McMillen says he went “all in” with The Binding of Isaac

Saturday, 30th June 2012 20:41 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Edmund McMillen has said The Binding of Isaac, a game he describes as his “career suicide” game, came about as an answer to the “very, very safe,” Super Meat Boy.


Speaking with Nathan Grayson in a banging interview over on EG, McMillen described the process in choosing what game to release on Xbox 360, and why Super Meat Boy was eventually chosen

“It’s hard for me to say, because I hate saying I was playing it safe – but I was playing it safe with Super Meat Boy,” he said. “I was risking so much, so of course I was playing it safe. We went in knowing we could get this [Xbox Live] deal. So what game are we going to do? Well, let’s re-do a game. Let’s not make a new game, because that’s dangerous. I don’t want to risk my whole fucking career and my future on something that is uncertain. I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not comfortable with risking [programmer and good friend] Tommy [Refenes'] future and my wife and everybody else. I’m gonna do something that I know that people like already. And the most popular game that I had done recently was [the browser version of] Meat Boy.

“Super Meat Boy is the closest thing to selling out that I’ve ever done, but it’s not. But it is safe. It’s very, very safe, and I knew it was safe going in, and I was playing it safe because I was risking so much.”

“There is that part of me, after Super Meat Boy, that felt like I needed to… I needed to not play it safe. I needed to do something dangerous.”

McMillen said his next game, The Binding of Isaac, was just another way for him to push the envelope with recurring, almost disturbing, themes in his work.

“There’s recurring themes in everything in my work, and they’re usually things where I think it’s so odd that people think they’re gross,” he said. “I tend to focus on the fetal stages of birth, life and death – but mostly birth – the development process, and dying and decay. It’s life, but it’s these parts that are interesting. After and before, the development and the decay. Those are the mysterious things. Guts. The stuff that’s inside. That sort of stuff. Religion and sexuality and… genitals.

“People wonder why there’s a lot of violence in my work. I grew up with a picture of a bloody dying man who is suffering for everybody, a martyr, and it’s the whole idea of self-sacrifice. Your exalted God, your God, rips his body to shreds for the good of the world. Violence becomes holy. And in a lot of ways, in the Bible and Catholicism, violence and gore is considered holy. You drink the blood of Christ, you eat his flesh. How does that not come in to me?

“I just wanted to go all in. There were many times when I was like, ‘I can’t put that in.’ And then: ‘What am I doing? What am I doing? Am I doing this again? Am I committing career suicide? This is stupid. Why am I doing this?’ And whenever I would think that, I would be like ‘Yes, I know this is good. This is exciting again. I’m dancing around with things that are dangerous. I like that.’”

“I really went in thinking, like, ‘I’m going to have to give this away. It’ll be a sponsored free game, because no way in hell will people pay for it. It’s too weird.’ There was a darkness there that was so dark. That’s why I had to make it really cute, because I couldn’t… I can’t destroy people with this game. This is going to be way too heavy and weird and dark for people to enjoy. But that was what was most interesting, so I kept going with it – kept pushing and pushing and pushing. I never censored anything that I did. Nothing at all was ever taken back.”

The Binding of Isaac went on to be a success, and as of June 20, the game moved 700,000 copies.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire interview through the link.



  1. silkvg247

    He’s a fab guy. Had a few words over email with him, and whilst I disagree with some points about getting into dev with flash first (no ta!) he is a sound bloke and very much deserves his success. Also, awesome games.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Cobra951

    Mr McMillen, please choose your words more carefully for readers that don’t know better. Violence is not holy to Christianity. That Jesus allowed great violence to be committed against him without retaliation–that’s holy. Violence in the name of religion is always a perversion of it, and not at all holy.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. DSB

    @2 Since when? The bible is full of outright violence, some of the most genocidal acts supposedly committed by the tetragrammaton himself, and short of that, either mutilating or tormenting people with his plagues.

    He also seems awfully pleased at blood sacrifice.

    I’d say McMillen has it spot on. But of course you can always choose to believe the parts you like and disregard the ones you don’t.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Ireland Michael

    @2 I would suggest actually reading the Old Testament. The New Testament is a very stark contrast in comparison.

    I think The Binding of Isaac is a pretentious pile of shit myself but the guy ain’t wrong.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Cobra951

    The Old Testament is not Christianity. The contrast between the Old and the New is *exactly* the point of the coming of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is Judaism, though clearly it serves as the launchpad for Christianity.

    BTW, I’m neither, though I was raised a Catholic. I think no one knows what lies beyond our reality, if anything, even if they think they do.

    #5 3 years ago

    ^ Not true at all.

    The OT is integral to the christian faith.

    See Matthew 5: 17-19

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Ireland Michael

    @5 If the Old Testament isn’t Christianity, then please tell me why so many Christians attempt to install the “laws” express solely in it… like their grotesquely outdated stance on homosexuality.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. DSB

    I guess you could consider it the dirty secret of Christianity that they’re actually just radical jews.

    #8 3 years ago

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