The third novel in “The Games of Love” series by Deanna Dee comes out today! I’m so happy to participate in her release day blast for FINISH HIM by interviewing her about a topic that is also near and dear to my heart: gaming. Though gaming has always been a huge part of my life and a huge influence on my writing, Dee has taken that one step further and created a lovely series that takes advantage of a demographic not often represented in the romance genre.
Tell us a bit about your history with gaming and how it inspired you to incorporate it into your storytelling.
When I was a kid, my dad would sit me down with paper and these little metal figurines he had and say “let’s have an adventure.” We’d spend the next several hours traversing caverns, fighting dragons, collecting treasure, and having an amazing time. When I got a little older, I realized this was the very basic version of an actual type of game called role playing games (RPGs). I loved this concept and wanted more. So my mom got involved, too, and we’d have family quest nights.
The idea of writing about gamers didn’t hit until a year or two ago. Those early sessions with my parents remain big influences in my love of RPGs. I even see a bit of them in some of my characters. The sessions in “The Games of Love,” though, are more based on a group I was part of in college. I love writing about a group of gamers because it’s guaranteed fun.
What’s your favorite video game? What’s your favorite table-top RPG? Why?
Allow me to deconstruct the favorite video game part of the question. If we’re talking favorite game that’s evolved into modern play, that would be Mortal Kombat (MK). It was my start in video gaming, and its simplicity speaks to me. Dude A fights Dude B. One emerges victorious. To break this down even farther, my favorite old school MK is MK3. My favorite new age version is MK Deception. Though, MK Gold (which I had on Sega Dreamcast) holds a special place in my heart for having fully choreographed winner sequences.
Now, if we’re talking favorite game from “back in the day,” that goes to Streets of Rage II. I had the first game as part of a six pack and thought it was okay. When I discovered there was a sequel, my mom bought it, and there are endless hours of memories with that game. I now have Streets of Rage II (among many other 90s games) on compellations. The music is eight-bit, and the graphics are terrible. I don’t care.
Did any real-life gamer romances inspire you for this series?
A few years ago, I read Backward Compatible by Sarah Daltry and Pete Clark. That book is told in alternating first person perspectives from two gamer geeks. I laughed out loud while reading it. The references were amazing. The language was a bit harsh, but it was about college gamers, after all. I read the last page and realized this was a romance written for me. I could identify with the characters’ loves for gaming and pop culture. I understood the “we don’t belong” mentality. I’d felt that way many times. I wanted to make more books like this, books where the leading characters were the weird sidekicks or brainiac siblings found in many other romance novels.
What makes “The Games of Love” series appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike?
I won’t lie. The gaming in “The Games of Love” is a big part of the story. There are Marshalls and Magics (the RPG played by the group) sessions throughout all the books. Aside from that, each story has its own unique gaming experience. Critical Hit-On has a trading card game, and One Fling to Rule Them All has a RFID tech-powered adventure game, and Finish Him has the arcade experience. Between this and references to pop culture, there’s something for every geek.
“But I’m not really a geek or gamer.” No problem. There’s plenty for you, too. I realized very quickly when I started writing Critical Hit-On that readers could not survive on LOTR [Lord of the Rings] quotes alone. So there are real-life problems in each book. There’s family trouble, friend trouble, romantic trouble. There’s jealousy, fear, joy, fun. Even the gaming moments are punctuated with real emotions. If you don’t game, you can understand how the characters feel during the game because emotions are emotions.
What do you wish the world knew about female gamers?
That we are just people who want to have a good time. We game because we enjoy it. We game because it’s fun. We game because it has meaning for us that other experiences don’t give. We’re just women who game.
And finally, leave us with an excerpt from FINISH HIM!
Certainly! And in keeping with the gaming theme, here’s a gaming excerpt. This comes from about the halfway point. Sonya (leading lady) and Jaxon (leading man) are at the arcade mentioned a few questions ago, and they are about to embark on a playing of Sonya’s all-time favorite video game.
The arena takes a minute to load. Dalara and Olgren stand ready in front of a cave with bones littered around its mouth. It’s 2D and the bones are pixelated, but this is the original version I haven’t been able to find in a compilation anywhere. Those 2D pixels are a sight for sore eyes.
Round One appears on the screen. The rounds weren’t announced in the first few games. There’s the customary pause before my favorite word in video game history flashes in all caps. FIGHT! The constipated ogre bellows his call to arms. If anyone needs the bathroom, it’s him.
Jaxon wastes no time. He unleashes Olgren’s lightning attack. White electricity arcs across the screen and into me, turning a bit of my health bar red. I could have avoided it, but my playful side wants to, well, play. Jaxon doubts my skill? Let’s see how cocky he is after I let him win and then take him so far down he can’t see the sun anymore.
“Rookie mistake.” He sends Olgren into a flying kick. “Want me to go easy on you?”
I jump back and deliver a punch combo. His health bar turns a little red. “Not on your life.”
Jaxon retreats, and his fingers move in a special attack pattern. “Your funeral.” Olgren does his lightning leap, a flying attack bolstered by a lightning strike.
I dodge and use Dalara’s knife twirl. The second half of the attack lands, sending Olgren stumbling back. Jaxon charges into a flip. Dalara is thrown across the screen. She gets back on her feet, and I do my own charge into a kicking combo that Jaxon blocks part of. His health bar drops, but mine’s still lower.
Jaxon grins. “Sorry, kid.” He hits a bunch of buttons.
I jump Dalara back to appear scared. If my quick math is correct, this will kill me, which is perfect. Round two can begin, and I can show Jaxon who he’s dealing with.
Olgren raises his arms above his head. He yells something to the small Asian country, and the lightning bubble from the opening forms around him. He charges me, and the electricity sends Dalara into fits. If these games had vibrating controls, mine would be having a seizure.
Olgren backs away. Dalara collapses, stands, and, due to the odd way older games work, falls down dead. The ogre groans Olgren’s victory.
“Aww.” Jaxon pats my shoulder. “Tough break. I’ll go easy on you this time.”
I make a show of tightening my grip on the joystick. I’m going to make him eat those words. “I don’t need you to go easy.” My voice is a mix of sore loser and petulant kid.
Jaxon smirks. Round two sets up. The cave is still there, and the bones are still pixelated. FIGHT.
I don’t give him a chance to think about breathing. Dalara zooms forward on a gust of wind, knocking Olgren clear across the arena. I close the distance in a leap, knives flashing. One two three four five—every strike hits, and I land a punching and kicking combo that brings Jaxon’s health bar to a little less than half.
“What the…?” Ah, he’s realizing who he’s playing against. “No way.” He punches some buttons.
He’s too slow. I land a leaping kick and interrupt his special. Next is a punch combo, followed by a kick combo, followed by Knives of Wind, in which my knives stab from all directions. Those four attacks hit, and I finish the round with another Slamming Gust.
Dalara Wins, the ogre says. Flawless Victory.
Jaxon clutches the joystick. “You’re going down.”
He’s wrong. The tiebreaker round is pretty similar to the one before, a bloodbath for Olgren until the game tells me to Finish Him.
I pause. Any hit will kill Olgren. I’m not letting any hit do it. I glide my fingers over the buttons to make certain I have the combo right. It was a little different in this version, and my memory doesn’t fail me. Jaxon thinks he can beat me? He’s a fool, as every tacky mustache-twirling villain ever said. My combo is solid. I hit the buttons. “Good night.”
The screen dims, and the music goes low and dark. Dalara concentrates a blast of wind on Olgren. Her dark hair flies in every direction, and her hands move faster and faster. Olgren gives an agonized roar. The wind forms a cone, and with a flash and boom, my opponent explodes into blood and guts.
Dalara Wins. Those are the most satisfying words ever spoken by a constipated ogre. Flawless Victory. Fatal Finish. Okay, they’re the second most satisfying words after the last four.
I face Jaxon. “I believe, sir, you have been defeated.”
He stares at me, mouth agape. “Hu—wha—wow.” He bows. “I’m not worthy.” There is true awe in his voice.
I pat him on the head while he’s bent over—a trick I learned from Lydia with Parker. “Few are. It’s okay.”
FINISH HIM is available on Amazon.
Deanna Dee is strictly human and does not, to her knowledge, own a hyena. She lives by the sea, which she takes full advantage of in the summer time. People, reading, and pop culture make up the shameless downtime of her life. The rest of it is writing, and she’s okay with that.