I get interviewed a lot, and one of the most common questions I am asked is “what is your favorite movie/game/book/etc.” Of course this is a problem, because I don’t have a favorite, not exactly. I have several favorites among each category – sometimes dozens. Also the favorites change from time to time. Last night, for example, my producer texted me and said to do an update. I texted back, saying “I am watching Commando, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and so cannot be interrupted.” I doubt I’ll watch Commando again for years but last night, if only briefly, it rose to the level of a Sandy favorite. (Don’t worry – I obediently did the update when the movie ended.)
One of my favorite movies, and in fact I would classify it among the 10 most frightening films I’ve ever seen, is Suspiria. For me, one of the most terrifying moments in the movie is when Jessica Harper is talking to an old professor, an expert in the occult, and he says, “Magic … is everywhere.” In the context of the film, this is emphatically not a good thing, but it also places the creepy events throughout in context – this is not a film about witches casting spells – malign supernatural elements lurk ubiquitously, from rainwater running down the drains to stomping dancers at a bar to light reflecting off a knife blade. The influence is vast and formless and eternal.
Anyway, in my own life and my games, I can parody this quote by saying that “Lovecraft … is everywhere.” Almost every single game and supplement I have ever done (and there have been a LOT in my 35 year career) has included at least a homage to Lovecraft, though sometimes it has been invisibly small.
Sometimes it is obvious, as in Quake, which features a Gug-like entity named Chthon as the first boss, Dimensional Shamblers, and even Shub-Niggurath herself, (shaped like a Dark Young – the latter a monster I originally invented for Call of Cthulhu). Sometimes it is hard to spot, as in Age of Empires III, which is about colonization of the New World. Age of Empires III features native scouts who help you explore the land. These scouts come from a variety of Amerind tribes – and I was tasked (among other things) with creating the list of the native scout tribes. Well, one of the tribes I placed on the list was the Miskatonic. I actually almost got caught doing this. The design lead, Greg Street, was playing the game, and he noticed that his scout was from the Miskatonic tribe – which he had not heard of despite all his reading up on Native Americans for the game. So he asked me about it. I told him that it was a small New England tribe, and I doubted he would know about it. He shrugged and I got away with it. It’s not much, but at least it’s there!
Think on it – from 1988 through 2012, I was not able to work on one single Lovecraft-themed item! I was always working for someone else and Lovecraft was never deemed to be commercial. I had to create my own company and then create, as its flagship product, what I wanted to be my ultimate Lovecraft game. And of course, in doing Cthulhu Wars, I didn’t have to hide HPL away in a corner. I could trumpet it to the world. Man it’s refreshing. I love working on Cthulhu Wars. I love playing it, I love watching other people playing it. I love talking about it. I have been eating drinking and breathing Cthulhu Wars for three years now and it has not gotten old.
Now this sets me up with a new problem though. When interviewers ask me what my favorite game is, it’s too embarrassing to say Cthulhu Wars, because of course I am the designer and it makes me sound like an egomania. So I have to pick something else. But I’ll be truthful – if someone else had designed Cthulhu Wars, I think it would still be my favorite game. I’d be right in there with my $700 pledge just like many of you.
I think this is why I keep coming up with ideas for it, and why I seek to find things to gratify you, my fellow fans and backers.