Recently, I attended a Twine workshop run by Cody and Eileen, and I decided to treat the tutorial and work session as a sort of game jam. I managed to finish a game that I called In Decision in two hours or so, which you can play here.
When making this game, I tried my best to subvert what my own expectations would be if I were to play a Twine game based on a simple, non-linear narrative (using text either exclusively or primarily), namely that the player’s choices lead to different endings, sometimes with ‘rewards’ proportionate to the effort expended to solve puzzles or escape labyrinths, and sometimes without such examples of fairness. The premise of my game is simple: the player is trapped in a program called Twine.
I ended up producing a game about game development and about choice itself, where the player navigates a series of paths that each lead to a kind of narrative resumption. All the paths lead back to the start, however each one does so in a unique way based on the player’s own efforts to explore potentially unconventional paths (left instead of right, sleeping when performing the same activity previously led to a re-start, etc.).
I essentially tried to create a game that de-centers the player by subverting what I posited would be their expectations at each given juncture. Virgil appears if the player makes a certain series of choices, and explains that the player is in a kind of purgatory, and must accept that choice doesn’t exist if they are to ‘escape’, or quit obsessing over trying to find a ‘rewarding’ ending to the game. Rather than framing Twine as a narrative utopia, where the player (or reader) re-discovers an agency or freedom that they might argue is missing from more traditional narratives, “In Decision” revels in its status as a frustrating and insidious labyrinth. (a la Jonathan Ball’s Ex Machina).
I expect that there are a myriad of Twine game which try to do what I tried to do, which reinforces Twine’s status as a game that opens possibilities for subversion, acting as a hub for creators that are interested in pushing boundaries with their work.