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Author Interview: Olivia C Dunlap
2019-02-01 · by Stewart C Baker
tagged Blog / Interviews
Olivia C Dunlap is the author of “Pretend You Love Each Other,” the first-place game from our first subQjam. Olivia is a writer, programmer, and game developer from Little Rock, Arkansas. She’s a co-founder of Little Rock Games and has a portfolio that includes interactive fiction, tabletop games, and other digital interactives. She’s always got too many projects on her mind, and is currently working on a dog shelter simulator called To The Rescue!. Follow her on Twitter to see what she is up to.
This interview was conducted over e-mail in January of 2019.
sub-Q Magazine: Our theme for 2018 was love. What does love mean to you, and do you think that affected how you approached your game?
Olivia C Dunlap: To be honest, I wasn’t particularly excited about the theme when it first got announced. Love isn’t something that is normally very inspiring or exciting to me as a creator, and it was tricky to integrate into my original idea. I decided to approach the theme in a somewhat traditional/literal way, but to focus a bit more on authenticity and love as a tool for reaching a goal. I was originally inspired by watching a real game show (Jeopardy) and being somewhat unfairly upset that the person who needed the prize money the most wasn’t the person who won. That seemed to translate pretty well to the theme of love by making it about a dating show. But I definitely didn’t want it to be from the perspective of someone who felt cheated. I felt it was important to instead focus on guilt.
sub-Q Magazine: All the games for our jam were very short. What challenges did you experience trying to create something in such a constrained space?
Olivia C Dunlap: I anticipated this before I even got started, but I immediately started trying to tell a story that was much bigger than I could fit inside the limit. The first thing I did was write an introductory exposition with world building and extra context for why the protagonist was doing what they were doing, but that ended up being over 300 words by itself. With such an extreme constraint, I learned there is a lot that needs to be conveyed implicitly. I partly wish that I hadn’t put the story in a sci-fi setting to avoid some of that, but I wanted it to be surreal and strange enough that this weird dystopic game show seemed plausible. In the end, I had to have confidence that readers will fill in the gaps however they wanted, which is something that I have trouble doing in general as a writer. Even then, I ended up being over double the limit in my first draft! So in short, I went into the jam thinking “1000 words? That’s not so bad,” and finished the jam thinking “1000 words? That’s insane!”
sub-Q Magazine: What’s one thing you wish you’d known when you first started making interactive art?
Olivia C Dunlap: I did a lot of research before I ever got started writing interactive works. However, I still routinely underestimate how much more work it is compared to linear creative writing, especially when you want to have meaningful divergence. But in my eyes that just makes it more rewarding when you finally step away from a piece and release it into the world.
sub-Q Magazine: If you play a lot of games, what was your favourite new game in 2018? Anything coming out in 2019 you’re excited about?
Olivia C Dunlap: Whew, don’t get me started! I’d love to give a shout-out to some small indie games here, but I would be lying to myself if I didn’t admit to my Monster Hunter obsession. Monster Hunter World has definitely kept me on my feet this year. I think there’s a lot to look forward to in 2019. Overland, Afterparty, Ooblets, Kingdom Hearts 3, The World Next Door, and Boyfriend Dungeon, just to name a few!
sub-Q Magazine: What’s next? If you have any upcoming games, artwork, or other projects you want to talk about, let us know!
Olivia C Dunlap: For the last couple of years on-and-off, I’ve been working on a dog shelter simulator game called To The Rescue!. I’m really excited about it. It’s a game where you get to run your own shelter, match dogs with good owners, and keep them happy and healthy, with a portion of the proceeds going to real-world shelters. We’re hoping to be post the Steam page and update the website with new screenshots and such within the next month or so, but in the meantime we have a Twitter page and a website with a little more information about the game, the team, and how to follow development.