- Role: Writer
- Company: Choice of Games
- Location: North Carolina, USA
QRM was lucky enough to have a chat with Amy Griswold, writer of interactive fiction!
QRM: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do in the games industry?
Amy: I write science fiction and fantasy, and I've written two gay fantasy/mystery novels for Lethe Press (with Melissa Scott), Death by Silver and A Death at the Dionysus Club. I've also written a number of licensed tie-in novels for the Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis TV series.
As a writer for Choice of Games, I write and code interactive fiction games. They're text-based games that are something like 'choose your own adventure' stories, but with more sophisticated branching narratives based on your choices as a player. The game can track not only significant decisions, but the skills a character is building, the personality traits a character's actions reveal, and the relationships being built between characters. The story varies based on your choices, and leads to a wide range of endings.
QRM: How long have you been involved in the game industry, and what projects have you worked on? What are you working on currently?
Amy: I started working on my first game for Choice of Games in 2016 with my partner and co-writer Jo Graham. Our first game, The Eagle's Heir, is an alternate-history steampunk adventure set in world in which Napoleon was never defeated at Waterloo.
We're currently working on Stronghold, a heroic fantasy game about defending a town and building a community, and it's scheduled for release in late 2018.
QRM: What inspired you to get started in the games industry?
Amy: I've played text-based games since the days of Zork (you are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike!), and I'm a big fan of Failbetter Games' Fallen London, an offbeat dark fantasy game where language and stories are central to the player experience. A friend of mine turned me on to Choice of Games, I responded to an open call for writers, and we ended up with a contract to write The Eagle's Heir.
QRM: In what ways do you feel your experiences as a queer person manifest in the games you work on, and influence the work you do?
Amy: It's important to me that queer players be able to see themselves represented in games, because I'd like to see myself represented in games. The Sims was probably the first game I played where it was possible to play out stories about gay characters and gay romance, which really added to the game's appeal for me. A game world where everyone wasn't straight was a welcome change.
Being part of the LGBT community has also shaped my life in ways that affect the stories I want to tell. Stronghold is about life in a small town, but it's also in some subtle ways about the queer communities I've lived in. The Eagle's Heir offers the chance to create meaningful political change, which I've seen in my lifetime on LGBT issues (we have a long way to go, but we've come a long way), and which I think is useful to explore right now when politics can feel very hopeless.
QRM: Do you have a favourite queer character—in games or media more generally? If so, what is it about them that makes them your favourite?
Question asked by @kamienw.
Amy: Not so much in games, but in media, I love Helen Magnus from Sanctuary for her stubborn brilliance and refusal to play by anyone else's rules, and I wish the show had gotten more opportunities to explore her bisexuality. I also love Lito in Sense8, who is charming and brave and I think benefits tremendously from not being the only queer character on the show -- it is so hard to put all the weight of "representing queer people" on one character's shoulders.
QRM: Have you ever encountered roadblocks in trying to include queer characters in games? What do you think is preventing greater diversity within games?
Question asked by @dustinalex91.
Amy: I've been fortunate to work with Choice of Games, which has an editorial policy of ensuring that their games are inclusive. Both our games include multiple options for queer romance (and the option to play an asexual character), and both include non-binary gender options.
QRM: Why do you think it is important that queer audiences are able to see themselves represented in the games they play, and in the developers who make the games they see? What can we do to improve the industry for queer audiences and devs?
Amy: Any kind of person can be a hero. Getting to play the role of a hero in a game shouldn't always mean having to play the role of a straight person.
Plus, I think there's the perception that queer representation is only important to queer players, but it's also an important part of writing games where people act like real human beings. Humans have different sexual orientations, and come in more than two genders, and have many different kinds of families. Creating a fictional world where those things are inexplicably untrue makes it harder to write stories that say meaningful things about the human experience, and even in fantasy and science fiction, the human experience is generally what our stories are about.
QRM: Have you ever mentored somebody in your role in games, or been mentored? If so, what made these experiences worthwhile for you?
Question asked by @pepelanova.
Amy: Jason Stevan Hill at Choice of Games was super at helping us get up to speed with coding and game design; we were coming from a writing and tabletop RPG background, so there was a learning curve in translating that into an interactive fiction format.
QRM: In what ways can non-queer folk increase and support queer diversity present within games, as well as in the industry more broadly? How can we all work to support intersectional approaches to diversity, and why is this important?
Amy: Buy games with queer characters! Recommend games with queer characters to your friends! And if you're soliciting interactive fiction or narrative work from authors, be explicit about welcoming queer characters, queer content, and exploration of intersectional queer identities.
QRM: Is there a message that you would like to share with the queer game players, game studies researchers, and other interested folks who comprise the Queerly Represent Me community?
Amy: You can be a hero. Yes, you. We all can.