Writer/Gamer Q&A: Camille Griep

Our next Writer/Gamer Q&A is with Camille Griep, who gave us “The Perils of Rosella,” which floored us with its beauty and its bravery.

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Cartridge Lit: What games are you playing right now, if any?

Camille Griep: Does 2048 count? Honestly, at the moment, I’m back in my hometown trying to help my grandmother move to a smaller house. So it’s more like a giant game of Life/Memory. She doesn’t have any consoles here. Before I left I was playing the XBOX Arcade Deathspank series. They’re super immature button-mashers, but they’re also snarky and ridiculous and mindless and sometimes, that’s just what the doctor ordered.

Cartridge LitWhat was your first video game system? Did you love it or hate it or feel something completely different about it?

Griep: I was lucky enough to get an Apple IIGS when I was around 10. I remember how it smelled so plastic and new in our little library and how the floppys constantly needed to be changed and how warm they were when you ejected them and the sound the eject button made. I played Math Blasters and some game where you had to be a diagnostic surgeon. I had a good run with Astroids (or a knock-off). My favorites back then, however, were Carmen Sandiego, Tass Times in Tonetown, Dungeon Master, The Black Cauldron, and anything from the King’s Quest series.

I hated how precise you had to be with a joystick, but I got pretty good after awhile. I also got good at changing disks, but that was always a pain in the ass, especially when it happened in the middle of something exciting.

Cartridge LitMost nostalgia-laden memory from your video game history?

Griep: This is so incredibly sappy. But. When my partner, Adam, and I moved into our first house, he was playing Morrowind. We didn’t really watch much TV back then, so I remember in the evenings, I’d grab my crossword and a glass of wine and perch on my end of the couch with one eye on the game.

Oddly enough, my game-free period was college and just after. While we rarely touched anything beyond Free Cell, Adam tells me we were an anomaly—the rest of the college kids all over the world were gaming. When I saw how far technology had advanced from the games I’d played in high school, I was awestruck. Lush landscapes and music. Deep storylines. The weather. Sure there were still rendering and pathfinding issues, but nothing like what games had been when I left off playing.

And even though I’d gamed all through my childhood, I was too overwhelmed to ask for the controller myself. Instead, I helped. I gave advice and called out the hidden chests and bittergreen plants he missed while killing rats and guars.

It’s a peaceful memory for me. His sharing this passion with me and I totally got it and there was space for me and we had this home and it was warm and fun and I didn’t want those nights to ever end. Of course they did and we’re no longer in that house and these days I play games almost as often as Adam does. But the memory is still special.

Cartridge LitCare to list your top five games?

Griep: Dungeon Master—This was good training for fight sequences (see Final Fantasy), though much more crude. I was really terrible about getting lost and this game taught me to draw maps. Or else be lost for days and days or at least until I was called to dinner.

King’s Quest IV—This was the first of the King’s Quest line to feature a girl protagonist. And I wanted that way before I knew it was important to have. After countless hours of trial and error, I still couldn’t beat the damn thing. But as a 12-year-old, playing was as much fun as winning, so I didn’t mind. I wrote “Perils of Rosella” for Cartridge Lit because it fit like a puzzle piece into my childhood and mingled all of those complicated feelings.

Myst—Oh, the frustration. This and Riven gave me no end of trouble, but finally helped me think like a real gamer. Question everything out of the ordinary. Look more carefully. Not bad advice for life, either.

Torchlight—I love XBOX Arcade and this is the first game I really sank my teeth into on that system. I was so sad the sequel to this wasn’t available on a console.  The best part about Torchlight is that you have a companion animal to go to town and sell all your crap. Adam says it’s cheating, but I think it’s brilliant.

Final Fantasy XII—Who doesn’t love a good sky pirate? Plus, Adam never beat this game, so I was especially proud to get it done.

Cartridge LitHow has your writing life interacted with your gamer life? Has one inspired or influenced the other?

Griep: I think gaming offers a unique opportunity to interact with story instead of simply consuming it. One of the biggest reasons I liked Myst was because of its in-your-face, 2nd person insistence that your actions would take you further, instead of being inexorably dragged around, say like in the Carmen Sandiego series. This gives us an opportunity to get deeper into our own writing. Are we asking writers to look carefully? Why or why not? Almost everything I write is filled with Easter eggs. This is part video game and part nod to the canon of literature that comes before us. I feel like literature is not only the story itself but everything that informs the story, and that’s a deep gift for readers.

Cartridge LitAny tips for how others out there can balance a writer’s life and a gamer’s life?

Griep: I believe very firmly that art in = art out. And almost any story we run into, be it from a stranger at a bar or a painting on a wall or a video game, can be art. The balance, however, is the tricky part. Most of us at one time or another (or all the time) hide from making our art, and gaming is a good way to do that. As for myself, I set attainable goals. I don’t game before 4pm ever unless it’s a weekend. I allow myself a whole week of gaming after I finish something big or achieve something wonderful. I don’t game at all when I’m swamped—I don’t even start because it’s too hard to put down.

Cartridge LitWhat novel would you like to see turned into a game? What genre would it be? How would it play?

Griep: Hmm. There’s a lot of them. I just finished with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series. I think there’s a lot of interesting RPG things you could do as the chimera resurrectionist character in the book — creating warriors from various sets of teeth and precious gems. Though it’s a very loose interpretation of the book, the chimera would band with renegade angels, kill Jael, the biggest baddest angel, then join with the fire angels to re-stitch the portal between their world and the “Beasts,” who I’d imagine would make the ultimate boss. I have some quibbles with the last book in the series, but it actually sets things up as a game rather nicely.

Cartridge LitIf someone made a game about your life, what genre would it be? How would it play?

Griep: My life has been so weird and confusing, the game version probably wouldn’t make any sense. I suppose you could have a platformer where you have to master every job I’ve had by collecting (something):

Barista (coffee)
Camp counselor (bears)
Camp cook (cakes)
PR Minion (newspaper clippings)
Grantwriter (ass kisses)
Journalist (column inches)
Property Manager (broken toilets)
Bookkeeper (confidential wage garnishments)
Snow Plow Dispatcher (cows in roadway)
Secretary (thank you notes)
Marketing Director (clients)
Research Analyst (powerpoint presentations)
Writer (rejections)

Come to think of it, how come no one has snapped that up already?