Twine and gaming

There was a pause in my posts last week and now many of us are shut in our homes watching and waiting for the Coronavirus curve to flatten so we can resume social activity.

Meanwhile, there’s play. We have game consoles, laptops and mobile phones to keep us occupied and, when we’ve had enough, there’s always a bit of gardening, if you have one. There is no doubt that gaming is big business and technology has come a long way since the 1970’s when games like Pong were around. The massive change, drive and competition to create new gaming technology for the public has provided increased capacity for entertainment and diversion. Mobile gaming, alone, generated over 46 billion in 2017. 

“IMG_1168” by DAN_DAN2 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0  and can be accessed at

In discussing games, and how they work, I am interested in the formal approach offered by Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek (2004) that provides a games framework of three ‘lenses’ that can be used to create a satisfying experience for players. The concept of Mechanics encapsulates the rules and mathematics of the game, Dynamics is the action that players take within the game, and Aesthetics are the appealing responses of the player to the experiences within the game. What interests me the most is that the paper covers useful ideas that can be taken into consideration when creating my Twine narrative. I might ask myself questions like ‘will my narrative appeal to the reader’s senses and could I provide some challenge or a way to uncover new terrain?’

As Twine narratives offer the reader the potential to change the story line, as a form of ‘choice based’ interactivity, there is a process of discovery as each link is opened and the story unfolds. Moreover, as my narrative is fantasy, the player desire for an element of ‘make-believe’ will be included.

Belinda Barnet’s article In the Garden of Forking Paths: Contingency, Interactivity and Play in Hypertext, states that the spontaneity and uncertainty of choice in accessing hypertext creates a continuously renewed ‘electronic palimpsest’ in our minds to offer a myriad of options. We see the possibilities as we navigate through the links. I found some examples of art that feature the palimpsest concept. It is a nice example of straightforward remediation. You can view them here.

Although a Twine narrative will have some constraints, such as limited opportunity for self-expression, Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek’s article also offers an understanding of what readers, or players, might enjoy. There should be some challenge, but not too much because abnegation, or zoning out, is an important aspect of aesthetics. However, with the reasonably short nature of my Twine narrative, this probably won’t be an issue.

As I found myself sifting through the course content in order to specifically navigate hypertext.  this week, I realised that my choices reflected a desire for interactivity. Being a somewhat indecisive person, I read in fits and spurts and it takes a while for things to sink in. However, this non-linear type of reading is a great deal more interesting than reading material that offers less choice.

I briefly investigated the revolution in game development, as mentioned in our virtual class this week, and found an article in The Guardian called Anna Anthropy and the Twine Revolution. Anna’s ‘call to arms’ in 2012 encouraged people from diverse backgrounds to express themselves through tools such as Game Maker and Twine. The idea that DIY videogame development may be utilised by individuals to relate their own experiences to the wider community has yet to be fully realised. Although this appears to be a viable option to create some understanding of the marginalised experience in wider societies, and a sharing of experiences could promote community networks that band together to create change, these types of games continue to differ vastly from mainstream game releases. Check out dys4ia, a game that offers some of Anna’s transgender experience.

“Tetris en la calle #tetris #medialabprado…” by flegido is licensed under CC BY 2.0  and can be accessed at

Barnet, Belinda, and Sandy Stone. “In the garden of forking paths: contingency, interactivity and play in hypertext.” (1998).

Hunicke, Robin, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek. “MDA: A formal approach to game design and game research.” Proceedings of the AAAI Workshop on Challenges in Game AI. Vol. 4. No. 1. 2004.


2 thoughts on “Twine and gaming

  1. Your level of understanding of Belinda Barnet’s article is such that you got a useful quote out of it. This is the main reason I linked to your post in mine.
    After reading the article on MDA, it struck me that those three lenses are also a good way of critiquing a text. If the game has mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics and can drive from a text, it should be possible to work backwards from a game to a text, possibly to even create a text from a game. Monopoly as a novel might work. ‘Monopoly!’ the musical would be a smash hit assumng we’re ever allowed to gather together to watch a musical again.
    Working backwards from a game to a screenplay has been done, such as in the ‘Resident Evil’ movies, but that’s because movies are more drawn than written these days, and the games (like comics) give you an automatic storyboard to work from.
    If game and narrative are that similar, MDA should work for both of them.
    I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on assessing written texts using MDA.
    Also, thanks for the link to Anna Anthropy’s article. I had intended to refer to her idea of bagmes ‘growing up; and completely left it out of my post. Oh, well, I suppose I can do an Easter addendum:
    “You have commended your spirit into your father’s hands. Do you:
    come back briefly before coming back again much, much later?
    stay where you’re put?
    die and moulder away?
    what does it matter, you never existed in the first place.”


  2. Good post! Thank you for explaining the 3 lenses. Aesthetic is indeed important, I remember one of my favourite games was called Stellar Fox. It stuck out to me because it had a gorgeous starry aesthetic and an adorable baby fox who you helped to find his mum. While aesthetic isn’t the only aspect, it is very important and for many it is the most important aspect!
    I also like that you described Anna Anthropy’s call for diverse gamers to make twine games. It’s good to see unique stories being told. These not only help people understand others’ troubles, but they are also validating for those who don’t have much literature targeted towards them.


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