By Alanna Blackett
Well, maybe not while gaming. More like inspired by gaming. Regardless, this post is going to be about video games. I rediscovered video games when I was 24 and had evacuated to Boston from New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina. I was in a tiny sublet with no furniture and not a whole lot to do. My boyfriend (now husband) bought Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I’d played some computer games when I was a kid, but I’d never played a roleplaying game.
So I make my character, and I’m running around the spaceship, which is the opening scene. Running into walls, of course, because I’m not used to navigating with the keys. And I keep saying over my shoulder, “The ship is crashing! Oh no! Oh! This cute guy is flirting with me, what do I say? OH MY GOD I CAN FLIRT BACK! Sweetie, look! I’m flirting! And I got a new gun! And met a robot! It’s like I’m in Star Wars. This is the best thing ever!” I played for six hours straight and then got up at 6 AM the next morning so I could beat him to the computer and play more. And a monster was created.
The great thing about roleplaying games is they drop you into a world full of story, and you have choices about who you’re going to be and how you’re going to play. There are a lot of stereotypes out there about video games, but some of them really do have amazing writing. The best ones have fully realized worlds. For example, every time I play a Mass Effect game, I’m awestruck by the pages and pages of history the game developers have written about their galaxy. You can read about the backstory of the different planets and species, and it’s all extremely interesting. It gets me inspired, since I mostly write science fiction. A good sci fi game will always get me in the writing mood by sparking these cool ideas about setting and characters. In fact, last month I was having the worst time because one of my writing projects is a historical romance, but every time I played Mass Effect 3 it kept making me want to cheat on it with sci fi.
In my cyberpunk romance novella, Unsecure Connection, there is actually a gaming scene. I didn’t plan on it—it just sort of popped into my head and I ran with it. My main characters, Riley and CJ are just getting to know each other, and she tells him to follow her to what he thinks is another location in “interspace” (which is kind of a virtual-reality version of the internet in my book). And surprise! He’s on a street with a giant robot shooting at him because it turns out she’s dropped him into a game she plays. Which I thought was a nice little play on gender stereotypes because Riley, the female character, is the one who is a gamer, and CJ doesn’t even know how to play. I got a huge kick out of writing the lingo of the game.
But really, I have to admit I’m kind of jealous. If I had access to virtual reality games like Riley, I’m pretty sure I’d be running around with a big gun shooting robots too. And then I’d never get anything done.