Jun 13

2017

Author Interview: Bendi Barrett, “Avatar of the Wolf”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Choice of Games’ latest release will be Avatar of the Wolf by Bendi Barrett. In a savage land where the gods manipulate mortals like pawns on a chess board, Wolf’s divine power controlled you and protected you. But since Wolf’s death, the eyes of Hawk, Spider, Bear, Gazelle, and Eel are upon you. The embers of Wolf’s power still burn within you; your remnants of divinity threaten to topple the pantheon.. Look for Avatar of the Wolf later this month, releasing on Thursday, June 22nd.

Tell me about what influenced your world creation for Avatar. What kind of a world is this set in?

The world of Avatar of the Wolf is a mishmash of mythologies pulled from Indigenous American to Afro-Caribbean to Greek cultures. I wanted to create a world where the gods had a very direct presence, and some of their human charges had different ideas about what that meant. The setting itself is a hardscrabble place with very basic technologies of agriculture and war making, where someone with a sword is as likely to kill you as a stray spirit. Nearly everyone in this world is struggling in some way, which I think makes the choices that the player has to make a bit more stark.

What sort of a story were you interested in telling in Avatar? What, if any, personal significance does this tale have for you?

In Avatar, I wanted to tell a story about faith and what it means to be faithful to something: a god, an ideal, a way of life. At the beginning of the game the player experiences this separation from the divine presence that has so far ruled their life and a large portion of the game is about contending with that loss or depending on how you see it—that sense of freedom.

When I was a kid, a counselor came to talk to my class. She told us that we could do anything we wanted, as long as we were willing to accept the consequences. That was mindblowing to me as a kid, and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that statement all these years later. In some ways, this game is an expression of that idea: Do what you want—find peace, crack skulls, torch villages—but be ready to accept the consequences.

I particularly liked the pantheon of gods as characters in this game. Do you have a favorite character you enjoyed writing most?

I had a lot of fun writing the interplay between the gods. From the very beginning one of my mandates about the gods in the game was that I wanted them to be defined more by their approaches to problem-solving than by any particular sense of ethics or morality. I don’t know how good of a job I did with that, but it certainly helped create these lively characters to put into opposition (and sometimes collaboration) with each other.

Spider and her avatar were particularly fun to write. Spider is a crafty, self-interested goddess and her avatar—Aran or Ara—is a chaos-loving libertine who drops in to stir the pot every once in a while. It was a real pleasure writing dialogue for Ara/n. In some ways, they are the game’s Freudian id, suggesting that the player give in to bad behavior and upend the whole world just to see what will happen. It’s the furthest thing from the way I live, or even play games (I’m a habitual goody two-shoes) so it was kind of cool to be a bit rebellious with Ara/n and Spider.

What did you find challenging about the process of writing in ChoiceScript/our game design?

I think the most challenging part of the process was just doing it. The process and the design requirements of the Choice of Games model can be rigorous, but I think as I progressed I understood more and more why CoG games are made the way they are. It helped that pretty much every interaction I had with Jason (my infinitely patient editor) was pleasant and helpful. There were many, many times that I grumbled about an aspect of the CoG game design philosophy before later realizing that it was helping me create a much tighter, better game. I guess the challenge now that I’m thinking about it was trusting the process, maybe I am really a rebel at heart.

Are you a fan of interactive fiction in general? Any favorites you’d like to share? Which of our games do you enjoy, if any?

I’ve loved interactive fiction since reading those Choose Your Own Adventure novels as kid. I remember being really disappointed one summer when all the cool ones were checked out so I just kept reading the same two over and over.

When I first played Choice of the Vampire it was one of the coolest things I’d ever read. It was complex and well-realized and probably more than any other piece of interactive fiction, it made me think, “Yeah. Ok. I want to make stuff like this.”

I also loved Choice of the Deathless—though I had to stop playing it, because I discovered it right around the time I started my own game and didn’t want to accidentally crib any ideas from it.

I like a lot of Twine stuff, too, which can be so different and experimental. Even Cowgirls Bleed by Christine Love comes to mind and merritt kopas’s Conversations With My Mother. Those kinds of games led me to making weird little experiments myself like a black screen with the sound of crickets playing and the words: “Am I even here?” slowly blinking across the screen. That sounds crazy, I know, but its just another way of experimenting with narrative and different ways to convey meaning and get your point across. I like to think that those experiments help make me a better writer, though I’m sure that’s debatable.

What else are you working on right now?

Avatar of the Wolf has been the bulk of my writing life for some time, but I’m starting to work on a few new projects. A mentor of mine has been trying to get me to write a book for a few years now, which I’m just starting to think about seriously. And there’s always more Choice of Games if you’ll have me.

Short answer, Bernard Pivot-style Questionnaire:

Favorite color? Green.

Favorite word? Mezzanine.

What profession other than your own would like you like to attempt? Parkour runner.

Which would you not want to attempt? Rollercoaster mechanic.

Spring, summer, fall, or winter? Early summer, with a serious caveat against bugs.

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