We interrupt your regularly-scheduled XOXO After Dark program to bring you this special broadcast, erm, blog topic. We all love, love, LOVE to read, right? Especially things that are romance-y or urban fantasy-y. But what else do you love to do? I’m sure you’ve been in a conversation with someone where you mention in passing that thing you do (Synchronized swimming? Underwater basket-weaving? Karaoke all-star?) and you’ve gotten an “OH! I didn’t know you did that.” Suddenly they see you in a whole new light. People are like parfait. They have layers. 

So I was in a meeting a few months ago and we were talking about Diablo 3 (it’s a computer game in which you go around and kill fantastical creatures like laser spiders and demons and stuff) and one of our editors mentioned that Allison Pang plays Diablo 3. In fact, she’s a gamer girl! Imagine my surprise. So obviously, I had to do an interview with her. I mean, how could I not? Prime opportunity to geek out (and also learn a little bit more about one of our Urban Fantasy authors!). 

A little Allison 411: Allison writes the Abby Sinclair series, featuring Abby Sinclair, a TouchStone for a Faery Protectorate—a position filled with the benefits of long life, an enchanted iPod, and an assload of crazy paranormal beings coming her way. Dealing with OtherFolk and visiting Crossroads are sometimes maddening, to say the least, but with a miniature, perverted unicorn by her side, and an incubus watching over her, it’s the good kind of crazy…usually. Check out her website or her Twitter or her Facebook or her blog or her Goodreads (this lady is all over the internet!). And read an excerpt of her new book, A SLIVER OF SHADOWS.

The word on the street is that you game. Which came first for you: the games of the writing?

Well, considering I’ve been gaming since 1984 on my parents Apple II e…yeah. (Guess we can count the ATARI 2600 about that time as well.) Games on the Apple required a boot disk and a save disk (since there were no hard drives), and most of them were text based, a la Zork (I had a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game too…also text based) – at least until I started playing Bard’s Tale in 1986. Which had pictures…but it lost a bit of its charm on the monochrome monitor. (50 Shades of Green? Ha)

Hahaha. I know how that went. What is it about games that you love? Does that translate into your writing?

Mostly it’s just escapism, but it depends on the game. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a hack-n-slash or cooperative play, so I hit an MMO [massively multiplayer online game]. Sometimes I like puzzle games – in the same family as Myst or The Longest Journey. Sometimes I like building things so I turn toward the Sims, or Civ V. Mostly I love a good RPG [role playing game]– Skyrim, Baldur’s Gate, NeverWinter Nights, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, etc. (A long time ago, Sierra used to make games like King’s Quest and Gabriel Knight – which contained excellent puzzle and story-telling elements – but there doesn’t seem to be much call for those these days. Shame.)

As far as translating into my writing – sure. I think the escapism is the key element – I read books for much the same reason as I game – to escape into another world. Writing allows me to create that escape for another person, so it’s a win-win either way. (And very specifically, I mention a number of games in my books, either by name or reference that another gamer would recognize. Usually whatever I happen to playing during the time I’m writing a book gets put in.)

Some games, like the RPGs you mentioned, have a pretty strong story-telling aspect. Do you ever write anything and realize that a game you’re playing is influencing how you think about a story or what you write? Which game has the most influence on you?

I really try not to let that happen. Certain tropes are going to be prevalent in both (particularly the RPGs,) but I keep them separate. The only exception is when I played PbP [play by post–it’s an online text-based role playing game] games on forums. A number of the characters I’ve created there have shown up in one form or another in later works, but with the gaming aspects stripped off.

Okay. So what I think everyone REALLY wants to know is if you could have any magical power (or item?) from a game you’ve played, what would it be? And Why?

Oh god. I have no idea? Though being able to Fus Ro Dah people would be fairly amazing.

 Um..Yes. That would be pretty sweet. For everyone who has no idea what Fus Do Rah is, here’s a little compilation that I think sums it up quite nicely.

Diablo III came out a few months ago and the gaming community has been all over it! I know you’ve been playing too. I LOVE playing the Demon Hunter. I get to have magical crossbows fueled by hatred and discipline (this may not sound amazing to you readers, but it is. I promise.) Do you have a favorite character class on Diablo III? Or a character class you think you were?

Heh. I’m all about the monk. There’s something very satisfying to me about just getting into the middle of things and punching the hell out of them. (Plus the Monk is a very sassy lady. She gives exactly NO FUCKS.)

LOL. I love it. Maybe I should give her a try—I love sassy ladies. Have you ever/Do you ever think of putting a character like that in your books?

A monk? Not really. As much as I like playing ass-kicking characters, I’m not particularly fond of writing them. LOL

So how long have you loved unicorns?

Forever? Seriously, I don’t know though I imagine the obsession probably started in 1982 when my mom rented The Last Unicorn for me for a birthday party. Which I watched 3 times in 24 hours. And then recorded with an audio tape. Which I then listened to every night for at least a month.

I can probably *still* recite every line from the thing. >_<

If someone loved reading urban fantasy and wanted to try this whole gaming thing out, what would you recommend she start with?

If they’re interested in staying in the UF environment, I think The Secret World is a pretty fun place to start. It’s a new MMO that takes place in today’s world (except for all the crazy supernatural stuff that’s happening.) I like that most of the quests can be done solo (as opposed to more traditional MMOs that require a group of people for raids. My time is so limited right now that trying to organize that is nearly impossible, which means I don’t get to do much end-game type quests very often.)

If they’re not interested in MMOs, then an RPG might a good fit (if they’re into vamps, maybe Vampire: The Masquerade, though that’s an older one.) I’m going to plug Dragon Age if they like Swords & Sorcery or Mass Effect if they’re into space with a bit of first-person-shooter.

The thing is, not everyone is comfortable with being able to react in real-time and it can be intimidating. (MMOs are real time. Many RPGS are turn-based, meaning you can pause the game to determine strategy.)

The other thing to watch out for are monthly fees – many MMOs require you buy the game AND commit to paying $15 a month to play, though many do give you a month or so of free play. (Some, like Guild Wars 2, do not have a monthly fee, but you really need to make sure you know what you’re getting into.) On the other hand, many other games have additional DLC (downloadable content) or expansion that you can buy to enhance the overall experience.

The other thing to take into account is console vs PC. Something like an XBOX means you have to adapt to using a certain type of controller, but you’re pretty much guaranteed that the game you buy will run on the machine. A PC offers you a much more flexibility in customizing how you want to play…but just because you buy a game doesn’t mean it’s going to run or run well. You’re responsible for making sure your hardware is up to the standards required by the game and keeping drivers up to date, etc.

I play on both, though I tend to prefer the PC for a number of reasons.

The key thing is to play what you like and what makes you happy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I agree wholeheartedly! Thanks so much for playing along, Allison, and for all your great advice on entering the gaming world.

Want to find Allison in the gaming community? Here you go:

Steam: mynfel
Raptr: mynfel
XBOX Live: Lickbat
Origins: Brystion