Cara Ellison is a Scottish writer and a veteran war poet of the early 2012 game critic wars. She has written for The Guardian and New Statesman, and also writes the column S.EXE at Rock Paper Shotgun. She is currently travels the world writing about people who make games – a gig she describes as both amazing and terrifying. At Nordic Game this May, Cara Ellison will go on stage with a talk titled “New Wave Games Criticism”.
NG: What was the first game that really made you aware of games?
CE: I think I remember being fascinated by a game called Acheton on the BBC Micro that was abandoned in my room when I was a kid. It’s a very difficult text game made by Cambridge students as far as I remember, and I remember typing instructions in and having the computer talk back to me. The descriptions of the “rooms” were so evocative even though they were very short and to the point – my imagination was very active then, and the game drew these long labyrinths in my mind. I never got further than about five or six rooms, but it was such a mysterious interaction that I think I was hooked.
NG: Which game has made you most frustrated or angry?
CE: I didn’t have much of a good time with Ride To Hell: Retribution. The level design was so ambiguous about where I should go next that I pressed myself up against every un-openable door, of which there are at least a tantalising ten in each level, for a chance to press “E” to open, only to realise that warehouse walls sometimes slide open automatically when you go near them. So then I started grinding myself against perimeter walls like a cat in heat in case they magically opened to send me to the next part of the level.
NG: Which game have you spent the most time on?
CE: I spent so much time playing the original DotA (Defense of the Ancients) mod. About five years of my life. I played it with a very close group of friends and it represents a very special time in my life where I became close with other people because of games. I was never any good at it of course, but that game makes me very scared of delving too much into another MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) in case I lose half my life in it.
DotA mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos/The Frozen Throne
NG: What game, genre or game mechanic would you like to see brought back the most?
CE: I want cold opens in videogames to become a bigger thing. I want game instructions and inputs to become minimal and let me find out for myself what the designers let me do in their world.
NG: What is the best detail you ever noticed in a game?
CE: Well, I was a tester on GTA IV. I know everything about that game, including the whereabouts of all the pigeons and where all the supercars are parked.
NG: Which game would do well in another media form?
CE: I don’t know if many games would make good other things – I’d definitely like to see Tomb Raider given to Lawrence Kasdan, or, for that matter, me, for a decent movie script. And I’d have Danny Boyle direct it.
Captivated? Cara Ellison – globetrotting game critic and columnist – another great reason to join us for Nordic Game 2015, 20-22 May in Malmö, Sweden. Register today!