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Caitlin Lill talks about Evolve

By Failbetter, November 6, 2012 · Failbetter Tagged with ,

Caitlin Lill’s Evolve came third in the World of the Season Autumn 2012 competition. Caitlin has kindly agreed to talk to us about Evolve and her experiences on StoryNexus.

Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Caitlin, and I’m a science museum professional from Illinois (USA). I have an undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolution from Beloit College in Wisconsin, and a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University in California. My passion is helping people understand the relevance and importance of science in their everyday lives in an entertaining and enjoyable way. I recently bought a house in Champaign, IL with my husband (who’s working on a PhD in sociology), where we live with two cats, a lizard, and a large slobbery St. Bernard named Darwin.

What led you to create your world?
I’ve always been a gamer in my free time, and had been playing Fallen London for about two years before Story Nexus came along. I heard about the beta test from Zero Summer’s head writer Gordon, and signed up without any real expectations besides “this could be cool.” After getting accepted, and hearing about everyone’s completely lovely fiction ideas…I just wasn’t feeling it. I’m not a fiction writer, and while I GM for RPGs and LARPs that’s not quite the same type of world building that you need to create a compelling fictional story on paper. Instead, my mind kept turning to alternative applications for the platform, specifically it’s educational potential. The story I know best is that of evolution, since I have a degree in it, so that’s what I ran with.

What’s your favourite thing about your world?
My favourite thing has been the amazing response I’ve already gotten – from family, friends, and strangers – saying that they feel like they already know more about evolution and biology from the first few chapters of my game. Evolve hasn’t gotten very far in explaining how evolution works, the pressures of natural selection over millions of years, and people are already telling me they have a better understanding of what a complicated process it is. If nothing else, I consider that to be a wonderful accomplishment.

What are your next plans on StoryNexus
It’s hard to say right now. I’ll admit that I’m feeling a bit intimidated by the number of people who are playing what I consider a dinky little game I made up over a few weeks! That and I’ve only covered a tiny portion of the evolutionary timeline, and that wasn’t even the complicated part. I’m trying to regroup and determine how much time I have to dedicate to this project and what a reasonable next step will be. I definitely don’t want to disappoint all the people who have given Evolve a chance.

What sort of world would you like to play?
I would love to see more educational games. I think that history has a very natural intersection with this platform, because you can honor the fiction base of these games while teaching real facts to people. I want to take a walk through the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, or learn about the battles of the US Civil War. I want to follow Herodotus around the Ancient Mediterranean. I also think you can look at other subjects, like astronomy, languages, or social issues. Machine Cares from FBG was a great example of that, it was such a refreshing attempt by a company to talk about a real-world issue.

Which other StoryNexus worlds have you played and enjoyed?
I’m biased towards Zero Summer because the writers are real friends of mine from college, and Samsara really is a beautiful game. I was surprisingly delighted by Blue Moon, because it was really trying something different and that’s what I’m drawn to personally. Games don’t have to be perfect or “successful” to hold my attention, it’s much more about process.

Do you have any advice for people creating worlds on StoryNexus?
At this point, I would say don’t be intimidated by what’s already out there. It was a little scary writing an educational game while everyone else was focused on fiction. Was I following the rules that I needed to? Were there even real rules in the first place? Are people going to be overly critical of my failures (of which there have been many, and will be more)? Those sorts of questions and doubts are going to hold you back; with Story Nexus being a new platform, you really can’t be afraid to try something different, experiment, and get feedback from the community. We’re all sort of learning this together, and there’s always room for more voices and ideas.

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Erik Harrison Dec 14, 7:14pm

I'm flattered by the comment on Blue Moon - I was trying to do something different for the sake of different. Evolve is different for more laudable reasons, and I was quite fond of it when I played it, in early days. In general, these interviews with SN creators are fun and fascinating.

Evolve (Caitlin Lill) | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling Nov 27, 1:57am

[...] begin as a single-celled organism and make choices that allow your organism to evolve. The author has written about her inspiration: she works in a science museum, and saw the StoryNexus platform as a possible way to convey the [...]