Interview with Jason Stevan Hill (Choice of Games)

Jason Stevan Hill Author Photo

First off tell me about yourself? And your role in Choice of Games?
I’m the co-founder and COO of the company. I wrote Vampire and Fall of Memphis, and I’m working on the third title (intermittently).

Now tell me about Choice of Games and what exactly is the company does?
Choice of Games is a developer of interactive novels. We do so with the express goal of producing feminist, egalitarian, and sex-positive games.

How many games have been released by Choice of Games LLC?
It’ll be 92-ish by the end of the year, plus about 120 Hosted Games.

What have been your most popular games?
Choice of Robots is definitely the most popular of all time. The Heroes Rise trilogy is another popular one. Other top ten titles include Psy High, Deathless, Rebels, Magics, Vampire, and Champion of the Gods.

And what are your own personal favourites?
Rent-a-Vice is a compelling look at addiction and abuse. Tally Ho is a magnificent satire in the style of Wooster and Jeeves. Heart of the House is a beautifully written exploration of horror and desire in a queer Victorian setting.

What are you most proud of during your time at Choice of Games?
We’ve managed to accomplish a number of great things at COG. Our first year, we received a Nuovo Award Honorable Mention from the Independent Game Festival. We were the first text games on Steam. We were the first game studio to become a qualifying market for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Over the past eight years, we’ve increased our base Advance from $0 to $2500 to $5000 and now $7500, which is competitive with advances from traditional publishing houses.

Where can people find the games?
iOS, Google Play, Amazon App Store for Android, Steam, and our website.

What sets apart your games from other games on the market?
COG is doing something fundamentally different from anything else in the space. Most is gauntlet-style or puzzle based; we’re more of a branch-and-bottleneck structure, and we don’t have puzzles. That means that there are multiple, equally valid playthroughs that—when done right–can result in substantially different coherent endings.

Are you looking for writers and if so how do you apply?

Which of the Vampire games are your favourite?
Really, I see them as one continuous game. I’m vaguely wondering, now that we have the omnibus, about recombining them. They’re meant to be played together, so distinguishing them isn’t something that I can really do.

What was the hardest aspect of making those games and what would you change?
The hardest aspect is just getting my butt in a chair and doing the work. As for changing things, because I see it as all one work, as I move forward, I constantly go back and tweak things and add things. Whole chapters have been added in both games post-release.

How many endings are there?
That’s not something we think about or consider. There aren’t “routes,” there are numerous goals that can be in different states at the end of the game; the matrix of those goals in their different potential states is what we call the Matrix of End States. If there are eight goals with four potential values, that’s ostensibly 8^4 or 4096 endings. Again, though, that’s not how we think of things.

How do you feel they were received?
Collectively, they’ve been downloaded over a million times. That’s pretty cool. What’s more, people are frequently still interviewing me about a game I wrote eight years ago. I’m always curious if they just haven’t played our newer games, or if they perceive something as being different between eight years ago and now, or what.

Who are you favourite or least favourite characters?
I don’t know how to quite think about this question. I don’t know that I think about characters in quite this way. I suppose I’m enjoying writing Memeskia, the Native American Quaestor of St. Louis, but you haven’t seen him yet. I suppose I also really enjoyed writing the Clotho and Silas romances. They were late additions to the game, but players really responded to them. The Clotho one, in particular, was about challenging the assumptions of both the player and myself, and that seems to have been well-received.

How much research went into the games you made?
You know, I’ve done a lot more research into St. Louis and Memphis than I did into New Orleans. Partly, I’m from New Orleans, so I had my own ideas about it. Additionally, records are spottier in antebellum times. But more importantly, New Orleans and its vampire tropes just kinda writes itself. That’s part of the reason why I started the story there: it would just be an easy entrée for readers of the genre.

For Memphis and St. Louis, though, I’ve gone way overboard with the research. I have to step back sometimes and remind myself that 99% of the players won’t care about these details, and that chasing this or that particular rabbit down its hole is very much me not actually writing.

Do you ever play your own games?
I don’t play them during development, no. I’d just get depressed at how poor my writing is. Post-release, I’ve played a few times, for QA purposes.

Lastly feel free to share social media for Choice of Games so people can find and follow you?


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