INTERVIEW: Micky Neilson, author of “RECOIL”

Micky Neilson, author of “RECOIL,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What aspect of “RECOIL” first came to you? What inspired you to write it?

The first thing that popped into my head was a theme: someone who plays first person shooters, who blasts away at virtual enemies without so much as a second thought, who is then forced into a situation where the danger and the gunplay are real. Suddenly this person is holding an actual weapon for the first time, pulling the trigger for the first time and experiencing everything that comes with that. A fairly heavy theme, but I couched it in a light tone and tried to have a lot of fun with it.

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INTERVIEW: Marc Laidlaw, author of “Roguelike”

Marc Laidlaw, author of “Roguelike,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

How did the original idea come about? What inspired you to write it?

I love roguelikes, and they’ve been enjoying a renaissance recently, with the core gameplay showing up in a lot of new games. They appear deceptively simple, but there is still lots of room for innovation in the form. At times I am seized with a desire to gain enough coding skills to make my own roguelike, as a hobby, and tinker with it forever; but then I hit the wall of my own limited intelligence and give up the crazy idea for a while. “Roguelike” gave me the opportunity to pretend I was finally making one of my own. The idea of setting a roguelike in a tower (rather than a dungeon) occurred to me as a way to distinguish my game from the classic roguelikes. Much as I love the classics, it wouldn’t have worked to have my Agents killing gnomes in a dungeon.

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INTERVIEW: Chris Avellone, author of “<endgame>”

Chris Avellone, author of “<endgame>,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

You mention that was inspired from the Infocom game, The Lurking Horror. Your story touches on a number of fears –isolation, helplessness, stagnation, death. It speaks to readers on a very intimate level. What of your own fears did you put in the story?

I’m glad the fears in the story hit home, it was a personal experience, and it sticks with me to this day. One of the most terrifying things about The Lurking Horror was how little you could do and worse, how much you could imagine when something was crawling after you–the limited options, the claustrophobia of the interface, the sheer lack of freedom to move (and more importantly run, because boy, did you want to run screaming out of that game), all of these things were pure nightmare fuel. The reminder of feeling trapped by the program parameters (literally, the text fields and directional movement) kept resurfacing after playing the game and really touched on what drove my anxiety in that title—and that’s a testament to the strength of the game.

Over the years, I would sometimes catch myself examining my surroundings from an adventure game verb-noun format, and I blame The Lurking Horror for leaving that emotional scar. The short story was a perfect way to express that terror and anxiety from someone experiencing the reverse—the protagonist, Warren, is only “free” when immersed in the game, and the story explores all the dangers that holds for him.

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INTERVIEW: Ken Liu, author of “The Clockwork Soldier”

Ken Liu, author of “The Clockwork Soldier,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What was the spark for “The Clockwork Soldier”?

I’ve always loved interactive fiction, and I wanted to write a story in the form of a classic text adventure. But no idea ever seemed quite right. Then my friend Jake Kerr proposed an interesting collaboration: he wanted to see if it was possible for a set of writers to work from the same ending and write several different stories—and the ending would be presented first. Though the collaboration didn’t end up happening, the story seed he proposed—having a main character’s revelation of their true identity be both the first and last scene of the story—ended up inspiring me to write this story.

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INTERVIEW: Hugh Howey, author of “Select Character”

Hugh Howey, author of “Select Character,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

Why did you choose the title you did?

The title “Select Character” has two levels of meaning. “Select” can mean to choose. It can also mean of the highest caliber. And “character” can mean a game avatar, but it can also mean our core ethical values. The character select screen is a common trope in fighting and war games. You get to pick what kind of destructive force you want to be. But what if instead of “select” as in “to choose,” and “character,” as in avatar, you had someone electing to have the highest form of ethical values? We face this decision every day. How do we most often choose?

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INTERVIEW: Django Wexler, author of “REAL”

Django Wexler, author of “REAL,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What do you find most exciting/concerning about the future of gaming?

When real augmented-reality tech gets here and becomes ubiquitous (a bit like it does in “REAL”) there’s going to be some really awesome stuff that becomes possible. Games with both physical and digital components, for example—something like Golem Arcana, which uses a stylus and a tablet, is like an early, early version of that. Remote in-person gaming—I can put on my goggles and see my buddy at my game table, even though he lives a thousand miles away. And of course the kind of social ARGs the story described, which hopefully will go a little better!

In the near-term future, the growth of the non-AAA gaming segment really excites me. Of the games I’ve loved in the past year or two, almost none of them were $60-from-Gamestop sort of games—I got them from Steam, or on iOS, etc., at price points ranging from $5 to $40. That variety makes a lot more interesting things possible, especially for someone like me who isn’t a fan of genres like multiplayer shooters that dominate the AAA market. Increasingly, there’s something for everyone, and a chance for developer to make things they want. I hope this keeps up—we’ll see.

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INTERVIEW: David Barr Kirtley, author of “Save Me Plz”

David Barr Kirtley, author of “Save Me Plz,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What was the spark for “Save Me Plz”?

When I was in grad school in Los Angeles, I met a woman who told me that her boyfriend was so addicted to World of Warcraft that she’d been forced to start playing the game too, because the only way that she could interact with him anymore and be part of his life was to appear as a character in the game world. She sounded so sad, and it really stuck with me. Later I found a website called gamerwidow.com, where women commiserated with each other about having partners who were addicted to World of Warcraft. I read through many of those stories, and many of them were harrowing. That inspired me to write a story about a young woman whose boyfriend has literally disappeared into a game world, and ultimately she gets trapped in it as well.

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INTERVIEW: Charlie Jane Anders, author of “Rat Catcher’s Yellows”

Charlie Jane Anders, author of “Rat Catcher’s Yellows,” discusses the background of her story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What was the inspiration for the disease name in “Rat Catcher’s Yellows”?

Basically, for this story, I needed a disease that was a neurological disorder, and I decided it should be a spirochete, the class of corkscrew-shaped disease that includes syphilis and Lyme disease. And given the fact that there’s a cat theme running through this story, the notion of a feline disease that starts attacking humans seemed especially pertinent. So when I discovered there was a real-life spirochete called Rat Catcher’s Yellows (or Leptospirosis) that affects cats, that seemed perfect. The fictional part was that Leptospirosis starts affecting humans, and having intense neurodegenerative effects, and yet the people who suffer from it are really good at playing this one cat-themed video game.

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INTERVIEW: Chris Kluwe, author of “Please Continue”

Chris Kluwe, author of “Please Continue,” discusses the background of his story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

How has your understanding of gaming culture/subcultures evolved over the years?

I’ve been playing video games since I was seven years old (I think), with the original NES [Nintendo’s video game console]. I grew up as what might be considered a “powergamer”–I was concerned with winning and trying to make game systems work to my favor as best I could, whether that be through grinding levels, discovering glitches, or just practicing over and over to memorize combos and movesets. Later, as I’ve grown older, I still play games with the intention of being incredibly good at them, but I’ve also been able to slow down a little and appreciate some games that I may not have played as a kid or teenager. As far as gaming culture, there’s good people, bad people, and all the shades in between, because at the end of the day, a gamer is a human being, and we are incredibly complex creatures.

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