The Teotl of Gaming

The news is out! My short story “The Teotl of Gaming” is going to be published this summer, as part of an anthology called THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY. The anthology is being published by the indie press Zombies Need Brains, and contains 15 fantastic stories by sci-fi and fantasy authors exploring how ancient deities might adapt to the modern world. You can find the full announcement from the publisher, including pre-order info, here. I’ve also posted a small synopsis of “Teotl” over on the Fiction page. And just in case you missed it, here’s another look at the gorgeous cover art for the DEITY’S GUIDE by Justin Adams of Varia Studios.

I thought it might be kind of cool to mark the occasion by taking to the blog and talking a little bit about the origins for this story. “Teotl” follows Macuilxochitl, the Aztec god of games, as he tries to adapt to modern times by running an MMORPG company. It feels pretty appropriate then, to admit that I first learned of Macuilxochitl from a video game.

The first time I became aware of the god of games was while playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2019. In that game, you pick up various relics as you explore a lost mesoamerican city, and they often have small bits of flavor text about various gods and goddesses or ill-fated expeditions. One of them referenced a god of games, and no doubt I chuckled to myself about how cool that concept was before I promptly continued tomb raiding and forgot about it.

Then in early 2020, Zombies Need Brains announced the themes for their three current anthologies. Short stories are something I’ve long struggled with as a writer, but I had decided that this was the year I was going to try my hand at one and submit it. I wasn’t totally sure what to write, however. I really wanted to submit to THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE, because writing about gods and goddesses wrangling with deific quandaries is kind of my jam…but I struggled to come up with anything original or interesting enough to pursue.

That was when the god of games tickled at the back of my memory. I sat down with Tomb Raider again until I came back across the relic that talked about him. Now I was in the right mindset for it to all click together. Finally, I had a name and character to rally behind.

Macuilxochitl. God of games, gambling, music, dance, and the sacred ball game (among other things). He also punished those who followed such pursuits to excess.

Screenshot from Shadow of the Tomb Raider. And yes, Patolli is in the story.

The idea came to me that Macuilxochitl could be running an MMORPG company, in essence trading in his roving ways for a “steady paycheck of worship.” I have been a World of Warcraft player since 2005, so I knew pretty firsthand how loyal the fanbase for those kinds of games can be. It seemed like it would be a totally natural progression for a game god trying to get by in the 21st Century. Plus I knew that the more out-of-the-box the idea, the better my chances of being selected for the anthology…and I was willing to bet that there wouldn’t be many other stories about the Aztec god of games running a video game company.

From there, it became a matter of storycrafting. I am an outliner, even with shorter works. I developed a scene-by-scene breakdown of the story, the conflicts, the characters. I did research. A lot of research. “The Teotl of Gaming” is the first story I’ve ever written that wasn’t set in a secondary fantasy world. It was drawing on real-life mythology, and I felt that I had an obligation to do right by and be respectful of the material and culture that I was drawing inspiration from.

It didn’t all go exactly as planned, of course. There were plot elements in my original outline that just didn’t work out; others that worked better than expected. An organic conflict arose out of Macuilxochitl’s character, and then made itself known as the main arc which the story was revolving around. The tale changed in the telling, as they often do. It is an exact science, after all. (Said no writer ever.)

The result is a piece that I’m really proud of, and am so excited to share with you. Only a few more months until you can read it!

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