Writer/Gamer Q&A: Rebecca Hazelton

Next up in our contributor Q&A series is Rebecca Hazelton, the poet behind “In the Castle of No Satisfaction,” a dark and somewhat vengeful take on Mario’s classic predicament, with a little dash of Braid in there as well.

She is the author of Fair Copy and Vow. Her work has been published in AGNI, Smartish Pace, Poetry, and Best American Poetry 2013. She can be found on Twitter or online.

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

Rebecca Hazelton: I’ve been playing Child of Light, the Tomb Raider reboot, The Stanley Parable, and Threes. I recently finished the first half of Broken Age, which was fantastic. 

CL: What was your first video game system? Did you love it or hate it or feel something completely different about it?

RH: I first played games on a Commodore 64, my father’s computer. I liked it very much but wasn’t passionate. My first “system” was a Nintendo. I think I had to save up for it, or at least partially fund it, so it was a big deal when I finally got it. This was back when you could rent games at the video store (and back when there were video stores), so it was a special treat to rent a new game and then stay up late playing it. That was usually reserved for slumber parties. My neighbor down the street had a Sega, and I remember always feeling jealous because the games seemed better.   

CL: Most nostalgia-laden memory from your video game history?

RH: I played video games with my boyfriends in high-school, so I have very fond memories of solving adventure games together — Myst, 7th Guest, Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh. And every time I pony up the money for a Final Fantasy game, I’m trying to recapture that initial wonder I felt at what seemed a fully realized digital world. 

But all of these might be surpassed by my memory of playing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. It was a text based game, and hilarious (at least to pre-teen me), and required smarts (and patience).

CL: Care to list your top five games?

RH: That’s quite hard. At the very top is Grim Fandango, no question. Best game ever, and I am so happy it’s going to be re-released and remastered. Beyond Good and Evil. Braid is fantastic, and influenced the poem in your journal. LimboPortal. I’m going to cheat and give you one extra: The Stanley Parable

CL: How has your writing life interacted with your gamer life? Has one inspired or influenced the other?

RH: For me there isn’t a huge overlap, but that’s mainly because there aren’t enough games with real emotional depth. Of course there are exceptions to that statement, but games that actually make you feel something are few and far between. I think this is especially true if you are a woman. So many games either ignore women’s agency or use them as eye candy, both of which are pretty boring and repetitive scenarios, if not insulting.  

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

RH: I think Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborne Trilogy would work quite well as a video game, but it’s hard to say what genre would best suit. It could easily be an RPG like Mass Effect or a combat heavy game like God of War

Or you could make Ready Player One into a video game and it would be the most meta game ever.