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Indie game developer seeks to find harmony in modernity

Jason Hawkins

Ezi Ononuju is a third-year student from Alpharetta, Georgia, majoring in computer science and pursuing a certificate in urban and metropolitan studies. He’s also an interdisciplinary artist who is seeking a new way of understanding our constantly changing world. 

“On a personal level, my goal in life is to be as capable a person as I can be,” Ononuju said. “I want to create and have the confidence and wherewithal to do so with reckless abandon. Video game design allows me to touch on many different aspects of art.”

Putting poetry, music, visual art, and game development together with code, Ononuju wants to show the world a mode of thinking and creating that integrates both spirituality and technology, typically seen as opposing forces. A large part of his creative framework is the philosophy of meta-modernism.

“There's modernism, postmodernism, and there's sort of the burgeoning art movement of meta-modernism,” Ononuju said. “Meta-modernism takes the idea that you can find things important, but also allows space for realizing your place in the world—that you don't have the objective, correct view of everything.”

Meta-modernism’s acknowledgment of a broader web of meaning allows room for spirituality, a key component of Ononuju’s work next to the ever-changing technology that meta-modernism rose up in response to. In his philosophy, spirituality is about embracing alternative ways of knowing and thinking.

“For me, the spiritual has more of a connotation of just ideas and the acceptance of ideas that lie outside of the sort of rationalist, modernist framework,” he said. “Quantum mechanics, for example, was seen as a bit of an esoteric, mystic idea at its very beginnings. It didn't fit in with the zeitgeist of scientific belief and Newton's physics, but a lot of it runs parallel with Eastern mysticism.”

Poetry and video games have been the most effective mediums for Ononuju to explore his ideas. He’s written poetry throughout his life but was inspired to take it more seriously after a lecture given by Christine Lasek-White, Internship and Career Coordinator for the Humanities in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. He was inspired to edit one of his poems and submit it to Stillpoint Literary Magazine, where it was published.

Ononuju’s decision to pursue video game development, where he incorporates visual art and music, came when he began his college coursework in computer science.

“For a while, I'd been trying to figure out a way to tell stories that worked for me. Prose could be fun, but I also had an interest in drawing. I wanted to tell stories through a visual medium, but comics didn't work,” he said. “Once I realized that I was going to be a computer science major, I started taking coding more seriously. I wrote a lot of different game ideas and put down the initial groundwork for gameplay design.”

One of Ononuju’s current long-term game projects is called Furniture Among Friends, a role playing game about a group of college friends discovering the history of their town through supernatural means. 

He has another game project in the work tentatively titled Libraries in the Sky, which he described as “an African Dragon Quest.” Dragon Quest is a franchise of Japanese RPGs acclaimed for its distinct style and colorful worlds. Libraries in the Sky will take place in a world where magic is performed through books and regulated by ruling powers. Through the game’s storytelling, Ononuju plans to touch on themes of reckoning with the past and reflecting on the present.

“I've been really fascinated by traditional African religion,” he said, “and a lot of African philosophy and spirituality is about preserving the present and how can we improve where we are right now rather than trying to fight for infinite progress.”

Image:photo of Ezi Ononuju

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