Recent MFA Grad Caity Scott Wins Distinguished Thesis Award for Their Game, 'Bitter Roots'

Caity Scott (they/them), a recent graduate of Western’s MFA in Creative Writing program, was recently announced as the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and ProQuest winner for Distinguished Master’s Thesis and/or Final Master’s Capstone Project Award in the Creative, Visual, and Performing Arts for their student project, a horror computer game called "Bitter Roots."  As the winner, Scott will receive a $1000 prize and an invitation to the 65th Annual WAGS Conference in Portland, Oregon.  

Western’s MFA in Creative Writing program is unique in its multigenre approach, which allows students to produce a thesis in their genre(s) of choice without restriction. Scott’s thesis is a horror game and includes elements beyond nonfiction, fiction, and poetry—genres typical of most creative writing programs. 

“Put simply,” Scott said, “Bitter Roots is a horror satire about a diner serving meat from trees. I wrote the script, made the pixel art, composed the music, and designed the game using Ren’Py and about a billion YouTube tutorials. This project was a way to process my years in the restaurant industry as well as my frustrations surrounding the rise of authoritarianism and the circulation of misinformation.” 

“Horror gaming offers a unique platform to deconstruct the stories we tell ourselves. It’s easy to critique the choices a fictional character makes in a book or on a movie screen. But gaming is unique in that it requires us to engage with the narrative through our decisions. Suddenly, your choices are under scrutiny,” Scott said.

After graduating, Scott was offered a job as a game designer for Haiku Games, a company that specializes in escape-room style mobile games.

“My time at Western was paramount in helping launch my career in the gaming industry," Scott said. “Winning WAGS is such an honor and feels like an acknowledgement of the hundreds of hours I dedicated to this project. Many thanks to my outstanding thesis chair, Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi, for believing in me each step of the way. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you. Thanks also to my other committee members, Kelly Magee and Lysa Rivera. I’m privileged to have benefited from the mentorship of such a lovely group of people.”  

Each year, WAGS partners with ProQuest to review nominees in four different categories. Each WAGS member institution submits only one nominee per category for this prestigious regional award.  

Opening screen from "Bitter Roots"
Caity Scott smiles at the camera