A Surprise Post Appears! La-Mulana, an Age, and Solo Jamming all Entwined.

I have been meaning to write here for a very long time. So I am going to write behind my own designated schedule and wave hello at all of you.

So I am still alive and I am hoping to write here again a lot more often now. For those of you don’t know, I went on something of a hiatus to finish a short story that may have me see actual print: as in something actually published in print in addition to my poem in the art book Klarissa Dreams. That is all I can really about that at the moment, but please stay tuned.

In the meantime, however, I have been busy with other things as well. So where do I even begin?

Well, I participated in the Unwritten RPG Kickstarter Campaign. I essentially made an Age for them. In case you don’t know, Unwritten is a table-top RPG based on the universe of Myst: in which you must go through several Descriptive and Linking Books that connect to other worlds. The D’Ni civilization figured out a way to write Books that allowed people to link to other worlds or gradations of a particular world: or Ages as they are called. I read the books and played two of the games in my formative years and for about a decade I had an idea for an Age and a people.

There were some changes I had to make, but what resulted is pretty impressive based on a creative collaboration with the team. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can show people that I was part of the Guild of Writers and I finally made my own Age. My nineteen year old self would be proud of what the thirty-one year old me has become capable of doing: at least to that regard.

I also admit one other thing. So you know the game I vowed never to play? Well, I am playing La-Mulana now. In fact, very soon the La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter will be making more Fan Art Updates and my Twine story The Treasure of La-Mulana will be featured in one of them. I will be on the look out for that and at some point I will link that update to all of you. It’s funny. I have gotten to know quite a few people through this game and it is perhaps one of the few sources of real community that I’ve felt in a really long time, if not ever. I am not a game-designer in the programming sense. I am a writer. Of course, Christine Love herself said the same thing and look at the places she is at now. Granted, she has programming knowledge and I don’t. But that’s ok.

In fact, I hit another milestone relatively recently. I attended the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam. As some of you know I participated in the event last year, but armed with a basic understanding of Twine, I registered as a Solo Jammer and completed my first Twine game as such. I go into a little more detail about that on my G33kPron article Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam, but given what this Blog is about I wanted to talk a little shop about my game.

The Looking Glass was an experiment. After my Treasure of La-Mulana fanfic, I realized I could tell an extensive story with Twine, and use the hyperlinking transitions to control how much text the reader sees, and how much I wanted to pace the narrative. My Haunted Twine was an earlier attempt at this, but it was a lot clunkier and it still has issues that I need to address in future works. But I wanted to add more of an interactive element besides clicking on words this time around.

In addition, I was following a person’s experiences with a particular game online and, as my brain often works, I combined a few ideas together and came up with a concept and a few notes that you can see in all of their natural idiosyncratic handwritten glory down below.

I had a choice between this and a game about a serial killer. I was at first happy with neither of these concepts as I wanted to make something very personal and me for this Jam, but when I realized that my version of a “choose your own adventure” Twine game about my experience at the Jam itself would not be good enough at this stage in my development, and not really feeling the killing thing by the second official day of the 48-hour Jam I went with my original, very complex yet simply elegant idea that I should have taken more than two days to do. I may create more games like this one in the near future. In fact, I may be personally showcasing this one at the Toronto Global Game Jam Arcade in April. We shall see.

So now that I have at least four working Twine games or stories, I decided to expand a branch of Mythic Bios to contain them. You can find it on the menu bar above or click here on this link. I thought I would only make two relatively big Twine novels, but it seems my brain had, and needed, other plans. Perhaps sometime in the near future I will see what will be done with those.

And seriously ladies, gentlemen and other sentient beings, this is it for now. As I said before, I hope to be writing here more often again and I have some plans, as always. I have a few posts that are overdue and I want to fee more time to explore while continuing some of the work that I have been cultivating in my long self-exile. Poor January only had one post. Let’s see how many posts February will have as result shall we? 🙂

La-Mulana 2

Oh and before I go, please support NIGORO and Playism’s La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter Campaign. The universe of La-Mulana is both an archaeologist’s and a gamer’s dream and worst nightmare: it will challenge your ingrained assumptions about gameplay and mechanics. It also has a really nice unfolding story and a quirky character about it that few other games I’ve seen can match. So please check it out. You will not be disappointed and we might get to unlock some goodies without the spikes.

Mostly. Err …

Take care everyone.

Disappointments and Achievements in the Year 2013

This was the year in which we apparently cancelled, or postponed, the apocalypse.

So I said I was going to make a post before the New Year and here I am. I’ve started this post three times already and I trying to find the best way to continue it.

I suppose I will start off by stating one of my greatest disappointments. After all the fanfare on my part, and the reading, and the note-taking, and the hints, and the story sketches I did not end up sending an entry to The Dark Crystal Author Quest.

The fact is, after all that, I just took on too much. I went as far as writing a crude introduction, far too late, and then I realized that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring the energy and attention to a world that deserved more. So, I’m sorry to everyone who might have been eager to see what I could have brought to the world of Thra but the only things you’ll see now are my story sketches and perhaps the introduction I made when it’s not so fresh. And I also offer my apologies to The Dark Crystal. You deserved better. And you will get it. After spending time on the Community Forums, I know at least that you will get far better than me.

It wasn’t a total loss. I made some friends and acquaintanceships on the Forums, and the task of writing notes and questions to myself about Thra kept me from going insane this summer and onward. That, along with my other story project and this Blog for a time kept me busy and feeling a certain sense of accomplishment roughly ninety percent of the time.

So while I failed my Challenge, I did learn a lot from its failure. For starters, I am never going to work on two major projects at the same time again. The second is that if I do again, I will type up all my notes first and then figure out what to do. The third will be to go out during the more temperate climate to do some writing and not get bogged down by distractions: to give myself a sense of space. In the end, it is one thing to work on a major project and then some minor ones, it is a whole other thing to juggle multiple ones at once. I am no Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to that regard and even they have had issues with that. Anyone would.

With that unfortunate, but necessary news out of the way I’d like to talk about what I have actually managed to do this year. I went to my first ever Toronto Global Game Jam and made a working board game with some collaborators, and I also attended my first ever 12-Hour Comics Marathon at the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery and completed something there too. I began writing for Sequart and, later, G33kPr0n as well. I got to cover events like the CanZine Ghost Arcade, the first WordPlay Festival, and Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market. I even wrote a review of the first day of the Toronto Afterdark. I wrote an article on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Overture #1. I met Neil Gaiman before that. I’ve tweeted with Amanda Palmer, Anna Anthropy, Christine Love, the Gaming Pixie, I wrote a review of the creative process behind Broodhollow and tweeted a bit with its creator Kris Straub, I travelled all the way to Quebec to meet some friends, and I created my first three Twine stories Level-Up, Haunted, and The Treasure of La-Mulana. I made the acquaintance and friendship of Andrez Bergen and I geek out with Julian Darius sometimes. I began reading the books of Anthony Martignetti and started to see more examples of how to incorporate one’s life with mythology to tell a story.

I’ve probably missed a whole lot of other events, but suffice to say I have been busy. It hasn’t been easy and sometimes I still feel as though I haven’t accomplished nearly enough. I know where I want to go, but I don’t always know how to get there.

But look above. I wasn’t totally useless, not everything was completely futile, and I actually did some very cool things, while I also went to many more. So there is that. I’d say, if I had to sum up 2013, I basically did a whole lot of Work. And I don’t see this coming year being any different.

So I will say right now, goodbye 2013. You had your annoyances and stresses, but we had some challenges together as well. Perhaps we planted something together that will begin to show some fruit by the time of your successor.

As for the rest of you, I will see you all, in some form, during the New Year and hopefully back on track. You know, it’s funny. The parting image that I’m going to leave you with is something that was taken in 2007 by a friend of mine I haven’t really talked with in ages, during a time of great transition in my life. There was so much I didn’t know then and I was only beginning to learn.

It seems that, to this regard, nothing ever really changes.  Until next time, my friends.

Looking Outward

The Treasure of La-Mulana

So I have been stabbing my Mythic Bios notebook with my golden pen, but for one brief moment I am going to re-materialize back from the ether to leave you with something. I made this, my third Twine story, a little while ago after watching Deceased Crab play through both the original and the remake of La-Mulana.

This game … for something I have never played and probably never will because I neither have the patience nor the hand-eye coordination, got into my head: into that mythic space that permeates my very being. La-Mulana is an adventurer-archaeology game created by the game company NIGORO and filled with puzzles, riddles, deathtraps, insanity, lore, and vintage video game goodness. It is a fun, but notoriously hard game. But the world and story that NIGORO created got into my mind so much, and so badly, that I went online at one point and looked for fanfiction based on it.

It was there, online, that I found madamluna’s long slow collision and Bones. It was the first story, a Twine narrative itself, and the news that there would be a sequel to the game itself that cinched it for me.

So now: to business. What you are looking at here is a homage–a fanfic–to a game I’ve only seen on Let’s Plays, written in Twine. Basically in addition to this being my third Twine story, this is my first polished Twine fanfic to an awesome and insane game. So while I might not be a “real” fan of the game, in that I haven’t played it, I hope you can all accept me as one in spirit if nothing else.

In other news, I am still hard at work and I plan to make a New Year’s post of some kind. I hope you enjoyed this surprise and impromptu post of mine. I hope to return relatively soon. But, since you have all been very good readers I now leave you with my modest attempt at a homage, at something that will probably be completely debunked and repudiated by the actual sequel to La-Mulana itself. It is a story with events meant to bridge the gap between the two games. So such, please remember that there are Major Spoilers. I hope you will take this in the spirit that it is given.

So good night, fellow explorers, and allow me to leave you all with The Treasure of La-Mulana.

La-Mulana

The Work Continues and a Peek at Coming Attractions

Yesterday, I was going to post up an article that I already made but then I started to think about I feel that everybody deserves something fresh.

The obligatory zombie reference aside, this time of year is generally harder for me. I mean, winter probably has a seasonal affect on everyone and makes them want to sleep more but more recently I’ve been lucky to wake up in the early afternoon never mind what can be considered morning. I mean, I am up in the morning technically, but I generally haven’t slept before then.

It hasn’t been solely due to procrastination or depression however. If there is one thing I have been consistently this past while, it has been busy. I’ve been experimenting more directly with Twine now and after two experiments, there is another one that I would like to implement sometime soon.

For my next trick, I want to make a story with Headings that you can Rewind to, and selectable options that will determine what endings you will get. I envision a few game-overs, one “normal ending,” and one “true ending.” I have been looking at some tutorials, though I am concerned that I will be going closer into the realm of programming or, at the very least, the kind of “user-accessible” programming that was available in Civilization II: Fantastic Worlds. Twine may well be a gateway drug back into the Hell Temple of coding for me. But I do have help and all I need to keep track of time.

And I have to watch time very carefully. I have a story that I need to write, a Dark Crystal entry that needs to appear, an article that needs to be edited, and … another article that I want to write on Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston: on one aspect of his life in particular. I am wondering how much material will exist out there on the latter and when I will have a chance to look at this.

But I also know that I have priorities. This entry is a short one, but it’s good because it will serve as a reminder for what I am doing and what I plan to do. I will be back soon and, hopefully, sooner this time. 🙂

My Second Twine Game: Haunted

Me and my Head

I am apparently now in the habit of posting late. So a week or so after the WordPlay Twine Workshop with Christine Love, and exploring Faerie Dark’s world of interconnected Twine games and stories–essentially the progression of a universe-seed in progress–I felt compelled to make another Twine.

My first Twine game was mostly an experiment to see what I could apply in a very basic way to the software medium. I wanted to see if I could tell a story and use the medium to mimic page-turnings, or panels, or–if you prefer–punctuation. With this game, I wanted to do two things.

First off, I wanted to make sure what I did before wasn’t a one-off and I wanted to keep up the practice for when I create some of my more involved works. Luckily I have the template of “Level-Up” to work off of as well as some Twine tutorials and the instructions of Anna Anthropy and Porpentine as well as Gaming Pixie’s advice to go off of too.

But the second reason I made “Haunted” is because I wanted to make both a longer story and something personal. And this story is personal. I don’t just mean that it is based off of some of my life experience, which it is, but it really taps into feelings. I wanted to make sure that I could do this. It feeds into part of a feeble excuse in which I didn’t edit the text or anything, just because it was something I wanted to say and express while it felt real and fresh and, more importantly, tangible and cohesive in my mind. So, in part, I am basically taking Twine and telling a story as flat-out as I can and I admit that process is rather cathartic, if nothing else.

This also gave me an opportunity to explore the boundaries of my own ignorance. Right now, I am at the stage where I am basically taking basic Twine hyperlinking and knowing how to make titles and attribute my name and nothing more. I don’t know how to grey-out or eliminate links once they are chosen. I don’t know how to affect the game when certain items are chosen or not, or when certain places are clicked on or not selected. I have to be mindful about what words I will be using to click from one plot box to the next.

Sometimes I have made mistakes. In my old Twine story, I didn’t even unload it to Philome.la, a free Twine Twitter-based hosting site, properly. It took a few tries and I succeeded thanks to the very prompt and patient guidance of one Colin Marc. This story, such as it is now, is structurally limited but it is more of a game than the first one is. There is more exploration and you will have some–albeit simple–options. I am still focusing on story and expression, this time more personal expression, but I hope to eventually make a stronger game mechanic to make that exploration more potent … with editing, I assure you.

That said, I can see some “dictatorship of the narrative” going on here and I don’t know how well a more generalized audience will be able to relate to this game, but as I have said many times this is a story and I am working on one thing at least that might be a bit more inclusive. At very least and if nothing else, I made an experience and a story.

So here is my answer to the question of whether or not you can haunt the places of your own life. I hope you will appreciate it, and take it for what it is. Until next time, my friends.

For now, become Haunted.

ETA: Based on scraps of what I can remember from Christine Love’s Workshop, I believe I recall what the vertical bars, the |s do. They actually create Headings so that you can Rewind your game to that point and start off from there again instead of doing it all over. I will keep that in mind next time once I figure out how to utilize it properly.

My First Twine Game: Level-Up

I know that in my last post, I asked for all of your help. And very soon, I am going to show you how you can help me. There is just a little more work to do, but once that is taken care of I will explain everything in my next post this coming Thursday.

But right now, I want to talk about something else in this belated post of mine. This Saturday, at Christine Love’s Twine Workshop during the first-ever WordPlay event, set up by the Hand-Eye Society, I made my first ever Twine story. The reason I call this my first story is because, technically, it is not a game.

So here is what I am going to do. I am going to paste the link of my creation onto Mythic Bios and then, afterwards, I am going to talk about the Creative Process of it a bit. This is my experiment–my first Twine by action if not in planning–and for what it is, I am extremely proud of it. So without further ado, and without images or sounds or other fanfare allow me introduce to all of you, my loyal readers to …

Level-Up

All right, now that you played through it I want to talk about what went on behind it. Basically, a little while ago I had a story sketch in my head that almost–almost–became an entry for Mythic Bios. Really, like a lot of my creative works, it grew from a single sentence. This single sentence formed in my head and I needed to create a home for it. Then I found out, and signed up for Christine Love’s Workshop. If you have been following this Blog for a while, you will know that I have the utmost respect and enthusiasm for Christine’s storytelling and her game-making. So you will understand that I could not allow the opportunity of attending one of her Workshops to pass.

And when I was accepted onto the reservation list, I realized that I wasn’t just going to learn how to make a Twine game. I was going to make one right there, at the Toronto Reference Library, in about little over than an hour.

You have to understand that I generally plan out my stories in advance, or I take a lot of time actually making them. But Christine took the time to talk about the basics of Twine in fifteen minutes and, the next thing I knew, we had five minutes to think of an idea and then the rest of the time to implement it.

And I did.

What you are about to see here is what happens when a world is being processed in your brain for a lot longer than you thought it did. It seems I am almost always world-building in the back of my head: even when I should be doing something else … or especially then.

But this isn’t a game. This is a story fragment that somehow functions well. I made up for my lack of knowledge and technique with Twine by attempting to create the right transitions or hyperlinks. Basically, I was aiming for making a rhythm for clicking through the story from one screen to the next.

Yet, as a friend of mine who is now working on his own Twine as part of my Challenge to him observed, what I didn’t really do with the medium of Twine at this stage I attempted to do with descriptive storytelling and dialogue. Also, my second-person perspective–you–might have gotten into the mind of the character in question. Or maybe you won’t. You’ve also see that it is extremely short and lacks sound and images: hence the storytelling that is my strength.

So allow me to thank Anna Anthropy for introducing me to Twine through Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Christine Love for her Workshop and giving me the excuse to finally go beyond the theoretical and do something hands-on with the software I plan to work with, Gaming Pixie for her support and to all you for all experiencing my very first, and not my last, Twine story. It is not part of the two that I have been planning for ages, but I have to remember my priorities at this point. Also, anyone who can guess which line helped to form the entirety of the story will get bonus points from me.

Take care, my reader-player audience. I will be back here this Thursday … with news.

Looking Outward

I Am Asking For Your Help

Sometimes, I can’t believe I’m doing this.

After almost a month of few updates, lots of stories, reviews and even more review writing on G33kpr0n and for Sequart, I feel as though I haven’t touched base with you guys in a very long time. There are so many things happening now, and while not all of them have been what I expected, or even what I had originally been looking for: most of them are very exciting.

I remember when I used to touch base with all of you a lot more often: when I had time to think and ponder and reflect much more on the past. I had, and I’m sure I will always have enough, past experiences to process but sometimes you just need to … act and continue moving forward. I don’t even need to tell all of you: those of you who have existed in my life before this Blog, who were here at the very beginning, and who followed me for some time now know how far I’ve come.

I feel like a certain man in a blue box who has run almost his whole life–or at least from 2005 to 2013–and finally, soon, he will begin to stop running. I might still have youthful good looks reminiscent of Doctor Eleven but these days I can’t help but feel like The Unknown Doctor. I can relate to him so much more. After a lifetime of running, he decides to go all-out in the Last Great Time War: still doing things in his way and how he feels they should be done, but still doing it in his way.

But I think the title of the episode “A Good Man Goes to War” suits me as well: though it is debatable how good a man I exactly am. Whatever the case, where I was once focused on one or two projects and then wandered around restless and empty, I am literally bombarding myself with multiple writing assignments. Ideas–old and new–are blooming constantly inside of my mind in a way that I never thought possible.

I am writing articles for two magazines. I am working on two Twine games on and off. I am even working on two substantial short stories coming dangerously close to their deadlines. And originally, I endeavoured to keep staying in my home until I got all of this done: but now I am starting to realize that if I do that, I will never get out of here. And life is not leaving me alone. It is harder to remain a hermit now that I am more out there and my friends and loved ones also want my attention.

It seems as though, completely going up against my original metaphor I am actually getting something of a life now. And sometimes I confess, I think to myself that I can’t believe this. I think I wasn’t built for this: for approximating journalism when I was so vehemently against doing so in the past for feeling out of my depth, or delving into scholarship again after promising to stay as far away from it as possible, or daring to write an upcoming article on something truly great and having the gall to think that I have anything new and exciting to say about something like that.

I have times when I’m tired. Every day, I sit in front of this computer and go into a world of music and chatting and writing–constant writing–and putting myself out there. And with every article I finish or come up with or that decides it is important, I have two projects that aren’t finished yet and are so close to those deadlines. And I think to myself: I don’t know if I can do this. I wasn’t built for this. What if I don’t succeed? What if I keep taking down these smaller units and the large ones loom over me? What if I fail?

But as I write this, I look at what I have done and what I am doing. And I realize that despite all the aggravation and fear and outright exhaustion, this is actually one of the happiest times in my life. It is a battle, yes, and in the spirit of video games I keep taking more of opponents down with a growing sense of power but I am tired, and I realize that this game is reality.

And I need your help.

Yes, you. I need your help. It has come to my attention that my current material situation cannot last forever and while I have already planted some potential seeds for the future, I’ve realized that I need to do more. I’ve realized that I can’t do this alone. I never could. In fact, even now I’m not. There are people who have always been there for me: through all of this. And in order to proceed further, I will continue to need you and those of you who have found and like the work that I do.

So here is what I am going to do in my epic battle and I am going to be clear right now. I am going to ask you to Like this post if you are willing to help me. Let me be clear: if you know me, or you’ve just gotten to know me you will know that I won’t ask anything unreasonable from you and I will return the favour in the ways that I am capable.

I will post more details when the time comes, soon, and you can definitely change your minds then and there will be no hard feelings but right now I am more interested to see a show of hands and Likes as to who is willing to help me and believes that I will make something truly special.

I want to take Mythic Bios–and everything I have been making–and expand on it. I want to make it into something that will support me, that will give me more resources to work with in order to make better quality work, and get my name out there to do the same. There are some burdens that I need lifted and some that I need to adopt to get the freedom that I need to continue my work and my life. I suppose I can be even more melodramatic and raise my hand and shout, “Who’s with me!” but really I just want to know who is curious about what I want to do and, besides, I’m comfortable with the fact that I won’t end up like Theon Greyjoy after his speech in the Game of Thrones television series.

Essentially, all of you 1,198 Followers, I want to know if you believe in me and what I am capable of doing: just, as I already said, to see that show of hands. Comments are a bonus too: advice even more so. But right now, all I want are Likes on this one post.

I realize now that I am at the part in the game where I do need to go all-now but, with all of you beside me–physically or in spirit–I would like to see just what over a thousand people are capable of doing: especially something as modest as I am proposing.

It is said that a thousand cats can change reality. I wonder if over a thousand humans can help affect one writer’s life. Think of it as a Challenge for myself and all of you. If not, well, it was a good experiment. Take care, my friends. I love you all and, no matter what, I am now looking forward to what comes after.

Looking Outward

Who Knew that Games Would be a Part of our Future

This is definitely going to be a retrospective article. And yes: it is definitely going to be about video games.

A while ago now, in fact almost at the beginning of the online version of Mythic Bios, I wrote an article simply named How to Turn a Medium into a Genre: 8 to 16-Bit Video Games followed much later by an overview of games I found fascinating in Dreams of Lost Pixels, Hand Eye, and More Video Game Ramblings. You can read these if you haven’t, or again if you’d like to refresh yourself but they aren’t necessary to understand this current post of mine.

I’m an intermittent gamer, I admit it. As I’ve said before, I only play certain games that interest me. I’m not into first-person shooters or sports related games. I don’t even like Grand Theft Auto, though I will admit when I was younger I just loved running people over: take from that what you will. But like many children that grew up in the 1980s, video games were really important to me: as other interactive worlds to delve into instead of doing school work. And it’s really funny how even though I was one of those that always hated it when my parents and other adults called games “a waste of time,” I was that same person that would believe a game could become obsolete when something newer and with “better graphics” came along.

At the same time, I have kept all of my old Nintendo systems and most of my games. It’s that strange paradox: of not taking games seriously, but also recognizing their value at the same time and keeping them as mine. I was even ashamed to admit that there were video games that inspired my earliest stories.

For me, it was after the Super Nintendo era–which as far as I am concerned was Nintendo’s Golden Age–and the early Nintendo 64 when I began to lose interest in video games. There just … seemed to be something missing from those games. At first the novelty of the “new” polygon graphics of the Nintendo 64 and the strange challenge of 3D gameplay made up for a lot. And some games like Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time really caught my eye: even if the controls and the perspectives made me want to scream. I mean, seriously, how many times did any of you make Link try to push a block under a time limit only for him to decide to jump on the block each and every fucking moment!? It’s actually kind of a small miracle I didn’t break my controls out of sheer fury: though I did make Link bash his head into the wall … a lot.

Don’t feel bad. We have all been there.

I felt lost then. I had played the Sid Meier’s Civilization games a while ago and sometimes I went back to them: because, for those who know me, I can’t really resist playing god. But I never found a game, really, that interested me: and it just depressed me to play old games because it reminded me of times that were no longer the present. It wasn’t until my brother and some of his friends started playing old Super Nintendo games–a lot of which I had only seen mentioned in Nintendo Power‘s Epic Center section and never played–that I got back into it. And then I realized we weren’t alone: that we and a few others were not isolated, drunken cases of nostalgia.

It still amazes me–even to this day and knowing a lot better now–that what many adults believed would be frivolous and arbitrary electronic fun that we children would promptly forget about when the next best thing came around, became some of the formative years of our childhood and the cultural references and experiences of our own adulthood. Somehow, as a few of us aged, video games became relevant beyond skipping homework and we became discerning. We pay attention to gameplay mechanics and story lines and ideas in the code of the game. Moreover, there are people who look at the history of video game development and the cultural contexts around them. And these games mean so many different things to different people.

We began to ask questions: questions such as why we had to kill the enemies in a game and what an enemy actually was? Questions of gender assumptions come up and eventually, with people like Anna Anthropy, game designers–having taken what was originally an 8 or 16-bit medium and now a genre due to the advancement and availability of technology–make their own stories (some of them very autobiographical) and use video games to create a narrative around them. And now we are at that place where we even question what a video game actually is and how “cheap games” such as those made with Twine as choose your own adventure text-based games qualify and are more accessible mediums to make games from: to allow someone to put on the skin you make for them.

What is happening with the Indie scene now is almost reminiscent of what occurred with Underground Comix in the 60s and 70s while the Comics Code Authority ruled over the mainstream comics industry. Yes, sometimes the mainstream industry makes some compelling games but a lot of really fascinating artifacts are coming from independent designers and smaller groups.

But more than any of this: I think what really strikes me is that there have been some people who thought of us 80s children as a Lost Generation: of those that had promise, but due to the economy and the changing times never reached it. We were supposedly forgotten and the media and genres we grew up with rendered irrelevant. Our time was supposed to have been a Dark Age and we are all strange, weird artifacts that neither the previous generation nor the ones after us can relate to. I go a lot into this in Paradigms Lost, Paradigms Regained, but the long and short of it is that we didn’t vanish and neither did the things that we like. They became relevant because they were always relevant to us.

And now: everyone knows Super Mario. In-jokes and references to Mortal Kombat and other games are abound. There are whole Let’s Play videos on Youtube that look at old games. And, as I said, new creators are taking those old principles and subverting them with adult understandings. Even I have been caught up in the Twine craze and I like to write about games and make game references in some of my own creative works.

Despite a lot of other things that have happened in my life, when I look at where we are going with all of this–even with some of the delays and the setbacks–it is a good time to be alive and I look forward to seeing where this goes. If anything I only hope that I can play some good vintage games with friends again: one day.

Life and Identity, Eden and Hell: The Twines of a Gaming Pixie

The following will talk about–and accordingly link to–games of a graphic nature: if you will pardon the unintentional pun. Reader’s–and player’s discretion–is advised. Do not say that you have not been warned.

It was around February when I discovered Gaming Pixie. Less than a month before, in January, I finished Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and participated in my first–and so far only–Game Jam. After really hearing more about Twine, I began searching for more information on Anna Anthropy’s works and other Twine games.

I’m not sure how I found Gaming Pixie exactly. Perhaps it was through one of her creative YouTube video game reviews, or I found her Pixie’s Sketch Book before or after. I do remember, however, playing one of her only two Twine games at the time: specifically What’s In a Name? Seeing this really personal Choose Your Own Adventure text game really hit home for me the fact that I wanted to make something similar: something that to this very day along with everything else. Then I played her first Twine game–The Choice–and at the time I stopped playing once I got the good ending. It’s strange that I remember the second game more than the first, but even though I could relate to both of them in some way, I really felt more akin to What’s In a Name? and what I felt that Gaming Pixie was attempting to portray.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. Originally, after getting to know Gaming Pixie more, I was only going to write about her game Eden. However, I know feel compelled–in some way–to trace the development of her game-making, and its content even as both continue to evolve.

As I stated before, Gaming Pixie was best known for her own video game reviews. If you click on the above link, you will see an analytical mind that engages with the mechanics of the games she’s plays: accompanied by a sense of wry bemusement, her personal reactions to the game, how she related to it, and her liking to break the Fourth Wall a lot and interpose herself into the games. She rarely, if ever, indulges in profanity (though there are times it seems as though she is coming close, but instead settles for the tongue-in-cheek), and she has a wide assortment of costumes.

A little girl

But in addition to this past, she is also a talented artist–creating many lush and vital comics and storybook-like illustrations–as well designing a really immaculate website or two. By the time I found her, she had more or less transitioned away from reviews, planning to create some comics, then Flash animations, but ultimately choosing the medium of video games to work in: with Twine as her first tool. She had so far created two games: two very personal games.

The Choice: by Gaming Pixie

Her first Twine game, The Choice, is about suicide. You play from the second-person perspective and, after choosing which way you want to die, a part of you attempts to stop you. And that part of you is tenacious. Let me tell you. When I replayed it recently and made a determined choice to kill myself off, that embodied part of me was relentless in asking me whether or not I was sure I wanted to do this.

And playing The Choice made me also re-examine the perspective I want my games to be from and why. Because, you see, I automatically stated that the game was from my own perspective because of the second-person “you” that the narrative addresses the player from, yet it can also be an attempt to make a player see into the mind or the situation of another person. There is this fine line there. And despite the bleakness in this text-based game, there is hope in it too, and the ornate, story-book illustrative graphics complement it well.

Also, when I was searching through Gaming Pixie’s Sketch Book to get more insight into the game, I also came across a review and link to this really interesting Indie game by Daniel Benmergui called Today I Die: which according to her Sketch Book greatly inspired her to look at the issue of a game being a medium for art and emotional expression. It is a truly brilliant and beautiful game about seizing your life back from depression, and so much more. I wonder if it inspired some of The Choice, but either way I, for one, am really glad that Gaming Pixie’s entry led me there, that I played it and that it gave me a little more insight than I had before.

What's in a Name: by Gaming Pixie

By What’s In a Name? … I think this is where it all begins. While The Choice dealt with a feeling of suicide and either overcoming or giving into it–with an emphasis of the strength of life–this game is about futility. It is that second-person perspective again: except whereas you could argue that the previous game gives you more lee-way in projecting your own identity into the game, this one is very concrete and autobiographical. The character or the perspective is that of a woman who is struggling to understand her bisexual feelings and in a situation where no matter how she reacts to an issue of identity, she always loses: finding herself and her burgeoning sense of self becoming de-legitimized and trapped in a place of pervasive biphobia.

This game must have come at the height or the beginnings of what is called The Twine Revolution, or perhaps there was just a niche that formed there because both Kotaku and The Border House as well as Anna Anthropy made mention of and even reviewed this game. Please look at The Border House’s IF Game of the Day: What’s in a Name? by Gaming Pixie, Patricia Hernandez’s A Game About The Confusion And Difficulties That Come With Being Bisexual and Lana Polansky’s Nameless with regards to how she related to the game’s content for a little more information: but please consider playing the actual game first.

I will admit: when I played that last game I really, really wanted there to be a third option and a “screw you to everyone else because I will live my life the way I want to” ending. The fact is, even though the game was not about me, it touched that place in me, and I’m sure in many of us, where I remember trying to figure things out and having other people and forces tell me what was right: with changes in their treatment towards me if I didn’t comply with their spoken or unspoken views. It is a similar feeling and perhaps, one day, I will go more into it: and you can thank Gaming Pixie–at least in part–for at least reinforcing that possibility.

And then things began to really change. I’d lost track of Gaming Pixie for a while, but by the time I came back I saw that she was working on a much longer and more ambitious Twine. The Twine plot outline chart for Eden is a spider’s web of complex activity for me and I’m amazed that Gaming Pixie could keep track of all of that.

Some Twine source code for Eden. SOME.

[It makes me really think I have my own work cut out for me with my own Twine novel.]

What’s more is that this is the point when her game-making changes. Whereas What’s in a Name? is minimal in terms of graphics and both games are silent, she starts to utilize the royalty-free music of Kevin MacLeod as her soundtrack. In addition, she creates a great many more graphics: lush, colourful, finely lined and utterly beautiful pastel images. One thing I should definitely note here is that she has moved past the short and personal into something larger and far more fictional.

And yet, sexuality and gender play a great role in–and with–Eden. At the beginning of this game, you are asked to choose a name and a gender. You are also asked what your sexual preference is. Unlike The Choice, where you have one or two endings, or What’s in a Name? that is ultimately one ending no matter what you do, Eden has multiple–multiple–endings. It looks at beauty and it examines your morality and just how far you are willing to go to maintain what–and who–you believe in: an element that Soha Kareem, in her Haywire Magazine article Soha Kareem shares four more games made in Twine also points out.

What is even more interesting is that Gaming Pixie has managed to place a lot of randomizing elements into the narrative: so that upon future playthroughs the game and its text do not always react in the same exact way. There is even one ending that happens almost simply by chance.

In a lot of ways, if The Choice is choosing life and What’s in a Name? is a grim coming to terms with one’s identity I feel as though Eden was an answer to What’s in a Name?: that third option that branches out from one persona into so many other choices … so much so that if I had to answer What’s In a Name? as a question, I would reply with Eden. In fact, in one Blog post before she reveals her game, Gaming Pixie goes into further detail on the matter.

Shadow of a Soul

And now, we shift gears from a potential and fragile utopia, into–quite literally–Hell. For Halloween, Gaming Pixie decided to do something different yet again. Shadow of a Soul is a horror game in which you have to make some pretty macabre, and yet strangely erotic, and BDSM-themed choices. It starts off the same way as Eden does: asking what your name is, your gender, and your sexual preference. You can see something of a pattern here: in which your sexuality–particularly bisexuality–has an impact on how you experience both of these text games. However, it is more than that. In addition to an open-ended possibility of a third gender or something beyond binary gender, both games present bisexuality as a valid orientation: and that is a great assertive against the spirits of The Choice and What’s In a Name?

Shadow of a Soul has fewer endings and some of the randomization and knowing how many resources you have can mean all the difference between … being in different states. I will not spoil it further than that except to add that it is very hard to win this game: even when the answer stares you right in the face … or if you choose it: just for the, if you will pardon this pun too, hell of it.

It is fascinating to see someone with clear creativity undergoing the transition point between reviewer and artist, then text game-creator, and now going into the realms of programming beyond Twine. So please keep your eye on Gaming Pixie Games: which you can either click on here to view or find on my Blogroll: because Gaming Pixie can obviously explain her process far better than I can and, trust me fellow Clappers, she is one fairy that you should definitely believe in.

Pixie-art

Art From Trauma and Twine: Red From a Violet Magician

So a little while ago, I mentioned that I was working on a Twine game: a text-based choose your own adventure story. I made a few decisions on the way. Essentially, I decided to put my Twine novel idea aside–to work on from time to time when the mood and the inspiration really set into me–and I began expanding on the root idea that it came from to make a shorter Twine that doesn’t even have an ending so far. I’m writing out the first section by hand and I’ve finished the first section and I am currently focusing on the second part. I meant to complete this sooner as I have some other priorities.

However, this post is not about me or my Twine. It is about someone else’s. No, what I’m going to do, late tonight in some many ways, is I’m going to introduce you to a Twine that was derived from an initial Challenge that I gave to a friend: who then utilized Twine to tackle both a personal and universal issue.

https://i1.wp.com/31.media.tumblr.com/c844da5a455d8705e7894c5025720e27/tumblr_msvx9qY1OC1qgyk1bo1_500.png

Here is the *Trigger Warnings* Disclaimer from here on in. Do not read further if any of you are set off by a discussion or depiction of trauma. You have been warned.

Trauma is a very human experience: or at least in how we perceive and express it. I’ve mentioned depression and grief and bad memories on this Blog before, but this is something different. Post-traumatic stress disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder are what happens when an event of violence or violation, or a series of such events created by environment and society affect a person’s psyche to the point where certain stimuli–such as scents or sounds or sights–or sleep or even memories can elicit a sense of panic, anger and fear inside them.

And I am not doing justice to either definition. From what I understand, it is taking a really awful moment, or a series of moments and having them imprinted into the brain–much like stimuli and exercise imprints trained reflexes into muscle memory–or injecting fear and crippling anxiety into a cell of a memory that can be triggered by anything: hence my earlier disclaimer for this post.

It can affect anyone from any form of life and, as such, it is unfortunately part of a variety of different personal and human experiences. However facing it in any way is a sign of both necessity and, as far as I am concerned, a tremendous amount of bravery. My friend Ionas has taken on this force and manifested it into a Twine, which right now at this moment, I want to speak for itself.

Ionas’ Twine is called Red. It is an important story to anyone who either experiences trauma, or knows someone who does, or wants to know more about it. Really, it is just a very important story in and of itself. If any of you, my readers, appreciate my own writings please sit down, click on the above link, and take the time to navigate through the world that Ionas has created. I got the rare privilege of watching this story get constructed from the ground up in a very deep kind of creative process.

And while I do not suffer from PTSD or CPTSD as far as I know, this is still something that is close to my heart for various reasons. Some of the best art can come from pain and while that pain is never wished for, it can create powerful experiences.

So please read this Twine and share it on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook and any social media site that you like to use. Also, Ionas is an excellent graphic artist whose work can be found within the Violet Magician. Ionas also takes artistic commissions, so anyone out there looking for art, the Violet Magician is fascinating to go to and see.

I am going to be encouraging people to make Twine games. You can find the link for the free online Twine software right in this link. I have another friend too whom I have also assigned this “homework”: to make a Twine. You know who you are. I understand that you’re busy, but I will be checking up on you … soon …