Recently, I’ve been investigating Twine, a tool originally designed for writing non-linear narratives. Twine users have expanded the program’s potential uses, branching out from non-linear narratives to games that utilize the frameworks of interactive fiction (IF), but incorporate other elements of alternative gaming such as audiovisual elements that engage the reader, or user, of the game, based on their narrative decisions.
Part of my paper hinges on a reflection on my experience of transitioning from using Word and Notepad to using Twine, as I continue to write a non-linear narrative for the indie game development company I co-founded. This transition has made my experience writing in this format completely different, transforming what was once a hassle I dreaded into a far smoother process.
I’ve been reading Nick Montfort’s “Twisty Little Passages”, in order to get a sense of the origins of IF. Thinking about Twine feels like thinking about a different era that, so far (I’m about halfway through the book), Montfort doesn’t seem to have touched on. Nevertheless, Montfort’s discussion of the genesis and evolution of IF has provided me with some useful framing for my writings about Twine.
Alison Harvey’s article “Twine’s Revolution”, on the other hand, has been exceptionally useful due to its discussion of Twine’s queering of game development. Twine’s nature (accessible, with an intuitive UI and simple design), and its FOSS software status make it easy to share, easy to learn how to use, and unassuming in terms of how it might limit writers and game designers in the same ways as closed-source, paid software tools would. Harvey points out that TwineHub, a site where Twine developers share their creations, was created within Twine itself.
My challenge with this research trajectory is to find more academic articles about Twine, and to zero-in on examples from the myriad of games created in Twine to add to my paper. Additionally, I find myself searching for the “so what” behind my paper-in-progress. If Twine has become this kind of tool because of its design, and therefore other tools should aspire to match or exceed Twine’s strengths, then what does this mean for the milieu of IF software as a whole?