Interview: Leigh Alexander on Mona

Hi, yes, still alive, still writing. I won't bother you with the particulars of my absence, only tell you that I'm back and I have something y'all might find interesting. So let's hop to it.

Leigh Alexander is one of the best game critics in the industry right now. When I say "critic," I don't mean the usual games press shorthand for "someone who tells you if a game is good or bad," but someone who actually examines and analyzes our experiences with games: how they make us feel, how successful the mechanics are at relaying its goals and themes, what these tell us about ourselves, and so forth. In the last half year, she's become one of my go-to sources for nuanced games criticism alongside Cara Ellison and Patrick Klepek. Leigh is originally from Massachusetts, currently living in New York City, and often pops in and out of London for conferences and the like. She also, I must impress, has an incredible voice, as evidenced by the "Lo-Fi Let's Plays" she occasionally posts on YouTube. 

Leigh recently took time out from her critical work to write and self-publish Mona, a short story with illustrations by Emily Carroll, whose horror comics like "His Face All Red" often leave me feeling more than a little disquieted. It is part homage to the landmark horror game Silent Hill 2 and part fan fiction of it. I know I've written at length about the awfulness of fan fiction, but Mona is a fine exception to that rule, a character piece that emulates the dread of its source material rather than aping its characters and setpieces. Rather than following in SH2's supernatural footsteps, it's a work of what I call "moral horror," where fear or terror is derived from the characters' actions, as with YellowBrickRoad. It's at once a commentary on that game and a part of it. And Leigh was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about it.