I’m writing late to state that I finally started working on my Twine game in earnest.
It was a long time coming and it is a long time going. This particular odyssey began in the wintertime when I finished reading Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and I felt this burning urge to create my own game. Yes. The urge is that bad and it’s something that neither medical science nor organized religion can cure. No, my only bet after that is embracing the spiritual practice known as my creativity and delving into a place I know fondly as “What the Fuck.”
“What the Fuck” and I go way back: so much so that I usually use it for punctuated emphasis. But here it has become its own pronoun. Its own self.
So first off, I do have to say though that when you start to make a Choose Your Own Adventure Game of any kind–on paper or electronically–you begin to realize that you will have a lot of work ahead of you.
The first issue was figuring out what kind of story I wanted to tell. I mean, the fact of the matter for me is that I more or less know what I am going to say. It is the details that are challenging. It is not so much what I am going to say, it is how I am going to say it.
I do have a few things in my favour already however.
The main thing is that I know that there will be alternate branches and pathways in this story: and this aesthetic will determine the narrative structure. I won’t leave it at that, though, because I know how entirely boring talking about structures can sound. I actually started working on the idea of this game months ago: specifically writing the different worlds and places that I planned for “you”–the player–to visit and interact with. I typed up said Notes in the Draft section of my gmail account and then printed them out: to which I started writing extra places and notes on the margins.
All of the above has been the easy part. Now I am going to tell you the rest of my experience so far in fulfilling this promise–this challenge–to myself.
After I finished my notes on planes and worlds that embodied some key concepts that really stick my head, it occurred to me that this sucker had neither a title to its name, nor a name to its title. Pick one. ;P You might think that, in the initial stages that I was in, this would be nothing but in actually it is everything. I mean, sometimes I even have difficulty defining a Blog post I’m working on, so you can only imagine what this this like.
A title to a work summarizes and focuses everything that you are trying to say in a clear way that gives the reader, or in this case the player-reader, a sense of your own slant: your own vision. So for a while, I had nothing. I realized that I couldn’t flesh out what I had if I had nothing. Then, to make things even more messed up, I had parallel game ideas start to manifest at the same time: each vying for control over my Notes and trying to unify with one dominating over the others. It is an internal struggle that still threatens to manifest even at this time.
I’m not finished yet. So in addition to not being able to find a name to unify these warring idea-states, I also realized that I didn’t know what my narrative perspective was going to be. Quite simply, you know that second-person “You” pronoun? Yes. You. I’m talking about you. I was stuck between making “you” neutral in a futile attempt to make the illusion of a one size fits all, or a “you” that was more specific and had particular experiences that you, as the person and not the player-reader, do not necessarily have.
This was the state of creation at that time. I left it for a while and then, one day, I was sitting at my parents’ computer and I remembered a place: a particular realm that I wanted to make. So far, I gave my game idea a lot of working titles and names. “Hell” was at least part of one of these.
I was thinking to myself, not for the first time, that I am better at creating hell than I am at heaven. And then I thought to myself, “Matthew: how would you make a utopia?” A perfect world … I mean, we all know here that there is no such thing: at least not on the human plane. But I started thinking about what the closest thing to a utopia there was that I could get behind: something hard but something to work at.
Then I thought of a word I hadn’t remembered in a while. I wrote it down on a pre-scribbled piece of notepad paper in front of me: one of many that tend to form around me in my hazardous capacity as a writer with ideas. And it was then that this idea for a world or a state of being became part of the title for my game.
Hell still remains. You can thank my year-long reading of Paradise Lost for that and my own twisted mind. But I had something else now. I had a much clearer goal and something to work towards. I realized it was always there: I just had to name the bloody thing. Anyway, I still had some issues starting this because the ideas were still not recognizing the title that wanted to unify them into its twisted weird Twine narrative empire. They were still fighting.
So I did something else.
I did what I call now a “work-around.” I sat down and wrote out a list of books and other media that I could relate to. I imagined them as places or references that I could get the reader to relate to: making the outline of a ground that we might have in common. Then I went to sleep. The next day, I began working on the introduction to the game. Actually, that is a lie. It was the second introduction. I wrote the first introduction a while ago before I came up with the working title. It … got my point across, but it was too heavy-handed, kind of contrived and full of jargon. Still, it had some good points and some of those things will have a place in this version of what I am making now. Actually, I am making one world where you can choose to go that has Jargoning in it.
But I wrote the second introduction which hopefully sets the mood for the exploration and struggle that is about to happen. I made that and finished creating the Jargoning World.
And that is when the second level of difficulties have reared their heads.
You see, I am already feeling that this second introduction will potentially have to be rewritten. There is so much that I have to say. But I am also hoping that I can use another place to expand on it. If not, well, hopefully I will have enough of the writing done at that point to revise the beginning accordingly: Time Lord style. I’m also writing a lot of notes on a lot of the margins of this work. Bear in mind: I am writing this all down on note paper before typing it out. Think of this, all of this, as my first draft.
I am in the next part of this Project before I realized that I really needed a Travel Chart linking all of my worlds together: and where you can travel from where. So I did that, somewhat messily, and I know that will change as well: especially since I forgot a place to add already. :p I began to realize that all of these places that my game interrelate in ways I didn’t consider and it is mutating into a writhing nervous system that I need to keep growing and keeping track of.
Then I added another element that I want for the Ending and I am hoping that the Twine software–of which I have not really experimented with–will accommodate me. Yes, I did say that: though the tutorials make the overview look simple and I have played Twine games before I have not even experimented with Twine yet.
So this is the State of Chaos. And it also tells you something about me as well. I originally wanted to make a straightforward game that was, albeit, epic. Then I wanted to narrow it down into something more personalized and accept it as an early and not necessarily refined experiment. Now I realize I might well be writing a Twine novel.
I can never do anything simply. Ever. It tells you a lot about me.
I both love and hate it when this happens. I’m almost kind of … afraid. Because that is a lot of effort and it can take a lot out of me: something I know from experience.So far I’ve only worked on short stories, vignettes, and even some poetry. I have not worked on an epic work in a while and it can be terrifying: especially at the stage in my life right now. Even as it can be glorious.
It also helped, and didn’t help, that I played some awesome games these past couple of days and realized that I might be out of my depth, and even should I finish all of this–and I intend to because I feel like I really do have something to say–I don’t know if I will be making another one. It might be a one-off. And here I start to question if anyone would even bother to play it, or if I should be spending my time trying to find something that will “pay off” for me: whatever that is.
In the end though, I think my major hurdle is how personal this game is to me and I can’t not make it. So there it is. A whole post with vague details about an unmade Twine game with massive emphasis on creative process and no pictures to say that it is happening.
And despite and because of all this, I am still excited to be doing it. I will keep you all posted as this world continues to unfold. Until another time.