It’s Twine Week on Electron Dance. This is the first of five posts.
So I wrote about how I had problems with the Twine format. But this year I participated in the Fear of Twine exhibition and, as a result, forced myself to read the other 15 works in the exhibition so I could write about them.
Do I still have problems with Twine?
Yes! And no.
I still possess a natural resistance to Twine. Persuading myself to click a link to just open a twine requires determination. And I still have to put the brakes on and slap my mousing hand whenever it gets itchy and wants to click out of a page before it has been read. The entire Fear of Twine exhibition was tough for me because I also wanted to do these twines justice, not just play through them once and say “done, got my narrative, bro”. I wanted to understand them. That meant patience and, normally, replays.
Yet my respect for the form is very real now. Previously anything I wrote positively about Twine would have been very technical: I did not have fun with twine and found it difficult to get excited enough to make observations and analysis. Having sat down and spent quality time with more twines in the last couple of months than I’d ever played before, I’ve been converted. I appreciate what Twine can do and understand how the format can really work for others.
Short twines were easy on the soul. In contrast, if I saw 20 links on a page, I would begin to palpitate and hope some of the links were just description passages that went nowhere special. My brain liked fewer choices and picket fences of text. Walls of text were terrifying.
So the first entry in Fear of Twine, Debt (Tony Perriello, 2014), was a piece of cake. Debt is a movie in text with no branching. Funnily enough, this means it is accessible enough for everyone to come in, bitch about “dude, where’s my agency” and ask for their money back because “it’s not a game”.
On the other end of the spectrum I had the text jungles of Zombies and Elephants (Verena Kyratzes, 2014) and the wild branching of Abstract State-warp Machines (Ivaylo Shmilev, 2014). Regardless of whether they are good or not, I wonder if such works are naturally unpopular as they are not so easy to consume. Clicking the mouse button for headshots is so much simpler than digesting pages of text.
One of the items that came out of the Counterweight podcast on Fear of Twine is that twine is an unknown time commitment. Is this a long twine or a short twine? Who knows? Twines are meant to be consumed in one go, like a gaming snack, except many of them take a great deal of time to work through. Normally, a twine doesn’t impress you with any sense of how much is left before the story ends, particularly as branching messes with that. There are no page numbers. There is no book spine to gauge length.
Plus, it’s hard to save your progress in a twine. The new version of Twine does support “bookmarks” but if you’re one of those twine developers that hate the sidebar because it messes with “your vision” then the bookmark option is unlikely to be supported in your twine.
In sum, I get Twine now. But I don’t know if that has actually changed anything.