Videogames for Humans by Zoë Quinn, Imogen Binnie, Merritt Kopas

theautumnalcity's review

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This book was long and I felt it could have been trimmed significantly. Some of the games didn't feel like interesting uses of Twine, or interesting writing, and there occasionally seemed to be tension between the player / commenter and the game they were playing. "What do I say about this?" they seemed to be thinking.

What I wanted was a curated collection of interesting uses of Twine commented on by interesting and thoughtful players, but a few of the players seemed to completely ignore the game and just use the space to talk about their own experiences in a frustratingly tangential way.

Worth a read if you're interested in Twine or hypertext fiction, but often awkward. I'd recommend playing the games themselves if they seem intriguing and the player in the book doesn't engage with them in a meaningful way.

I struggled with the rating a bit, but decided on 4 stars because the book is very unique, even if it didn't constantly meet my expectations.

Highlights: Horse Master, SABBAT, And the Robot Horse You Rode In On, Even Cowgirls Bleed, scarfmemory

rachelhelps's review

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This is a collection of playthroughs of notable Twine games with excellent commentary. Twine games are essentially interactive fiction, only with things like variable tracking (so it can remember what choices you've made). That's how it's possible to put complete playthroughs of them in a book.

The range of games was excellent. There were some I had played, like Depression Quest and Even Cowgirls Bleed, and a bunch I had never heard of. Some of the games I probably never would have played on my own, like the one about gay hook-up culture and the one about a Satanist ritual. I enjoyed expanding my knowledge about the types of Twine games out there, although I did feel uncomfortable at times. I thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the games and their commentary, like the one about a pregnant mermaid (3x3x3), and the one about raising a futuristic race horse (Horse Master).

Sometimes I have a hard time focusing on Twine games when I just have them up in my browser. I like the idea of downloading them as HTML files and sitting down just to play them, rather than having them up in a browser tab as something to "get done." I really enjoyed reading the ebook on my ereader (as opposed to reading it on my computer or something). The commentary helped me to slow down and enjoy the poetic language too--sometimes I have a hard time with reading things slowly and imagining everything that's going on, and the commentary/analysis helped me savor the experience.

There were some times when my daughter woke me up in the middle of the night and I didn't feel like being awake, but having this book to read made it less of a bother. I feel like I want to play more Twine games, but I don't really want to go to the trouble to curate them. Maybe someone is already doing that! I should go see. Here's a list from 2013. I wish Free Indie Games still updated!

bakudreamer's review

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Just read the Kopas part, too strange

nickfourtimes's review

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1) [Introduction]
"Late 2012 and early 2013 was an extraordinarily exciting period for me: I started, for the first time, to feel like I was a part of something. The 'queer games scene' covered by videogame outlets might not have been as cohesive as some accounts supposed, but for a little under a year, it definitely felt real. We were telling new stories in new ways, stories that were not just unheard of as subjects for videogames—which they certainly were—but rare in any medium. We were writing about messy lives on the economic and social margins of society, about the complexities of embodiment and community, about our grotesque cyberpunk dreams and gay pulp fantasies.
Things fell apart, as they often do in tightly knit, passionate communities of artistic people with few resources—especially when those people are all also friends, lovers, or something in between. But that period was intensely generative, launching a number of authors into visibility and recognition and solidifying the reputations of others. When the burst of activity around Twine during this time ended, it didn't just fizzle out—it left marks on literary and independent videogames communities.
Twine games ended up on college syllabi, technical resources piled up for those wanting to play with variations on the form, and even the relatively small amount of journalistic and critical attention paid to some prominent Twine works raised the profile of the tool to a new level. When Richard Hofmeier—winner of the 2013 Independent Game Festival's grand prize award for his game Cart Life—defaced his own booth and replaced his game's demo with Twine author Porpentine's well-received game Howling Dogs, it became impossible to ignore the importance of Twine to independent games."

2) [scarfmemory by Michael Brough, played by Anna Anthropy]
"'bus reaches the stop finally. better take all your stuff.
take: hat gloves scarf backpack bag of food
okay lets go'
all of the items here are links, big blue letters, except for 'scarf,' which sits between them, small and white and naked, unclickable. this is storytelling right here, just through how the text is labelled.
in older, puzzle-focused text games, the player develops a sort of instinct of, upon reaching a new place, immediately grabbing everything that's not nailed down and taking it with you: you never know when you might need that hairpin to pick the lock on a treasure chest. at this point, you want to alter history, i want to make michael take his scarf, but my inability to is already a forgone conclusion. i wonder how many times michael played out this scene in his head, willing himself, in memory, to just take the scarf. the player's doing the same thing, right now.
there's a photo of a pile of stuff on the desk: michael's coat, michael's gloves. his scarf can be seen, orange and blue, in the pile.
when i click on something to take, its name vanishes from the screen, ultimately leaving the word 'scarf' behind, untakeable, alone.
'> hat
> gloves
> backpack
> bag of food
> okay let's go
you're sitting on a different bus, in a different time and place.
how much of life is spent moving from one place to another?
> how much of life
it doesn't matter, it doesn't have to be wasted time, you can read a book, knit something, think deeply, look out at the view, talk to friends.
maybe in the future these things will have internet connections too!'
clicking on 'knit' draws me through an entire internal dialogue, as michael goes back and forth about whether he should learn to knit. this game is all about transitions: michael knits his scarf as a way to deal with travel, he loses his scarf while travelling. a scarf is a transitional piece of clothing: you wear it when you're between places, because it's too warm to wear it inside. for michael, his scarf is a way in which he takes ownership of the time of his life he spends out of control of it—the time he spends travelling. but travelling, ultimately, takes it back."

3) [Depression Quest by Zoe Quinn, played by Toni Pizza]
"'You open your front door and stare at your apartment. An overwhelming feeling of exhaustion overcomes you, and you feel like your energy levels are low enough that you'll likely settle into a single activity tonight.
What do you do?
1: Just shake off your bad mood and do something fun for the rest of the evening.
2. Reach out to someone close to you.

3: Don't burden anyone with your problems. Distract yourself.'
Fine, I'll take the only choice that is there.
'> Don't burden anyone
What you really want more than anything is to turn your brain off and just disappear for a while. You sink resignedly into your couch and start playing videogames, but you can't seem to focus on what's happening on-screen. You cycle through a few different games, but tonight everything seems either too tedious or too aggravating for you to play for more than a few minutes. A few of your online friends invite you to play a game with them, but the prospect of having to talk, let alone cooperate with other people seems incredibly unpleasant. You decide to give the videogames a rest for the evening, though you worry that you've offended your online friends and your next conversation will be awkward because of it, giving you yet another source of stress to weigh down on you tonight.'"

4) [I'm Fine by Rokashi Edwards, played by John Brindle]
"The best illustration of this writing is also most telling difference between these games. [Depression Quest] begins with a lengthy paratext setting out, with trigger warnings and links to mental health resources, its aims, its content, and its omissions. The writers explain that they have amalgamated the real experiences of 'several people' and tried to include 'as broad a range as possible.' They're careful to qualify the game's relation to reality, saying that it won't reflect everyone's perspective. They also say that they want to help people who don't have depression understand what it's like. This comes across in the writing, which works to order and express the counter-intuitive spirals of depression in a way which can be understood from outside them.
I'm Fine does not come off like an amalgamation. It's aggressively specific, locked into the mind of one person. It isn't committed to a representative paradigm and doesn't show any interest in 'hitting the key points.' It doesn't really care about being accessible to muggles, either; it's not trying to translate. It is what it is, it jumps right in, and it comes on as thick and strong and bleak as difficult as a person might in the thick of this shit. I'm not passing judgement on the artistic goals of either of these games, because both have their reasons to be. But the contrast between how hard DQ works to be polished and accessible, and how hostile and uncompromising I found my first try of I'm Fine, could not be more instructive. This is a game which fully inhabits its topic. It remains 'inside,' trapped in the loops, and there's no way to do that without being alienating for some."