This March, legendary interactive fiction and game creator Porpentine hosted a game jam challenging new and experienced authors to create a Twine story in 300 words or fewer. Twine is a game-authoring platform that helps creators make games without having to learn (too much) code. While it’s mostly used for deceptively simple text-based games, the platform also accommodates audio and visual elements, as well as scripting for the code-minded.
According to the Twiny Jam website, “low word count is a way to feel less intimidated about making something…+ focus on each individual detail and why it’s being included.” Twiny Jam is accepting submissions through April 9, 2015, and new authors are encouraged to add their entries to over 70 games that have already been submitted.
Many Twine games focus on player decisions, with branching narratives and multiple endings like Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Thanks to interactive fiction pioneers, however, the genre has been expanding in both versatility and breadth. Twiny Jam showcases a cross-section of available Twine-based games. All of these games are free to play and most are browser-based; the limitation on the games’ authors means that most games take five minutes or less to try out.
Porpentine (the queen of genre-breaking titles like Crystal Warrior Ke$ha and Howling Dogs) leads the charge herself, contributing Frolic, a symbol-based joy generator, and A History of the Shore Regions, a prose game based on a series of deranged reviews of bygone and fictional games. My favorite Twine games tend to feature exquisite and precise writing, like these and Jason Dyer’s playable poem, Roasted Misfits.
On the other hand, Twine’s sparseness can bring attention to the horrific and grotesque. Liz England’s itch confronts the player with the close-up image of a hairy arm and only two choices: “scratch it” and “ignore it.” The options escalate the intensity of the itch, until…well, you’ll just have to try it. On the other end of the spectrum, James Earl Cox III’s love story about tomatoes is strangely unsettling if only for the squishy sound effects in the background.
And then, there’s the gonzo and irreverent. As a huge fan of the Clan, I got a kick out of Ronin’s Wu-Tang Simulator 2015. But gamers who love a little goofy fun might enjoy cosmicwangst’s Ghosthug (a game about hugging ghosts) or xiaopop’s Rabid Hamsters (a game about, uh, fighting rabid hamsters).
But whatever you enjoy—whether it’s clever writing, classic adventure stories, or introspective metanarrative—Twiny Jam has an itty bitty version of it and is a great stepping stone into the enormous world of modern interactive fiction.
…Okay, one more thing. Twiny Jam isn’t just revelatory. It’s fun. Check out the entry that Conrad Kreyling and I created in two days: Inventory!