Oct 21

2019

Author Interview: Clio Yun-Su Davis, The Fog Knows Your Name

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Step into the fog to confront your terror: the evil that hides within.

It’s senior year of high school. Your classmate Rex Keller was found dead six months ago, and you were the last person to see him alive. Half the town thinks you murdered him, including his sister, Ennis. The other half believes it was the fog.

The Fog Knows Your Name is a 300,000 word interactive teen horror novel by Clio Yun-su Davis. I sat down with Clio to talk about horror and why Maine is so horrifying. The Fog Knows Your Name releases this Thursday, Oct 24th. You can play the first three chapters now for free.

Fog is one of the few true horror stories in the Choice of Games catalogue–and it’s also a great teen drama. Why do teens and horror go so well together? 

I think it’s because being a teenager is already terrifying. You’re simultaneously coming into unprecedented power and responsibility while also realizing just how limited and trapped you are by your circumstances. Friendships that were simple in childhood can grow into complicated messes, and suddenly your relationships with everyone around you are so much more complex because they’re all going through the same thing. It’s a lot of uncertainty as well as a lot of agency since you’re an almost-adult, and those are both two key components of horror. It’s pretty scary to not understand why something is happening but to know that maybe you should try to do something about it!

It’s also a time in life when people are prone to feeling especially isolated, another ingredient that works well with horror. Adults often don’t believe you when you try to open up to them, people judge you based on rumors alone, and friends can turn on you in an instant because they’re testing the extent of their social power. You really have to learn to become self-reliant, and that skill is extremely important both when it comes to surviving horror stories and life in general. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned from the genre.

What drew you to this story in particular? I’m curious too if you’ve spent time in Maine, where Fog is set and where I recently relocated.

That’s very cool that you’re in Maine now! It does seem to be a hub for the horror genre, doesn’t it? I came up with the initial idea for Fog when I was in Stonington, Maine with family. Originally it was supposed to be a short story, but when it came time to pitch ideas to Choice of Games I realized it was a good fit. Many of my games explore grief in some way, and horror makes for an excellent vehicle specifically for that. With Fog, I was particularly interested in setting up a story in which players are confronted with the monstrosities created by overwhelming grief.

Fog itself, of course, plays an important role in the game. It was frequently foggy out while I was in Stonington, and there was one morning in particular when I was standing out by the water and couldn’t see anything around me at all. I immediately fell in love with that eerie feeling and went running around in the fog like the weird goblin I am, then did a photoshoot with my siblings where they pretended to be ghosts. There’s a certain fishing shack that appears in the game that is very much based on a fishing shack that’s in many of those photos. I also got inspiration from standing out on a dock as the sun went down while listening to the It Follows soundtrack. I scared myself so badly I had trouble walking back to the house. I ended up regretting that particular decision.

Arbor Isle, the town in the game, is very different from Stonington, though there are a few shared traits.

This is hardly your first game design rodeo, though it is your first time writing in ChoiceScript, I think? Tell me a little about your work in tabletop and LARP because I think those experiences can be uniquely informative of our game design. 

This is my first time writing in ChoiceScript! I mainly write for tabletop RPGs and LARPs, so it was interesting juggling those projects and this one at the same time. I sometimes found I was accidentally writing in ChoiceScript when I didn’t mean to!

On the tabletop side of things, I’ve contributed to Kids on Bikes, FlipTales, We Are All Monsters, Teens in Space, and Mutants and Masterminds. No Such Place as Koreatown, my adventure setting for Kids on Bikes, is the most similar to Fog out of all of those. My work on that definitely helped me with writing Fog, and vice versa, as it made me examine closely what actions a player can take in a horror or horror-adjacent game that feel the scariest. Also, both involve young people running around small towns and facing off against forces beyond their immediate understanding.

On the LARP side, I’ve written The Long Drive Back from Busan, a freeform game about a struggling k-pop group that won a Golden Cobra award in 2017, But Not Tonight, a game about high schoolers trapped in a fallout shelter in the 80s, and The Truth About Eternity, a scenario about a future of ancestor worship where ancestors are uploaded to digital tombs, to name a few. My experience writing and running But Not Tonight helped me a lot with Fog because it’s another game in which teenagers are struggling with two sets of fears – their everyday existential dread and interpersonal problems as well as fear of the world possibly ending outside. Watching players balance supposedly mundane worries and big, earth-shattering worries inspired me when writing the various characters in Fog and how they tackle their problems.

Additionally, both in LARP and tabletop games, players often have a lot of freedom to react to in-game situations in extreme ways. I wanted to incorporate that into Fog as well, the options to just totally lean into drama and lash out at people because you’re freaking out. I spent a lot of time thinking about how players might want to react to events if they had total freedom, and chose the options that I personally found to be the most interesting without completely derailing the story.

And back to Fog, the characters in this game are so finely wrought. I’m wondering which NPC you enjoyed spending time with the most. 

I think about my NPCs a lot! I actually ended up really liking the scenes with Barry Michaels, which I did not expect. I enjoy it when characters surprise me with their complexity. Out of the main crew, I’m very fond of Addy even though they can be such a jerk. I see a lot of myself in them. Hopefully that doesn’t mean I’m also a jerk! Addy is restless, doesn’t have time to deal with other people’s bullshit, and is ready for life to really get started. I think many people can identify with that, especially if they grew up or are currently in a small town that feels a bit stifling.

I also have a soft spot for Ennis. She does some terrible things, but I think a lot of people will want to understand her better and help her. She’s a strong person who has been utterly destroyed by grief and is handling it in probably the least healthy way possible. I tried to have scenes with her feel like you’re standing on the edge of a raging storm. Maybe that storm will calm down, or maybe you’ll be hit by lightning. In the meantime, you’re just watching in awe as it wrecks everything it comes into contact with. We so often are forced to put on a stoic face when coping with grief, and I wanted to write someone who just doesn’t. She’s in pain and she is not hiding it.

If you had it to do over, what do you wish you’d have known before writing this game

Oh my god. That’s a very good question. Probably that these games have a tendency to grow in scope in ways you’re not even noticing until it’s over three times the length you originally anticipated! Also that some of the stats I originally had (but then got rid of) would be difficult to incorporate into the game.

And what are you working on next? 

Currently, I’m working on another horror game called Home with my friend Doug Levandowski in which you explore an unsettling house that has relics of your childhood home within it. The Kickstarter campaign for a card game I worked on called Battle of the Boy Bands is also launching soon, and that game will be published by Game and a Curry. In addition to that, I’m contributing to Magical Kitties Save the Day and Hearts of Wulin, creating short RPGs for my Patreon, and recording two actual play podcasts, Red Death and the upcoming Dark Wings, Dark Waves, both on the Roll to Play network!

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