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In the video game Howling Dogsreleased inplayers wake up in a prison with few options: a shower, a nutrient dispenser, a garbage chute, and a recreation room with a virtual reality heet. For the first few clicks, all you can do is navigate the prison: getting your nutrient bar, cleaning up, examining a photograph by your bed. You live out a strange snapshot life before being thrown back to the same tiny room. You click through the same motions again and again, each time visiting a different world, as sparklingly strange as the prison is dull. It was — and still is — one of the easiest ways to start making games.

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An open-source program that produces web-based interactive fiction, Twine can create branching stories simply by putting brackets around words. But the tool is also nearly as flexible as the web itself. Porpentine followed up with other surreal worlds — where raw intimacy and hints of nostalgia collided with violent, nightmarish cavalcades of trash and sex. Her writing was simultaneously incredibly personal and transcendently detached from reality, and Twine shaped it into something that felt like a space to explore rather than words on a screen.

It imbued games with the DIY spirit of homemade zines, many of them weirder, sharper, and queerer than their mainstream counterparts.

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According to some of its biggest fans, Twine was nothing short of a revolution. The reality was a lot more complicated and less utopian — but it would still help reinvent a medium. But Twine is much more than a branching choice simulator. Twine encourages writing with a crude, hand-coded look, but a meticulous control of rhythm.

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Passages can make readers wait for agonizing seconds until a single word appears, or they can drop a wall of forking hyperlink paths in an instant. Klimas was inspired by old-school text games like Zorkbut when he started building his own games, he was frustrated cyoa sex game their puzzle-heavy conventions.

His software also had two big advantages: it could be used with very little practice, and to play the resulting games, all you needed was a web browser. Klimas started using Twine to write short fiction and personal essays. One of his first pieces was about experiencing syncope — a dreamlike, almost hallucinogenic fainting spell brought on by stress. The episode had sent him to the hospital, and he wanted to convey it in a way that readers could explore at their own pace. You know, like, you like writing stories. After a couple of years, Klimas was nearly ready to write Twine off. And he saw an article in The Guardian with a proclamation: the Twine revolution had arrived.

Klimas had deed Twine from within the small world of interactive fiction. His community revered classic text-based adventure games, and they often scorned newer and visually splashier successors. Anthropy was also the author of a book called Rise of the Videogame Zinesterswhich urged people to express themselves with simple do-it-yourself games.

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Many now-legendary games were built by one or two core developers. And tools like HyperCard and Adobe Flash — as well as Doom and other moddable games — turned millions cyoa sex game ordinary people into amateur game deers. Like Klimas himself, Anthropy started using Twine as an alternative to complicated text adventure tools. Soon, she was giving Twine workshops and promoting it as one of the most affordable, approachable ways to make games. Mainstream gaming had become sclerotic and timid, Anthropy contended.

Studios relied on hundred-person teams with multimillion-dollar budgets, reworking old ideas that they knew would sell. Anthropy was interested in people with far less money and little formal training, using off-the-shelf tools like GameMaker and Twine. Some shared their work online — like Leon Arnott, one of the key architects of Twine. A cycling hyperlinkfor instance, would simply change from one word to another as you clicked it. A timed remove could erase words if a player spent too long reading a passage.

Twine games — even ones mostly based around branching narratives — can compromise that sense of control. You pick an option for one last moment with your lover: kiss her, hold her, tell her you love her. How do you kiss her? What do you tell her afterwards? You keep clicking, scanning the text for more options. But at the end of a second timer, each game ends with the same cyoa sex game Everything is wiped away.

Twine offered a home for people who felt alienated from the larger industry, particularly historically marginalized deers. And if you found an intriguing Twine game, the tools for building your own were just a few clicks away. After interviewing Anthropy, Cara Ellison found herself thinking about the kind of de that Twine encouraged.

So she began work on Sacrilegea melancholy story about romantic encounters at a nightclub. The short game struck such a chord that, when a bug cropped up years after its publication, a devoted fan discovered and repaired it.

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That fan has maintained the game ever since. Many of these projects were tiny, but some became breakout hits — like the exploration game Gone Homewhich sold 50, copies in its first month. Some Twine projects earned praise from the cyoa sex game industry. InHowling Dogs made a surprise appearance at the Independent Games Festival, where grand prize winner Richard Hofmeier cyoa sex game its name over the booth for his own game Cart Lifetelling them to play Howling Dogs instead.

Author Michael Lutz created a comically literal Call of Duty adaptation called Tower of the Blood Lordcomplete with a fake text-based online multiplayer and buttons for crouching and jumping. Conversely, The Writer Will Do Something is an unsparingly unromantic farce about big-budget game-making. The game was created by Matthew S. Players can only guess. But it attracted mainstream attention through a very different project called Depression Quest. Each day gives you a healthy path forward: order some food in the evening, go hang out with a friend, talk to people at a party.

These options are crossed out, leaving behind choices like procrastination, long nights alone, and awkward silence. Depression Quest — created by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, and Isaac Schankler — earned positive mentions in outlets like Rock Paper Shotgunas well as an official exhibition slot at the Indiecade festival. Eventually, your life can take a turn for the better, but only with some concerted work. The accusations included an unfounded claim that Quinn had an affair with a journalist to promote Depression Quest.

It represented everything the stereotypical gamer despised: terrible graphics, unapologetically rough edges, and experiences that poked fun at macho fantasies. He wrote to friends in academia, warning them that Gamergaters had dug up their names as well. The prejudice related to computational complexity — like if a tool is complicated to learn, it must be better — I completely disagree with.

Quinn — as well as others like cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian and developer Brianna Wu — were accused of bizarre moral infractions and driven from their homes by threats. The movement painted critics of sexist or transphobic cliches as greedy criminal insurgents attacking defenseless big-budget studios, rather than tiny communities who put most of their work online for free. The controversy also forced companies and news outlets to reckon with much broader, older online harassment problems. But they saw ammunition for an endless, ever-evolving culture war — one that continues to this day.

To critics, the phrase implied queer or non-white game developers were attempting to explain themselves to outsiders, and that playing a minute game was equivalent to living under oppression. Anthropy balked when people described Dys4ia as a way to safely understand being a trans woman. Expressing vulnerability online felt increasingly fraught. Publishing a story requires a basic understanding of web hosting or storefronts like Itch. This tension had existed for years. Some Twine supporters have drifted away from the medium.

Porpentine had begun working outside Twine soon after Howling Dogsand inshe distanced herself from other queer developers who had fostered Twine, publishing an essay that accused unnamed community members of abuse. When I contacted her, she described the essay as her farewell to any coherent Twine community. Over time, the online landscape for Twine has changed.

Many older games were posted on Philomela — a simple hosting platform created by programmer Colin Marc. Browse the Twine tag on the Itch.

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University instructors use Twine to help students learn game de basics before they start working with general-purpose tools. Even without a unified community, Twine still serves its original purpose: to give people an easy framework for imagining nonlinear stories, whatever form those stories ultimately take. Twine has helped inspire other software. The platform influenced Yarn Spinner, for instance — the branching dialogue tool used in award-winning indie adventure game Night in the Woods.

Some Twine deers have made the leap to professional game development, fine art, or other fields. Porpentine has released numerous games alongside zines, short stories, and a Sundance Film Festival installation; inher games were exhibited at the Whitney Biennial. Like a pixelated Mario Bros. I put my first Twine story online in I chose the platform because I had an idea for a silly pastiche of a first-person shooter series, I wanted to make it quickly, and I was an experienced writer but had no meaningful background in programming or art de.

Then I got hooked on learning its scripting system and web de possibilities. Its structure was shaped by the surreal, cyclical prison experience of Howling Dogs. There are still huge problems with misogyny in the medium, but inI feel a lot less pressure to represent women in games — and more space to do what I really want, which is apparently making jokes about smart homes and cyberpunk tropes.

Because for all its limitations, Twine is one of the only tools custom-built for speaking the language of the web. The past several years have seen the rise of video games that mimic digital spaceslike the cyoa sex game simulation Emily Is Away or the faux website Mackerelmedia Fish. At its heart, Twine is an easy way to write stories that take place in web browsers, and the more our lives play out online, the more powerful that can be. So he began making horror games inspired by phone apps, websites, and creepypasta — the short, scary stories that circulate on internet message cyoa sex game.

Then, the possible answers start getting a lot more sinister.

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The experience is short and simple, without even the branches or multiple endings many people expect of interactive fiction. These kinds of pseudo-software games can comment directly on the larger conditions of the internet. Under a relentless timer and some passive-aggressive messages from a supervisor, it dryly describes social media posts that range from distasteful to terrifying, asking you to make a call on each one. Twine is far from the only free and approachable game-making program, but its openness is still unusual. Many Twine stories could disappear at some point, lost to changing browser standards or lapsed web domains.

But whether their work is ephemeral or stays online for decades, Twine lets people make art on their own terms — even if, eventually, everything is wiped away.

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