In exciting publishing and video game news, the video game MFA vs NYC is now in post-production. The video game is inspired by the book of collected essays “MFA vs NYC” edited by Chad Hardbach. The designers said that arguments found on Facebook, Livejournal posts, Huffington Post think pieces, and in the Electric Literature comments section really helped the premise come to life.
The first person role player experience captures the high stakes atmosphere of real-world publishing. In first-person, the author must pick if they are going to get an MFA or move to NYC (which really is Brooklyn) and build an unremarkable literary career.
The first beta test just finished with great results and feedback. The game designers used real-life struggling writers as players.
A majority of the beta testers chose the MFA route. These writers sat in front of laptops and watched their avatars enter a workshop led by an adjunct who has an addiction to Adderall and gluten free Hot Pockets. The players learned they needed to write a short story about an old man reflecting on his life while walking on a treadmill.
The story itself wasn’t too hard to write, but the feedback from fellow workshop students was always overwhelmingly negative. The students had to figure out a way to keep their avatar from breaking down in tears.
Those who pass the workshop then work on their creative thesis. The players hand it in but their mentor keeps telling them that it’s two drafts away and they need to change the POV. The gamers take an extra semester and graduate with a shitty novel, but it only gets tougher post-graduation. They get a chance to submit to a prestigious journal but Anis Shavini is the editor.
None of the beta testers made it past that round, but the game makers said the next round would be answering odd job Craiglist ads or teaching comp classes while getting rejected from obscure and elite journals.
While the MFA route looks like Sisyphean task, the NYC route is not any easier.
NYC writers must go to live readings and find enough cocaine to not fall asleep. You must also keep building up your Twitter following and make sure to RT agents and editors. If you keep at it and go to enough readings and parties you will find and agent who believes in you.
Six months later, you are dropped by your agent unless you turn your heartfelt literary novel into a young adult high concept novel. You try to network at Brooklyn small press events, but they think you are lame and politely smile until they pretend to see someone they know so they can stop talking to you. You also get rejected by a potential partner because you admit to not liking Jennifer Egan’s work.
If a character can’t keep their morale up and find a way to pay for a prescription for Effexor, they will stop writing and binge watch Season 4 of Girls. Those that survive the depression end up being copywriters for Seamless.com and manage to write a short story that gets published for 50 bucks.
The few players that are able to keep their literary ambitions are white males who are able to get their parents to pay for their apartments. Unsure of how to write the next great American novel, they use Tinder to hook up with nineteen-year-old college students in hopes of unleashing their ‘Inner Updike’.
The sex is bad but the struggling literary novelist writes about the experience on his blog and becomes popular on Reddit.
The game received high marks from the struggling beta-testing writers. When asked if they would rather play the game again or work on their current WIP an astounding 87.8% chose to play the game.
Christoph Paul is an award-winning humor writer and co-publisher of New English Press. His most recent books are Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks and Great White House 2: Billary Bites Back. Find him on Twitter @Christophpaul_ and Christophpaulauthor.com.