Writer/Gamer Q&A: Brent Rydin

We return yet again to the Q&A, now with Brent Rydin, the man behind “Moonkin,” our first piece about the ubiquitous World of Warcraft. It’s a lovely and sad piece that takes us into the lives behind the avatars.

Brent is everywhere these days—he has creative work in Pithead Chapel, The Island Review, WhiskeyPaper, Chicago Literati, and CHEAP POP. He is the founding editor of Wyvern Lit, and a co-founder of Jellyfish Highway Press, a new press with our very own Justin Daugherty. You can find him online or on Twitter.

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

Brent Rydin: Trying to get back into WoW and Pokémon (maybe Black 2 or Y), but it’s tough finding time with writing, running Wyvern Lit, kicking off Jellyfish Highway Press (with the fantastic Justin Daugherty of this here magazine), and working a nine-hour office job. I just got off of a really badly obsessive Civilization V kick.

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

BR: That big grey brick of a Game Boy. I still get really emotional when I hear that ding of the word “Nintendo” hitting the center of the screen and leading into the Pokémon title music.

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

BRI remember being a kid and playing Pokémon Red in bed, under the covers with a flashlight because it was later than I was supposed to be up; my mom eventually took my Game Boy away on weekdays. Sitting on my grandparents’ kitchen floor playing Mario: 6 Golden Coins. I had a pretty substantial Christmas meltdown in ’98 when literally all of my cousins got Ocarina of Time and I didn’t. One year, I was home from college on winter break and it was the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I stayed up all night playing World of Warcraft in this upstairs den room at my parents’ house, just in the light of the screen and the lights on the Christmas tree, and it snowed all night and the morning came and it was this completely blanketed world. One time, a few years ago, I was really depressed and was playing this game, Tiny Wings, on my phone on the train on the way to meet my good friend’s baby for the first time, and I remember thinking it was the only thing in life I was good at. Which, at the time, was probably somewhat true. But then I met this baby, and was hanging out with my friend and his wife and his dad, and it was completely beautiful and I walked home in the late-November sunset and got hot chocolate at Starbucks and thought to myself, Hey, it’s okay if that’s all you’re good at in life right now. We just need to be good to ourselves. Wow, this answer took a weird turn. But, this friend of mine, I was in his wedding, and on the “Wedding Party” part of their website, the photo I had was of me and him playing Mortal Kombat III on Genesis on this old, wood-panel TV we used to have. Point is (and I’m sure anybody who’s into Cartridge already knows and agrees with this, but), I really think games — for our generation, especially, y’know, people who are mid-twenties to late-thirties-ish right now — were more formative and play a much bigger and more poignant part in our lives and memories than a lot of people (read: older, no offense to anyone) will or are able to give them credit for.

CL: Care to list your top five games?

BRIn no particular order, Pokémon Red, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, Ocarina of Time, Shadows of the Empire, Civilization V.

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

BRNot strictly gaming, but game-related: I started writing because I was obsessed with Sonic the Hedgehog comic books, the ones from Archie Comics. I got into those right around when I got into Pokémon and N64 and Star Wars, so it was all really formative in the same way

CL: Any tips for how others out there can balance a writer’s life and a gamer’s life?

BRJust let yourself play when you want to play. We need breaks, and I think a lot of games provide another type of brain usage where you’re relaxing but using your brain at the same time, like this different balance of passive and active thought that not many other activities can provide.

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

BRSandbox of British modernism. I can’t even handle how much I would love this.

CL: If someone made a game about your life, what genre would it be? How would it play?

BRTwitter. It’d just be Twitter.