Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: Interactive Horror Fiction

The Apparition on the Streckelberg (Illustration for Meinhold's The Amber Witch) aka Spirit of the Mountain (1895) by Sir Philip Burne-Jones (1861-1926). Image Source: ArtMagick.

Today's post features some hypertext horror fiction games written with Twine software. You can download Twine for free here and write your own Millennial choose-your-own adventures. Because Twine is easy to use, it is accessible to amateur artists. Twine's hyperlinks promise to have a big cultural impact; the interactive form may possibly one day shake the novel from its preeminent position in the world of literature. The hyperlinked form of fiction is currently changing conventions around narrative, characterization, voice, plot, the sense of reality, genre, and other aspects of creative writing.

Twine game designers take an independent and innovative stance, which gives voice to marginalized communities. For example, on the 11th to 13th of October 2013, a 48-hour horror game jam took place with the purpose of writing stories which challenge the scary asylum and mental-illness-as-horror tropes: "The primary rule is 'You should not use asylums, psychiatric institutes, medical professionals or violent/antipathic/’insane’ patients as settings or triggers.'" From the main page, Asylum Jam:
WHO states that mental illness or disorders affect one in four people. It is something a great deal of the world live and cope with, yet are increasingly hesitant to reveal due to negative stigmatization in media, compounded by lack of general awareness about the variance and truth of suffering from a mental illness.
Horror is usually derived from the unknown and what we do not understand— and mental illness is one of these subjects where the general public lacks knowledge and insight. Many horror games use the negative portrayal of those who suffer from mental illness as extremely violent or sadistic, usually as the villain or antagonist, as an easy crutch to rest their story, characters and motivations on.
Asylum Jam is here to prove that we do not have to utilize a negative portrayal of mental health, medical professionals or medical institutes to create a good horror experience for a gamer!

Shaking up horror genres with Millennial themes, rather than the same old Gothic monsters and haunted houses.
Here, Dilbert Horror! Anyone who has worked in a modern office will identify with the immersive horror game, One Late Night. Gameplay preview. Video Source: Youtube.

Asylum Jam recommends the following non-twine indie games for their shake-ups of horror genre stereotypes:
  • Slender: The Eight Pages (2012) - "The Slender Man is not outwardly horrifying in a traditional blood-and-guts sense, but somehow seeing him standing in the quiet woods is utterly terrifying.” (Gamasutra, 2012)
  • SCP Containment Breach (2012) - "Like the recently-released SlenderContainment Breach is characterised by tension and inaction over direct intervention." (Edge Online, 2012)
  • One Late Night (2013) - "The basic idea is that players who have been in similar situations, and worked with similar office jobs, will relate themselves to the game setting and scenario and become immersed. You’re not in some dark forest or a creepy facility. You’ve just woken up at your desk in your work office and it’s late at night – you’re all alone." (IndieStatik, 2013)
  • Among the Sleep (2013) - Among The Sleep invites you into the mind and body of a two year old child. After being put to bed one evening, mysterious things start to happen. "The whole game is a testament to the slow, rolling horror that western developers often seem to ignore, and the power of childhood fears on even the stoutest adults." (IndieStatik, 2013)
4PlayerNetwork review: "I must say that something about it really adds to the fear factor of the entire thing. Playing from the perspective of something so defenseless, so small, really puts on another layer that we haven't seen before." Among the Sleep (2011-2012). Image Source: 4PlayerNetwork.

Baby Horror, the game in which you play a two-year-old child: Among the Sleep teaser gameplay and Kickstarter promo. Video Source: Youtube.

Some interactive fiction games written with Twine are winning attention for their quality: "Several games made using Twine have been critically acclaimed. For example, Howling Dogs by video game designer Porpentine won 'Best Story' and 'Best Writing' at the 2012 XYZZY awards for interactive fiction."

For this post, Porpentine kindly recommended to me some of her own interactive horror fiction and also some games she didn't write (her tumblr is here; her main Website is here; you can see her other Twine games here):
-Nominated: Best Game, Best Setting, Best Use of Innovation
-Won: Best Writing, Best Story - 2012 XYZZY Awards
-"I came away thinking howling dogs should be an assigned text of study for people considering writing link-based fictions." [emily short]
-"a dour enchantment in that holy dread kind of way" [richard hofmeier]
-Top 5 Indie Games of 2012 [Boston Phoenix]
-6th place in Mood category for Ludum Dare 25's 48 hr competition
-Review of CYBERQUEEN at IndieGames: "Porpentine is a master of words, worlds and disturbingly novel settings and her latest freeware game, the excellent CYBERQUEEN, is one of those Twine text-only offerings you can't afford to miss. It's a dark, demented, sci-fi piece set in a sentient and apparently villainous spaceships sporting some almost erotic prose, brilliantly thought-out interactions and some particularly dynamic text. It's quite the masterpiece ... ."

For other Twine horror, see also:
For more Twine games set in horror and other genres, go to Twine Hub and Adventure Cow; Twine Hub also gives advice on how to write your own Twine games. (- Many thanks to Matt Duhamel for suggestions on this topic.)

Walloomsac Inn, Bennington, Vermont, USA. Built 1771 and still privately owned and occupied, the Inn needs renovation. Image Source: Odd Things I've Seen.

See all my posts on Horror themes.

See all my posts on Ghosts.

Check out other blogs observing the Countdown to Halloween!

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