How Video Games and Fanfiction Brought Me Back to Writing, a guest post by Judy I. Lin
When I was a teen, I was not allowed to play video games. We didn’t have a console in our house and our computer was strictly for homework purposes. That didn’t stop me though from discovering the world of text-based RPGs, where you would move your character through different rooms that are described in text and interact with aspects of the environment, like picking up a sword from a dead adventurer or jabbing at monsters. I played late into the night when I was supposed to be asleep, imagining myself as an explorer of these fantastical worlds. But even though I liked the worldbuilding details and solving little puzzles, I connected the most with other people who are online at the same time as we fought monsters together side by side.
Years later, video games would become way more popular. I would try a game here and there, but I was not very good at first person shooters because of my terrible hand-eye coordination, and I didn’t like driving games (bad sense of direction). I didn’t think that video games were for me, until I started playing Mass Effect. Even though I was the commander of a space ship and I was tasked with figuring out the mysteries of alien technology by completing missions on various planets, the relationships were just as important as the shooting. I made choices that changed my relationships with people in my party, I got to know their backgrounds and histories, and that was what made the game so interesting to me. The choices you make and how it affected the world around you, along with the characters you gather into your party and how they all reveal things about the intergalactic conflicts that you learn about as you travel through the vast universe.
It was why I was eager to pick up Dragon Age: Origins, another series developed by the same studio: Bioware. When I played it, it felt like everything that I loved coming together: I was an avid reader of fantasy novels, and I liked the swashbuckling adventure of text-based RPGs, but now I could immerse myself in the kingdom of Ferelden. It was a fantasy world where you would find bits and pieces of lore everywhere you looked, the environments were beautiful, and of course you developed relationships with the people in your party. They could argue with you about your choices, tease you when you made a mistake, or even leave you if you did something unforgiveable in their eyes.
I enjoyed the characters and the lore and the world of Dragon Age so much that I started writing fanfiction. I stopped writing years ago because I attended university and had just started my career in healthcare, and I always heard the voice of my parents at the back of my head – get a real job, writing will always be a hobby. But it felt like I was missing something, and when I rediscovered my joy in writing, I realized that I missed having a creative outlet.
Writing fanfiction felt natural to me at the time because there was no expectation to create a new world that felt real and lived in. There was a certain comfort in playing around in a world that someone else has created. If I was missing a detail, I could hop online and check the wiki, or ask a question in the forums. I could write my own characters into this universe or I could inhabit the mind of a known character to write a short story. I posted my stories online and found a community in the fandom, where we talked about our favorite scenes from the games, and helped edit each other’s work.
Those early text based RPGs, my time spent playing Mass Effect and Dragon Age video games, and writing fanfiction, all influenced me as I started writing my own original work. It laid the groundwork for me to realize that what I enjoyed writing about was the relationship between characters and how their upbringings influence how they see the world and the impact their decisions made on the people around them. It taught me about the value of community, of spending time with people who love the same things that I do, instead of creating in a solitary vacuum. I also learned the important skill of being able to take and to give critique, but to do it in a way that supports the other person instead of tearing them down.
While writing A Magic Steeped in Poison, I wanted to create a world that felt as real as those in the Bioware games, so that Jia, the capital city and the palace was as vivid in the mind of the reader as the Circle Tower or the Citadel. I wanted my heroine to develop close relationships with the other characters, but for each of them to have their own purpose and journeys to follow that may align with or be contrary to Ning’s goals. In A Venom Dark and Sweet, the sequel to A Magic Steeped in Poison, I was able to extend the story beyond the capital to the distant provinces of the empire. I hope that I’ve captured that sense of adventure and exploration for my readers, and keep them up late at night, just like I once stayed up crawling through dungeons and playing in the dreamlands.
Meet the author
Judy I. Lin was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada with her family at a young age. She grew up with her nose in a book and loved to escape to imaginary worlds. She now works as an occupational therapist, and still spends her nights dreaming up imaginary worlds of her own. She lives on the Canadian prairies with her husband and daughter. A Magic Steeped in Poison is her debut novel.
About A Magic Steeped in Poison
Judy I. Lin’s sweeping debut A Magic Steeped in Poison, first in a duology, is sure to enchant fans of Adrienne Young and Leigh Bardugo.
I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”
For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.
When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.
But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 03/29/2022
Series: The Book of Tea #1
Age Range: 13 – 18 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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