We keep coming back to puppetry as a running theme, and that’s because, much to my surprise, Gareth Damian Martin is a trained puppeteer. When they ran out of time to apply to art college, they chose puppetry instead, which would eventually take them into a career in theatre design. And they learned lots of valuable lessons there: one of them being un-moveable deadlines and this idea of planning only what can be done in time. That’s how they made Citizen Sleeper in two years, and how they were able to plan a break before launch so they could return refreshed for it. So that’s how I find Damian Martin today: refreshed, calm and smiling.
They’ve got good reason to smile of course: Citizen Sleeper appears to have been a big success. Because of Game Pass, it’s being played by many, many more people than Damian Martin’s previous game, In Other Waters. But it’s been bought by more people too, both on console and on PC, which is obviously gratifying – and it means Damian Martin can comfortably make games for the foreseeable future. And there are more Citizen Sleeper plans they’re already working on, by the way.
But what really fulfils Damian Martin is the feedback they’re getting about the game: the heartfelt messages from people who feel seen by the new sci-fi role-playing game. It’s a game that thinks a lot on othering and the idea of belonging, against the backdrop of a fairly brutal reality, and clearly it’s striking a chord. It’s also interesting seeing those same themes pop up in Damian Martin’s life as they walk me through the many twists and turns it has taken so far. Growing up in the Orkney islands and playing among ancient burial sites sounds awesome.