GS: What kind of games do you play? I know you’re going to be Alex Oshima in ADR1FT coming up here soon; have you tried out the Oculus?
CJ: I am! So here’s the thing–I am a shitty game player. I die in like, two seconds flat. When I was a kid, I used to play the Super Nintendo, with the old-school paddles. And I learned to play with my forefinger and my middle finger instead of my thumbs, because you could run faster, and then jump without having to take your finger off the run-faster button! It sounds so stupid now, but when all these big fancy-pants paddles came out, I was like, “I don’t– underst– does not– compute!” And I never got over it! So, I’m a terrible game player. But I do watch other people play. And Adam Orth from Three One Zero actually had me down to the studio to look at ADR1FT, and it was awesome. It was terrifying because you die. I die. It’s crazy!
GS: Can you tell us anything about ADR1FT? Or Alex Oshima?
CJ: Yeah! A lot of people are comparing ADR1FT to Gravity in video game form, and I can totally understand the comparison. But Alex Oshima and Sandra Bullock’s character are night and day. Alex is very driven. She’s results-oriented; she’s incredibly competitive; she pushes herself and everyone around her literally to the breaking point, because she’s the best. And she wants to prove that she’s the best. And ultimately, it leads to what you see in the game–she wakes up; she has to figure out what happened; she’s the only one who survives, and she has to piece it all together. I think she’s a tough-as-nails woman, which I love, and she’s scared of not being the best.
There’s so many characters in movie, television, and video games where it’s “love at first sight”, but you don’t have that [in Firewatch].
GS: You’ve already done work with branching narratives in Walking Dead and Life is Strange. Is Firewatch similar, where the main character can interact with Delilah in different ways?
CJ: Yeah! It’s very similar. Sean Vanaman, who wrote Firewatch, also wrote The Walking Dead Season 1. So there are a lot of similarities in terms of the narrative there. The great thing is that your entire gameplay experience depends on how you interact with Delilah. Do you want to be chummy with her? Do you want to be stoic and standoffish with her? Do you want to know more about her past and why she ended up there? Your entire gameplay experience depends on how much you want to interact with her, which I think is kind of interesting, especially since you never see her. There are so many characters in movie, television, and video games where it’s “love at first sight”, but you don’t have that here. It’s really getting to know a character, and how you develop a relationship, never getting to see her.
GS: Is a good chunk of the gameplay building that relationship?
CJ: Yeah, there’s a mystery that unfolds, and there’s exploring this incredibly beautiful world, and there’s dealing with the sense of loss as Henry and everything that he’s gone through to take him out to the middle of Wyoming, but yeah. Your relationship with Delilah is a real driving force in the game.
GS: Can you tell me what the audition process for Delilah was like? Did it stand out from other auditions in any way?
CJ: It did, in the sense that there was no audition process! Sean called me. I had met Sean in person at The Walking Dead party, and I walked up to him and said, “Are you Sean?” and he said, “Yeah” and I said, “I’m Katjaa!” and he’s like, “Oh my God! Katjaa!” and he gave me a giant hug. And he said, “How did you get that accent?” and I said, “I researched! I have friends who are Belgian, and I followed them around with a tape recorder for probably too long, and I just practice every day.” And he said, “Oh my God, it was brilliant. I gotta get your contact information.” And he called me probably a year later and was like, “Hey, I’m working on a new game. There’s a lead character, she’s female, are you in?” and I was like, “Hell yes.” They didn’t even know what it was going to be. I think there were a couple of different story ideas floating around. But I didn’t care, if it meant the chance to work with him again, I was all in.
GS: We talked about how you never actually see Delilah, you just hear her voice. And then there’re different reactions from her depending on what the main character does in the game. Do you have one image of her in your head, physical and personality-wise? Like a favorite, maybe?
CJ: I see Delilah a lot of how I see myself. Does she have a face to me? Not really, she’s me. But she’s me if I never found something that pushed me to be better, or pushed me to find other things that were more interesting than crossword puzzles. She’s someone who got tired of being disappointed by people, disappointed by situations, and in turn of disappointing other people, and disappointing her mother, and decided, “Screw it” and went off into the woods. She’s kinda that devil-may-care attitude. In my head, I have an image of her laying on a cot, with a glass of beer in one hand and a crossword puzzle in the other, and binoculars nearby to look for smoke.
GS: I’m excited to get to meet her. You already gave me a great story about farting in a voice acting booth, do you have any funny stories from recording Delilah or Alex?
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CJ: Ah, well, Alex was interesting because it was just breathing. Just mouth breathing, for four hours. I think I had just found out I was pregnant when I went to that recording session, so I’m in the booth, recording the dying sounds, and everyone kept asking Are you okay? Are you all right? Do you need to make a break? And I’m like, I’m fine! But it was really fun, and Adam had such an idea in his head of how he wanted it to be, how he wanted it to sound, so he’s pacing around the control room and counting the rhythms for me for how the breaths were gonna go, and it was totally unlike anything I’d ever done.
GS: If you were in Alex’s situation in ADR1FT, alone in space, do you think all your zombie fighting, and time travel, and nuclear explosions in Fallout, and wilderness survival would have adequately trained you for that situation?
CJ: Is fishing gonna help me live up there? I don’t know! There’s different survival techniques. I know how to breathe correctly! I know how to patch my oxygen suit…which isn’t going to matter if there’s a zombie coming at me. Maybe time travel! You know what, the time travel would save my bacon up there.
GS: Well, I’m out of questions! This has been great, thanks so much. I’m really looking forward to Firewatch!
CJ: Awesome! Let me know what you think. Thank you so much!