The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: Unravelling CHAOS JAM, a Twine-Only Game Event

Welcome to the first edition of Indie Rock, our new weekly column from Mat Jones that explores the world of indie games development.

You owe it to yourself to take a break from your day, at least for a moment, in order to play CRY$TAL WARRIOR KE$HA

Twine - CRY$TAL WARRIOR KE$HAIt’s not very long and it’ll change your entire life. You’ll view everything from this moment on as taking place post-CRY$TAL WARRIOR KE$HA world and ensure that any Game Of The Year list you produce from now until after the universe consumes itself maintains a special place for it in any Top Ten. All of time freezes in place and yet existence carries on, morosely, as we’ve already reached the apex of human achievement – perhaps that of any living being known or unknown. We’ve limited reason to carry on.

Now you’re back, or assuming you never left and you’re entirely bewildered, the above is a game by Porpentine, one of many authors using the programming tool Twine to produce stories that otherwise would never have been told. One of her other games, Howling Dogs might as well be used as the prominent example displaying the successes of the form. It’s a little longer and slower piece of work you should take your time with. Play it after.

This week, directly following the release of CRY$TAL WARRIOR KE$HA, Porpentine unveiled CHAOS JAM, a Twine-only Game-Dev event. The rules were simple: Make a game using Twine and finish it in a single day.

Twine - Video Game Name GeneratorIf you wanted more of a challenge? Make a game using Twine, but use the Video Game Name Generator.

This seems simple enough; using Twine to create games relieves the necessity to produce meaningless “Art Assets” or “Animation” or “Music” (staunch critics would suggest you could also eschew “gameplay”). Twine, as a primarily text based tool, only requires an interesting narrative conceit and the wherewithal to produce something worthwhile. As a development tool, it’s revolutionary. It makes game creation near-trivial and ensures that, should you have a story to tell, you aren’t limited by game development’s otherwise substantial barrier to entry. The possibility of video gaming maturing as a medium requires stories that deviate from the adolescent power fantasies that we’re consistently exposed to and Twine gives that chance to otherwise marginalised voices that would have otherwise been locked out.

I gave this a shot myself, dedicating hours of the day attempting to make what was sure to be my magnum opus, “Eminem: The Marshall MathRPG”; a fully canonical retelling of Marshall “Slim Shady” Mathers introduction to, and success within, the Rap Battle Community of Neo-Detroit. It unfortunately fell apart after considering just how much work it would take in order to become a fully realised historical biography. I wasn’t prepared to cut corners and eschew necessary context in order to meet a production deadline.

Not fully being able to draw from my own experience, I spoke to someone who was actually capable of using the Name Generator and producing a fun and interesting idea within the confines of the Jam’s 24 hour run-time. Tom “TomSmizzle” Smith makes self described “bad video games”. [We worked together on the MolyJam and he podcasts with Mat – ed.] For CHAOS JAM he put together something so silly it pulls a 180 and becomes smart again. It’s called “Drunken Mind Control Slaughter” and it tells the story of random immediate mass body-shifting after being exposed to hallucinogenic lemons.

Within our brief interview, he describes this as something brought about by reading Anna Anthrophy’s book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, a manifesto about changing the landscape of video game production to reflect more experiences from different voices. He told me: “Since I read rise of the video game zinesters I’ve kinda wanted to make a game that’s (kind of) related to my drug experiences, because that’s one of the suggested topics in there.

Twine - Drunken Mind Control Slaughter“If you really wanna dig deep it’s a game about when I did too much salvia and lost my mind completely for 15 minutes and was terrified.”

This comes across in the game. It’s disorienting, made to confuse as much as it does delight. The personality and experience of the author shining through is rare for this medium, but with the ease of production within Twine and the comfort of the 24 hour production schedule (which Tom enjoys because “It’s just like, here, make a thing right now. It’s only gonna take a day so if it sucks who cares”), we’ll begin to see a greater amount of incredible, unique work.

CHAOS JAM, along with Twine and other simple methods of production, will entirely change the landscape of this industry.

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