Why Everyone Will Be Gripped By The Punished, Not Just Gamers

The Punished: Crooked Cat’s Cy Forrest Q&A


Kick back. Take a deep breath. It’s Q&A time. Welcome to the blog and new Facebook page of Crooked Cat’s Cy Forrest answering questions from his studio in a rural village just south of Bath about video games and their influence on his work.

His major new novel The Punished is due out on September 13. Join in the live online Facebook launch event on the day.

Can writers compete with all the online content, Cy?

Yes, that’s the general idea. What people are producing online is changing rapidly. Content is springing up constantly: You Tube Vlogs, Twitter and Facebook draw traffic, and for very good reasons, but the more content that’s available, the more I’m aware of what that content is. As an architect would say, the more people build high rise, the more I have to build something different.

So, has gaming influenced your work, Cy?

Yes, it has. Although I’ve never actually encountered a video game, I’m aware of where the $100bn-a-year industry’s going. I’m not belittling it, but I do keep careful watch on what’s being produced by an industry that’s matured way beyond its beginnings. Despite the maturity, though, people still feel the need to draw comparisons with my area of expertise and I do have to speak up when comparisons are made with my work.

In what way?

I can’t be a devoted gamer because my work demands hours of intense scrutiny. For example, I don’t have the luxury of limitless hours to encounter Rise of the Tomb Raider, which the Guardian’s video games editor Keith Stuart says takes thirty hours to reach the closing moments. Destiny 2 takes groups of friends many hours, and some games are designed to be played for years: “The whole concept of completeness is finished”, says Stuart. Literature, on the other hand, succeeds on the idea that less is more; that there is a beginning, a middle and an end; that linearity, plot and suspense are essential.

What’s the writer’s response?

No online content has ever shown me a world I can call my own. It’s always shown me someone else’s existence and it’s always suggested I aspire to that existence by dictating my emotional reaction: cry now; smile now; be angry now; hate; kill. I’m naturally resistant to investing my identity and expressing myself through someone else’s existence. It’s unhealthy.

So, you’re out on a limb, Cy?

No, but it is a challenge to express myself through my work and not be neurotic about misrepresentation in the popular press. My work is on a human scale, personal and tailored. It’s connected to who we are and to human nature with its own emotional narrative. I’m open about my values and goals. I search for a writing style never seen before and it might not be understood. People are quick to belittle things they don’t understand. That’s not my fault. I’ve done nothing wrong.

Are we reinventing the wheel?

No, but the comparison ends with, ‘games that suit your mood.’ Games are an, “expressive, meaningful and diverse cultural phenomenon”, according to Stuart, and with critically acclaimed games about immigration, teenage friendship and grief, it’s as if books cannot do that. They can. They have done for years and they’ll continue to do so.

Rewards for those who CAN jump through the hoops?

It seems so. According to Stuart, Dara O’Briain claims, “No other form of entertainment purposefully withholds content until it considers that you deserve to see it. There are no books that test you at the end of the chapter to ensure you’ve appreciated all the themes correctly”. I’m glad to hear that. End of comparison.

Video games are indeed maturing, but literature is more inclusive. If you lack, “the physical dexterity or pinpoint hand eye coordination”, you will find books have all the, “expressive, meaningful and diverse content” you want to be gripped by, and you will be gripped to the end, not denied the experience because you haven’t earned it.

With The Punished, everyone can experience the emotional effect of what it feels like to be one of those characters in extraordinary circumstances. And if you’re no good, it’s certainly not game over until it really is the final page.

You can pre-order The Punished by Cy Forrest at Amazon.