vision really does help.

Could that have contributed to some of the Golf With Your Friends frustration?
Well, definitely not Golfing With Friends, but some of the earlier games, it definitely did. And played with one eye for about probably a year and a half before I was like, Fuck this! I don’t think it permanently affected my vision, but it definitely helped to have two eyes because one eye, it’s not making it. It really does have an effect. Just try to play a video game with one eye closed. It’s hard.

You had mentioned that sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to play some of the games you like. Touring schedules certainly don’t make that easy. Do you find that you like jump into a game once you’re off tour, get excited about it and then kind of lose it when you’re on tour? Are you able to bring anything on the road?
Well, sometimes we’ve been able to play stuff on the road, but not very much. But I would say if I know that I’m going to be gone for a while, I just probably wouldn’t pick something. I wouldn’t start playing something, especially something that has a story or whatever. But sometimes I just kind of play things for a while, like Red Dead Redemption 2 or whatever, and I just won’t finish it, and then I’ll come back to it six months later. The ultimate example of that is—which is not really a game that is meant to be finished necessarily—No Man’s Sky, I played that a lot. I mean, a lot, even though it’s boring as fuck. I played it a lot and didn’t even think about finishing it, really. And then I finally did, but there would be like big chunks of time where I just didn’t play it at all and I kind of pick it up and see, Where was I again? What was I doing? We don’t tour that much, so touring doesn’t really get in the way of things. It’s just trying to find time to spend. I don’t know about you, but when I start playing a video game, I’ll just burn, like, four hours and I wouldn’t even realize that I’ve been doing it for four hours. But finding the time to do that is just hard, especially the older one gets. And I’m 65 years old.

It’s a good 65. I’ll give you that.
Thank you. Well, you can tell there’s not a lot of crow’s feet.

And you fashioned a mask with two eyes. I mean, the fact that you have all the fingers to do that, that’s incredible.
That’s true, I still have all my fingers.

What was it about No Man’s Sky with the self-awareness that it’s a boring game that caused you to play it for that amount of time?
I don’t know. I guess it’s a little bit meditative, that game. There’s so much stuff that you can do in it. It just kind of snowballs and you’re just like, Well, I have to go get this element so I can make this thing and then I can mix it with this other element. And everything is a really long mission to just do the littlest thing. I don’t know what it is. It’s not fun. But it’s kind of neat being in that world and exploring planets and stuff, even though it’s kind of the same thing over and over again. But that’s also why I would put it down for six months and then come back to it. After a while, you’re like, I’m just doing the same thing over and over again, spinning my wheels.

Were you there on launch?
No, I was not. I heard that it was a mess. I might not have had a PS4 when it came out and I got one, like, a year or two into it or something. So yeah. Yeah, I can’t remember. That game is weird because if you put it down for six months and then come back, they change it constantly. So, it’ll be like completely different in a lot of ways. You have a freighter ship or frigate or whatever that you have—it’s kind of like your floating base—and they completely change the interior of them. So all the customization that you did, it’s just gone. They just changed it. It’s like, Oh, well, this is different now. Okay.

A little bit different than playing the same first level about a thousand times in the first Super Mario Bros. game, you know?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was a formative video game experience, playing that game for the first time and just being like, I think I might hate video games. This is the hardest thing that anyone has ever come up with to do.

Did you ever finish it?
Mario? No, never. I mean, I might’ve fudged my way through it, like, doing secret stuff or running along the top of the level or whatever, but I don’t think I ever finished it for real. But those games were brutal. Like, you got three lives. You die? You die. Sorry.

Those NES games are punishing. It wasn’t until, like, Super Nintendo or even PlayStation 1 before I [Michael] beat a game. So it was, like, 8 to 10 years of just sucking constantly at this hobby and for some reason going back to it.
My first one like that was probably the first Metal Gear where I literally stayed up all night playing Metal Gear until I beat it. And it was just so hard.

Are we talking the original?
Yeah, the NES Metal Gear. And I tried to play that recently and I was like, This is fucking impossible. How did I do this when I was, like, 11? The first Resident Evil, I remember playing it at the time and thinking it was great. And if you go back to it now, it’s just like, Yeesh. This does not look good. It’s hard to control.

GoldenEye is another one, which I remember playing at the time and thinking, This is the fucking most fun game ever. And I tried to play that recently and I was like, I can’t do anything. It’s impossible to play this game. And you can’t even see what’s going on. The enemies are just totally indistinct in the distance or whatever. And you’re like, How am I supposed to shoot this guy? That’s what you had. You figured it out.

I [Michael] honestly think that people just had more of an imagination where we were able to fill those gaps a little bit in our brain. And now everything is handed to us in 4K, modeled to perfection.
Right. And now I have even more gaps in my brain. That’s the real thing.

When the options were a little more limited versus now [where] you can get so many different games for $5 to $10, or you have streaming services. But back then, if you had a game, even if you rented a game just for the weekend, if you were having a hard time with it, you’d still sit there and play it. You didn’t have a whole lot of other options right then.
Right. And you spent the money, so you might as well figure it out. I remember playing some other game that was like a Star Wars game. I’m going to get the name wrong, but it was like Shadows of the Empire or Power of the Force or something. I can’t remember the name of the character that you’re playing, but he’s, like, one of the expanded universe characters, like Kyle Catan or something. And I just remember playing that game and just being like, This is fucking impossible. There was a part that was on a train; you had to hop from train car to train car. And just the way everything was moving, the physics of it and the way everything was moving in this weird 3D way was just so hard. But we did it. We just hacked at it until you got through the level or whatever.

I think that any of those NES games are harder than any fucking Dark Souls game that they come out with today, for as much as people talk about hard games.
Oh yeah. I had one of those Dark Souls games. I tried to play it for a couple hours and I was like, Nah. This isn’t for me. I’ll just play Golfing With Friends or whatever instead. There aren’t a whole lot of games that are like that. I mean, I remember playing BurgerTime kind of recently and just thinking, This is harder than any video game. BurgerTime! It’s just insane. It’s so difficult. I remember playing Donkey Kong when it was new and feeling the same way. It seems like there’s a latency when you hit the jump button. You hit it and, like, a second later he jumps and as a kid it was really hard to get a handle on that, you know?

What, if any, games are you looking forward to in the new year, either for your own purposes or for streaming?
This isn’t a new game, but I have that Cyberpunk [2077] game downloaded and I kind of want to play that at some point, but it’s probably going to be a while before I can do that. But that’s the main new-ish thing that I have that I haven’t cracked open yet. But I’m kind of just looking forward to getting through Baldur’s Gate. I think I’m about halfway through now. I play it on the stream, but I also play it on my own—mostly just so I could kind of learn how the game works without having to do it live because that’s just not fun. That I’m really enjoying. I think that’s a really fun game.

Are there any hopes for more of the gaming scene to flourish to possibly get a second game within Creepsylvania in the near future or are you happy with Turnip Barrel?
There’s been talk of adding a barrel to the game, just so there’s two barrels. But, you know, the powers that be have to kind of come together and agree on that. And that could take years.

Noxious Concoctions is available now via Tankcrimes and can be ordered here.
Catch Ghoul on the Brainsqueeze Tour 2024 with Municipal Waste, Necrot and Dead Heat (dates below).
Follow Digestor and Dissector on Twitch.
Follow Ghoul on Bandcamp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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