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Twine of 2015: Part 1

[Continued with: Part 2, Part 3]

I love Twine games. They let me experience perspectives I wouldn't get to play around in otherwise, and there are certain things text is just really good at. Then again, I tend to bookmark a lot of games and actually play very few of them. Some days I'll see a default Sugarcane layout and switch off, flipping through quickly or giving up. Which is ridiculous, because some of the best Twines look like that.

So I'm trying an experiment and planning to play (or at least start) lots of this year's Twines that have entries in the IFDB or that I happen to see elsewhere. And if I have to take notes and report back then I'll pay more attention.

Accidental Character Generator (caeth)

I have a bit of a thing for those websites where you click a random button and generate names or other text. The Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator, for example. Sometimes it's the simple things. Basic probability and a range of options are enough to add surprise and interest. At least enough to stimulate a quick laugh.

Accidental Character Generator is not a quick laugh. Random options generate a person (entity?) including their gender, physical features and how they feel about their body, followed by aspects of their personality. Some of the options link to pages with more detail or short stories.

To make sure it always reads correctly the text includes "a(n)" before some of the random strings, which I wince at, and then immediately feel like a jerk. It doesn't help that I've just been writing code to switch automatically between "a" and "an" as needed for my own game. But this is partly me being fussy about details that aren't too important. It could even be intentional, making the character description feel more disconnected.

Once I start to look I also notice some formatting inconsistency. The random elements are underlined. On the first line the underline does not include the a(n), but on the second line it does. I need to get over myself if I'm going to appreciate these kinds of games on their own merits. Let's refocus and try this again...

The page background is a rainbow gradient, diverse but muted. It's not always the most legible but I quite like it. There's a melancholy to the whole thing. Your gender isn't presented as what you are, but as what you "identify as", perhaps deliberately tapping into dubious language that is commonly used (intentionally or otherwise) to dismiss people's identities. You are often something other than human, with myriad hair and skin colours, variable numbers of eyes and so on.

Chasing extra details reveals sad and beautiful stories. About bodies; life and death; belonging; memory; senses connecting or disconnecting you from the world. Most everyone is in some kind of pain. This is probably exactly the sort of thing people expect from a Twine game at this point, which doesn't stop it from being effective.

SKATE OUT! (PaperBlurt)

A skating game where you can do some rad tricks. This is a short game about escapism, with less amazing thoughts threatening to distract you. A simple but effective gimmick that gets the message across without demanding much time.

I like the contrasts here. Skateboarding is all bright colours, exclamation marks and rough capital letters like lazy graffiti. Inner thoughts are always niggling, and wiping out transforms you from a skateboarding god to crying child within a few seconds.

Rider in the Mist (Roy Mathur)

A short story made into a game, which constrains it. Working with multiple perspectives could be interesting but Sword and Sorcery needs to work hard to stand out from the crowd and this doesn't pull it off. I suspect this exists primarily to try and generate interest in a novel. It didn't draw me in enough to deal with the trial and error of reaching the intended ending.