Porpentine of the Twine

Howling Dogs

And my last post looking into Interactive Fiction is done. Every time I come up with some sort of theme it ends up getting so off track for one reason or another. In this case it was playing all these twine games for this post and the last one and then having to digest them all.

I purposefully left Porpentine’s work out of my twine overview in the previous post for several compounding reasons. She is an author that is prolific enough, her work ranges from fairly interesting to oh my god the depth is crushing me and she has had a pretty big spotlight on her for quite a while. The spotlight went from big to huge after the IGF and Richard Hofmeir giving Howling Dogs his booth. In essence, in the twine world she is the rock star. Not A rock star, THE rock star. She deserved her own post. And in a way it nicely caps off the journey I’ve had through the world of Interactive Fiction, starting with spatial parser based games into the more esoteric, then basic twine to it’s biggest known name.

So I had my subject, but I wasn’t sure how to tackle her work. Nearly everything I played of her has left me in a somewhat similar emotional state upon finishing. Somewhere between shaken and horrified, with a good dash of drained thrown in. Because like choose your own adventure books, you just have to go back and see where the other choice would lead. It becomes exhausting to have the material of Myriad or Cyberqueen thrust upon you as you immerse yourself in the worldview the text provides.

In fact most of my thoughts on Porpentine’s work are rather scattered. I can feel a meaning underneath even if I’m unable to parse it out. I thought I could do some sort of expose on the author by viewing her through her work (an interesting if not dangerous proposition) but ultimately I feel that would be unfair. Porpentine’s work is so alien an experience to me that I’m not sure I could ever render an accurate portrayal of what it reveals about the author. And I didn’t even get to talking about some of the more bizarre games like Crystal Warrior Ke$ha or Batman is Screaming and I really ignored the ones not specifically authored narrative based.

Other than Howling Dogs, A Place of Infinite Beauty and maybe climbing 208 feet up the ruin wall, I’m not even sure I like her work. But I cannot deny they are affecting. It is there to challenge everything you think you know. That’s its purpose out on the fringe. It’s an odd experience to see the rock star of a genre be so out there in a medium where the status quo usually claim that title.

In the end, I figured some halfway point was the best option. A step between description and authorial analysis, a primer on Porpentine if you will. I did my best to try and explain what you’d be in for should you play her games and maybe show that there is merit behind the gross, sexual and non-conformist imagery the player would be assaulted with. I got Porpentine’s tweet thanks, so there’s that.

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