And what about facing Matt Fraction? "It's dead easy," he says. "I'll kill myself. You don't even need to do anything." Suspecting Fraction of a somewhat deceitful ruse, I turned to some of his comrades for the truth. "Matt plays most of the games with the aptitude of a 12-year-old boy, so he's always moving and shooting as if he controls the characters with his mind instead of a controller," says collaborator Ed Brubaker. "The only way to beat him is to get the game early and play it a bunch before him, and even then, you only get a few days before he catches up. Rick Remender [Fear Agent, Strange Girl] is even worse than Matt like this, too. It makes me feel like an old man." Brian Reed suggests a more psychological approach. "You have to get inside Fraction's head," says Reed. "You have to ask yourself, 'If I were seven Xanax deep in yet another failed suicide attempt, and I was trying to think more about this videogame in front of me than the 16-year-old I saw sunbathing next door this afternoon, then what would I be doing right now?' As soon as you answer that question, you know where Matt is and how to take him out of the game." Useful information.
However, despite Fraction's stated interest in games mainly for the social environment they provide, that doesn't mean the medium hasn't had an odd influence on him. He talks about his love of the "Ballardian" part of games - the simulations of crashes, the simulations of real places to visit, driving around GTA4 and recognizing what he sees. I mention how, as a fellow comics writer - Phonogram, newuniversal: 1959 - playing City of Heroes explained to me what it'd be like to fly, with some details that I'd have never imagined. Which reminds him of the writing process for his Eisner Award-nominated single-issue Spider-Man story, "To Have or To Hold."
"This may sound ridiculous, but when I got the gig, I went out and got the Spider-Man 2 game," he says. "And the first thing I did was swing through New York, find the Chrysler Building and climb to the top of it. Which is exactly what Spider-Man does in the story. That came from me trying to get in the mood. Playing Spider-Man 2 to just get a feeling of what it's like to fly around New York on a web-line. It became part of the story itself."
In his essays on writing comics, Alan Moore describes a form of writing that closely mirrors method acting, explaining how - when writing DC's The Demon - he'd stomp around the room, trying to work out what it'd feel like to have that kind of body. One small moment in a great game managed to let Fraction do that - without any embarrassing bedroom-stomping.
That has to be some kind of progress.
Kieron Gillen has been writing about videogames for far too long now. His rock and roll dream is to form an Electro-band with Miss Kittin and SHODAN pairing up on vocals.