A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of ‘meeting’ Phill Lollar via a quick phone interview. We don’t typically review games or upcoming projects here but this one seemed like a special case and I reached out to see if I could chat with the the gentleman. If you don’t know him, Phil is one of the original creators of Adventures in Odyssey. If you don’t know AiO it’s a fantastically popular audio drama that Focus on the Family has been putting out since 1987. It’s spawned videos, books, video games and really stands out or its quality and popularity.
Phil worked with AiO for many years and now he is ramping a new audio drama called Iliad House which is currently running a campaign on Kickstarter. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1605189113/iliad-house-an-audio-drama) But all that said – the reason I wanted to catch up with Mr. Lollar was something we had in common – a desire to see well-written stories get out there in the public marketplace and bring deep meaning to the ongoing cultural conversation.
Iliad House, according to Phil, will be “pushing some envelopes” in terms of its content but I suspect he was talking about the relatively conservative envelopes of the folks used to listening to AiO. He said they’d be looking at things like alternate dimensions, time travel, the supernatural, etc – he even mentioned zombies but retreated fairly quickly. “Okay, probably not zombies…” but I was thinking “Why not man! At least in gaming zombies sell everything!” Still, edgy content in mind, Phil makes no bones about the fact that he’s coming at this story – like all the stories he writes – with his plainly Christian worldview as a foundation or his stories. On that point Phil and Soma are right there in the mix together. (See: Every Game Has a Worldview Whether You Like it or Not)
There are several things about Mr. Lollar that made me feel as if we were cut from similar cloth. For one thing he appears to be in that sweet spot where he’s comfortable and candid about his Christian faith without being aggressive and nasty about it. He seems to be neither the Silent-Secret-Christian who’s decades of silence have allowed many to think that there are hardly any of us out there when in fact we are millions. But nor is he that particularly vitriolic brand of Christian who say far too much, and in horrible ways, making the Silent-Secret-Christians want to hide their head in embarrassment. Instead, he’s strikes me as the kind of guy who is simply honest. What’s next is that he takes that honest faith and welcomes it into his work. So Iliad House, a work of speculative fiction, is plainly and deliberately influenced by the way he understands reality – as it should – instead of a weird Sunday-Face / Monday-Face split so many Christian businessmen feel compelled to inhabit. Thirdly, Phil Lollar has already proven that he believes in quality and craftsmanship in his work, not collecting Ichthys Points for having his heart in the right place. Finally, for this post anyway, I enjoyed his willingness to embrace and enjoy entertainment for the sake of entertainment. I don’t know whether or not Iliad House will wind up with either an evangelistic or a didactic function but our conversation indicated to me that he wasn’t of the mind that fun and beauty weren’t good goals in and of themselves – good on ya Mr. Lollar!
We talked about other things of course, his history with Focus, audio dramas beside Odyssey and the ways the business of audio drama has changed, like how the production technology has changed over the last 20 years to where he directs voice overs via phone or skype and .WAV files are the currency coming from home studios all around the world. We chatted for what seemed like a good long while to me and he was generous with his time and insight – and I liked that.
Still, while talking to him put a real face to the project I realize that I was sold on pledging to Iliad House almost as soon as I saw it. Not really because of what it is (though I really like the premise) but because I love that KIND of thing. Quality art that embodies the joy, passion, and fun of Jesus even in hidden subtle ways.
I hope you’ll check out what they’re doing.