Porpentine to “Porpen-twine”: An Artistic Statement

Farinsky Final Project Artist Statement

Twine is an interesting intersection of hypertext and interactive fiction. Traditionally hypertext is known for non-linear storytelling by creating highly descriptive, brief, sections of a larger story the user must explore to piece together the larger narrative. Interactive fiction generally delivers a linear story focused on exploring a space or completing any number of objectives or puzzles.  Many people would classify interactive fiction as “games” because interactive fiction often includes graphic components which evolved into contemporary video games. Twine hosts many treasured works such as Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. Porpentine creates spaces in the style of classic interactive fiction games for the reader to explore using links like classic hypertext works. Users navigate the space by clicking on links but also must complete certain function such as “sleeping” or “breathing” to advance the story in several cases. These two ideas combine to create an incredibly immersive atmosphere and motivates the user to fully explore the piece.

For my own project I drew heavily on Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive to make my own “Porpen-twine”. Porpentine uses links that are embedded inside the narrative text. To honor this my project has a mix of links that are embedded within the exposition, and some links that come after the narration like text-based adventure games. By using two different styles of lexia I can maintain the user’s attention because the links don’t appear in the same place each time. Additionally, placing links after the narration forces the reader to read the exposition, pause to consider the choices, and ultimately choose which link to follow. This empowers the user and stimulates emotional investment in the story, even though this project’s story is ultimately unaffected by most of these choices.  Each page in my story relies on a concise narrative to continue moving the reader through the story by giving them enough information to stay informed, yet vague to keep their curiosity about what comes next.

Both hypertext and interactive fiction explore multilinear stories so in my project I decided to create two endings: a “bad ending” and a “good ending”. If the user selects the bad ending, they are transported to the beginning of the narrative and must re-trace their steps before attempting the good ending. It was my intent for the bad ending to make canonical sense so there was purpose to the multilinearity. In the lesson loops the white woman explains the warrior of the story was cursed and must un-cover their identity in order to break the curse. If the user fails, the white woman resets the warrior’s memory to prevent the curse from destroying them. If the user choses the good ending, they defeat the bad guy, reclaim their identity, and leave the temple to save the world. This creates two separate experiences that are equally valid because the user must choose the good ending to “win” and complete the content. It was important to me to include this strong linear influence because I wanted to create a piece that can be used to introduce readers to concepts of multilinear stories and hypertext in a manageable way. When exploring other great works of hypertext, it was overwhelming how vast, and complex, the narratives became. Through this project I wanted to show my understanding of genre conventions while also creating something that felt manageable to users who have never encountered multilinear, hypertext inspired works. While this work may never be as popular as Porpentine’s, I am confident my “Porpen-twine” is a fitting addition that honors the trends of the electronic literature genres I chose to explore.


RED RIDING HOOD is a combinatory, interactive fiction piece collectively written in twine. Our game references and draws inspiration from Colossal Cave Adventure and ZORK. Traversing more thoroughly or multiple times is rewarded with more text and multiple story endings. The narrative and structure were heavily influenced by the process of Jake and I collectively writing the work. It has game like structure and is traversed spatially like a piece of interactive fiction, while having a hyperlink structure by benefit of being made in twine.

Depending on what items the reader finds throughout the game, different parts of the story will be revealed. If you remember to bring your RED RIDING HOOD, text about your character feeling secure and warm will appear throughout the game. But if you forget your hood, whiny, shuddering text will appear throughout the cave system, and there is only one way to escape the caves. The piece is different depending on what items the reader chooses to pick up before entering the forest, and what items the traverser finds throughout the caves. The amount of choices the traverser has when encountering the goblin and Grandma increases with the number of items they find in the caves. The combinatory nature of the piece being linked to the items found while traversing rewards the reader for exploring more thoroughly. It is possible to forget your RED RIDING HOOD, pick up the hatchet and cucumber, smash the golden eggs, escape with the help of the wolf, and only have the options to offer Grandma the cucumber or tell her about the caves at the end of the game. It’s not possible to reach the end with all the items, so it is not possible to reveal all the endings of the game with just one traversal.

The piece heavily references the games ZORK and Colossal Cave Adventure. We sought to incorporate or reference aspects of interactive fiction games, such as traversing the piece spatially and problems for the interactor to solve to reach the end of the piece. Once in the cave system, the piece is traversed using a compass in the lower right corner of the page. Our game was created in twine and is a web of hyperlinks, but the cave system can be viewed as a grid like map in the twine editing interface. The caves are numbered and linked to each other, with alternate link names corresponding to where the cave is in relation to the cave the link is in. These links are arranged into a compass shape using css grid. The problem solving in this game is much simpler than the puzzles in ZORK or CCA. The traverser can use the items they’ve found when they are made available to solve problems as links within the passage text. I chose to use a hyperlink structure rather than an inventory system because it was easier for both Jake and I to make changes to the story this way, and because there would be text in the passage based on the items in the traversers inventory anyways, so it would be simplest for the link to be in the passage.

We reference ZORK and CCA in the narrative and aesthetic of our piece as well. The font and color are reminiscent of the games, but our piece has major differences in appearance from ZORK and CCA as well. There are hyperlinks within the passage text, descriptions of the cold shudder, and the caverns are navigated using a compass with links labelled as the cardinal directions rather than navigating using a text parser. The narrative and descriptions of unsuccessful moves are snarky and sometimes nonsensical, like CCA or ZORK. There are choices the player can make in the beginning of the game or while in the caverns that result in failure, as well as choices that leave the game unwinnable. It is impossible to escape the caverns without the hatchet if you forget your hood.

Our work is a piece of collective writing even though Jake and I were the only contributors, because the way we wrote the piece led to an unsuspected structure and storyline that we would not have created independently. We wrote the piece without the end in mind, though we had a common goal. The beginning of the game, before entering the forest, was written together as an in-class exercise. Beginning the project that far in advance of the due date allowed us to exchange the project back and forth many times. We added a manageable amount each time without the pressure of needing to complete a large portion, and the final version is the eleventh version of the file. We discussed the general direction of the work and occasional details, but for the most part did not know what to expect each time we opened the file. We created twists and problems for the other writer to solve that created a story and structure neither of us would have made on our own. Jake created the treasures and expected me to create a trophy case or have Grandma send RED RIDING HOOD back into the caves to retrieve the treasures, but instead I introduced the goblin to the story and created multiple ways to escape the cave system using different treasures and items. An arbitrary decision during the collective writing process made our piece multilinear, a choice either of us might not have made had we written the piece by ourselves.

The collective writing process mixed with creating aspects of interactive fiction was difficult and rewarding, because as we created puzzles for the traverser to solve, we created problems for our partner to find a solution for in the writing. The game flows from a hyperlink structure, to a spatial structure, and back to hyperlinks, and has multiple endings. RED RIDING HOOD grew into a game that neither Jake or I could have expected when we first began it.

Final Description

For our final project, Jake and I are creating a cavern exploration adventure game in the style of ZORK or Colossal cave adventure. We will make references to the other two games throughout, but the game will be playable without the context of the other two games. The game will be created in twine and will not be navigated like ZORK and Adventure in a text parser style, and instead will be a hyperlinked, choose your own adventure-esque game. This project will be investigating hypertext using twine, interactive fiction through the structure of the story and the references to other games, and collaborative fiction, as Jake and I will trade the twine file back and forth to create the game. Due to the explorative and collaborative nature of how we will be writing the piece, the plot is tentative and may go in a different direction.
The traverser plays as little red riding hood and begins the game by being told to deliver a basket to grandma’s house, in the forest. Before going in to the forest, the traverser may look around for tools that may help them throughout the game. For example, the traverser may remain in the house and look around, finding their red riding hood, which will keep the warm later in the game. While investigating the garden outside their home, they may take a vegetable and a gardening tool, which may help or hinder them during their quest. Upon reaching the forest, the traverser will fall down a hole and must navigate a series of caves to escape.
Aspects of ZORK and Adventure we plan on emulating in our game include an inventory with a set limit, navigating using the cardinal directions while in the cave system, and actions available to the traverser that leave the game unwinnable. The inventory system in ZORK adds an element of difficulty and strategy to what items a traverser needs to prioritize during the game. Little red riding hood carries a basket of food for her grandmother and will carry her inventory in the basket as well, giving us a narrative reason for her limited inventory. As the game is navigated through hyperlinks rather than a text parser, while in the cavern system there will be a hyperlink for each direction, as well as a hyperlink to the basket inventory.

Angels and Network Writing

“Electronic Literature is most simply described as new forms and genres of writing that explore the specific capabilities of the computer and the network”

– Scott Rettberg
Most of the electronic literature we have discussed in this class has been focused on, or more apparently has to do with, the computers programming capabilities. Other than hypertext fiction, most of the works we have been traversing have been fueled or made interactable through their programmed elements. Network writing is focused on the network capabilities of the computer.

“Networks are both technological and social structures. For electronic literature, networks are both platform and material.”

– Scott Rettberg

Network writing is made up of collaborative works that use the capabilities of the network to build the piece, or the piece resides in a networked instance on the internet, such as social media posts, email, or websites. The piece “The Fall of the Site of Marsha” by Rob Wittig combines these two aspects of network writing. The work is hosted on three iterations of a nostalgic HTML site, created by Marsha with the help of her husband, Mike, dedicated to angels. The iterations of the site get subsequently darker as the angels take over, first adding text, that is struck through to represent Marsha and Mike’s attempts at stopping the angels, and eventually deteriorates to a disturbed and dark version of the website, where the angels have taken over. This work emulates collaborative network writing, with the angels editing and eventually taking over the content of the site. The work may be more palatable to traversers who are uncomfortable with the difficulty of traversing more programmed works, as it is presented in three static HTML sites. Traversers may become emotionally engaged in the work, as there are definite antagonists and protagonists, and the work presents itself in a linear fashion, if the traverser chooses to traverse the sites in order.

Kinetic Poetry

“The Ballad of Soot and Sand” by Stephanie Strickland has a hyperlink structure similar to hypertext fiction, while using elements of kinetic and interactive poetry. The poem is traversed nonlinearly through links in the body of the poem, within words that correspond to other passages. Soot and Sand is more navigable and asks less of the viewer than more dense or confusing pieces of hypertext e-literature by having links to other parts of the poem along the bottom of the screen. Links to passages that have been read are in bold. Each passage is formatted differently, with text aligned or oriented in different ways and color is applied to the text, affect how the text is read, at what rate it is read, and giving more significance to passages and words by coloring or orienting them differently than the rest of the text, conveying meaning that might not a have been drawn by the viewer otherwise.

Words and letters are not only carriers of meaning but material objects that themselves have variable properties. -Rettberg

David Jhave Johnson’s “SOFTIES” are a more dramatic example of manipulating the appearance of text to convey meaning. In his piece “Stand Under” he stretches and pulls the word understanding, broken down and rewritten several times to create an abstract kinetic form. The words “stand” and “under” are reiterated and stacked on top of each other under a long stretched letter. As the stretched letter is pushed and pulled the understanding beneath it compresses and contracts. The description of the work states “State under. Humility understands.” The work visually represents the literal meaning of the word understanding and how to achieve understanding through humility, and placing a situation one is trying to understand above oneself. Manipulating text minutely or grandly can be used to communicate major or minor subtext.

Games To Communicate

The first game I looked at was “With Those We Love Alive”. I actually really enjoyed this one. The story was a bit confusing but as I went through it I found myself more and more invested in it and how the story would play out. I loved the attention to detail in some areas that didn’t have any significance to the plot but were still very descriptive on how things looked. There were some powerful images as well. I’m not sure where exactly I found it but at one point I stumbled across the sight of an angel’s corpse, which is a very powerful message to convey. As well as multiple references to other dead people or corpses,

“Pale, shriveled humans sleep forever on the floor. Pipes run from their heads into iron barrels.”

“Death jungle chokes the land to the north. To the south, ashen wasteland. A dead person is sitting on the balcony, swinging their legs.”

Also, as you go through the story some of the scenes will change. Such as after you make the Empress a weapon, if you go into the throne room there will be the option to view whatever weapon you chose to make her. Another component of the story is that based on your choices, the character will draw different symbols on their body. Some that I remember were; shame, relationship with the chasm, insight, and more. I noticed the main way to progress through the story was just to go to sleep until the next part unravels.

I didn’t enjoy “Howling Dogs: Room” as much as I did the other one. However, after noticing a mention of an empress in that story as well, I went back and noticed that the two were actually made by the same person, which is something I didn’t notice before. They both were stories made using twine, and they definitely have similarities but the stories were very different. “Howling Dogs: Room” is mostly about a person who seems to be trapped in a very boring life, just barely scraping by with the minimum. On top of that, it seems like the character is living through an artificial world through the use of VR. An interesting aspect of this is that the player isn’t allowed to continuously using the VR machine unless you guide them to eat and drink first, forcing you to constantly go back in forth if you want to continue. I also find this interesting because this machine is forcing the character to keep themself alive if they want to continue going into the virtual reality.

Blog 5: IF & NGs

I chose to look into With Those We Love Alive and Deviant: The Possession of Christain Shaw. The first thing you will notice when playing these games is how they choose to tell their story. Deviant uses graphics an animation, similar to an amateur flash game, to showcase the reader what is going on while music is added to establish an atmosphere. The music changes as you progress throughout the game and things take a turn for the weird. Characters’ mouths move but no sound can be heard, monsters appear and disappear with the flick of your mouse, for something so simple it sure does a good job of being creepy. When I first played this game I was a bit unsure of how to progress but when I played through it the second time I had a better idea of how to progress. Little X’s would take you to the next “scene” but sometimes you just couldn’t help but feel like you missed something important.

The gameplay in Deviant relies entirely upon hovering your mouse and/or clicking on things. Hoovering over flowers makes them wilt and causes berries to become demonic supposedly? According to the text provided at the end of the game Deviant: The Possession of Christain Shaw is based on one of the most well-known cases of ‘demonic possession’ in Scotland’s history that happened in 1696. The game illustrates this by showing the interactor some disturbing events that supposedly happened in 1696. As you go through the story, Christain’s condition gets worse and worse. She has a rash on her stomach, her eyeballs start sinking into the back of her skull, and at one point she pukes up a lump of coal that is extremely hot to the touch. One could argue that the goals in this game are unclear. While you could say the imagery for Christain’s condition is your “health bar” it is rather unclear whether or not you were helping Christain or not. Sure, in the end, she turns out to be fine but according to the event that this is based on

“She, an 11-yr-old child, was able to sustain herself against and repel the devil from her body”

So were we the savior or the demon?

In the IF With Those We Love Alive the narration takes a different approach. Unlike Deviant, this IF depends entirely upon words and your imagination. The music in the background is calming, as if oblivious to the giant bug queen. The goal in this game is to make the giant larvae queen happy by crafting items for her. Progression through this game takes a little while to figure out but it almost plays like a modern game. You can either explore the area or fast forward to the next day by sleeping. Not much of your surroundings changes other than what the queen’s hounds are doing. Other than giving the queen gifts on the occasionssion there isn’t much else to do. The game doesn’t offer the reader any puzzles, they aren’t pressured to do anything until the queen demands it, it’s almost as if the game is lacking in areas. The game loves to pick at your brain. From customizing the queen and her accessories, to the idea of what’s real and what isn’t. Although the game may be lacking in “objectives” the story really pulls the reader in, especially after the queen releases her spores. The little details and the anticipation as the action begins to pick up really grabs the reader’s attention.

My Boyfriend Came Back From The War

What I really liked about the story “My Boyfriend Came Back From the War” is the story. From what I can gather of the story it appears that the story is that the boyfriend comes back from the Gulf War, and him and his girlfriend are sitting next to each other, with their backs turned. Neither are looking at one another which is a powerful image that really sets the tone for what is to come. The use of visuals in general is incredibly important and well done. I like how on the right is the girlfriend and on the left is her boyfriend who returned from deployment. Between them is a frame, which (I may be reading into this) I argue signifies the rift that has been created, as displayed by the fact that there is a picture of a helicopter off in the distance; representing how war has ultimately created a rift between them. Her cheating on him also creates that rift.

One of the things I noticed was that as the dialogue progressed, the frames continually grew smaller and smaller, this was pointed out in Net Art Anthology’s piece about this hypertext story. Like what was discussed above, this fragmentation serves as a way to further represent the breaking down of the relationship between the two of them.

What is nice is that unlike earlier hypertext stories like Victory Garden is that it isn’t huge walls of text. Olia really utilizes the visuals to tell the story, the dialogue is more an addition to it all. Olia could’ve just used visuals alone and I argue that the general story would’ve been just as easy to follow.

The only issue I took was with the ending, because it doesn’t show who is talking I had a hard time figuring out who was talking and who was not.


My Boyfriend Came Back from the War

I chose to go more in depth with the work “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” because it seemed to have peaked my interest the most and I’m glad that I read it. It’s just a simple story by Olia Lialina and supplies a lot of the HTML elements to it. The story is told through the narrative of two individuals, the girlfriend and the boyfriend and it’s about the two lovers reuniting after the boyfriend came back from the war. The story uses, what looks like to be, old school pictures and still images to tell the story as well as a kind of multilinear structure that when you press on a fragment it splits in half and gives us two choices on what we want to do in that situation.

“Lialina aptly uses the web to interrogate our understandings of the production and organization of memory, a question that structures her practice to this day. In keeping with this, she considers the numerous artistic remakes and remixes of the piece an extension of her initial investigation.”

I felt like the story taught us that even with an incomplete story you can still finish it, just opening you imagination and open your interpretation on the story piece. The themes that I found behind this work was really intriguing. I saw that there was pulsing imagery with the window as well as intertitles after each of the splitting images. One last thing that I would like to touch up on is that I felt like this story is really sending us a message but the problem is I don’t really know what message it is; it could be that were still at war in the middle east or maybe the fact that war changes people, once the individual leaves they will not come back the same person. Like I said… open to your interpretations.

World of Awe

When I was reading each of these pieces I had so many different reactions and emotional responses. When I first read Grammatron, I was mostly just confused but with both World of Awe, and my boyfriend came back from war I was enthralled. The ability to have your reader interact with the piece allows them to feel more engaged. When I was going through World of Awe I really did feel that sensation on loneliness and wandering as well as the need to find the treasure. The ability to click around the desktop and look at the love letters then move back to the “journal” allows us as the readers to set our own pace. The use of multilinearity in all of these pieces in interesting, when looking at world of awe it is multi linear due to the different places you start from like with the love letters or with the actual notes or even with a different chapter. When you look at My boyfriend came back from the war it is much more open by each ‘window/cell’ that you can click on is a contained thought. While in conjunction working with the cells around it this kind of path I overall linear but you will most likely find yourself going through this piece slightly differently every time. The way that each piece has addressed hypermedia, and net art covers vastly different but they all share on thing in common, the digital space.

Blog 4: World of Awe

This week I chose to read and blog about World of Awe, an electronic work that has three chapters: “Forever”, “Deconstruction and Mending”, and “Object of Desire”.On the main screen you have the choice of which chapter you want to start with by clicking on their individual icons. The first chapter has a computer above it, the second chapter has a bomb, and the third has some sort of odd shape that I can’t quite figure out. Beneath these icons we are given a setting about a world that is parallel to ours. Death is undefined, gravity is a choice, and thirst is never a problem.

Since I was given the choice of where to start I decided to click on the second chapter that had the bomb icon. Chapter two opens up a separate little window that has a couple of tabs up top and four more buttons that you can click on in the middle. Each of the buttons takes you to a different area. There’s the Minefield, the Pearl, Celebration, and Computer’s Inventory. The level of multilinearity in this work is kind of uncomfortable (to me anyway). I was a little bit unsure of where to start. The layout of the work was more like a really old computer game. You had your “center” or “map” with locations and at the top you had your “menu” of sorts. For now, I would like to focus more on the story of this electronic work.

At the top of most of the documents are a list of keywords, the protagonist’s physical condition, and the surface’s “expression”. For the most part our hero, Whirr, seems to be traversing through a dessert. Unfortunately for this guy, he can’t seem to catch a break. If you go to the minefield you’ll notice that his foot is missing some toes and his right ear is missing some pieces of itself. If you’re a huge empath like I am, you can feel his pain and struggle as if it were your own. Although we are told this I feel as if some of the text almost takes away these feelings. The text itself is very detailed but once in awhile you come across a word such as “moo” or “eep” that just doesn’t seem to belong. The text is also in different colors which ruins it’s atmosphere and consistency. Sometimes it’s blue or red, other times it’s yellow, green, and orange. The color sometimes stops midway in a word and is never seen in the protagonist’s love letters. You can feel their love and tangled emotions in the letters. A pearl that was a memento from his lover gradually made it’s way from their arm down to their foot. This part made me a bit anxious so I had to reread it to get the full affect. I believe the pearl is representation of where he feels his longing for her. He didn’t want her warmth and affection to ever leave him, which is why he felt sorrow when the pearl fell out from his eye at one point. It was almost like reading a poem/story from Japan. Stories that have a certain presence and meaning behind them.

I had trouble proceeding with the third chapter due to some language issues so I went on to the first chapter. There was no audio for the second chapter so I was surprised to find an audio file here. The audio is made up of wind sounds against a vast, open dessert with an occassional random noise. A siren, a robot, beeping, etc.It feels alien, almost unsettling even. The text in the first chapter is squished together in places and moving around in others. If you were to leave the literary work at any time it would say “Yours 4ever” just like what Whirr writes at the bottom of his love letters. You are his lover.

Overall this work was much easier to navigate and comprehend compared to Taroko Gorge and The Babysitter.It was still a lot to take it and quite a bit to dig into but the navigation was more organized. Things had a certain flow to them. The character Whirr reflected the harshness and dangers of the surrounding environment while his letters reflected his emotions and inner turmoils towards his lover and himself. We didn’t see this in the babysitter. In the babysitter the reader was a watcher. We were being shown things and given dialogue but very rarely were we given depth on a character’s inner thought. In The Babysitter, we barely scratched the surface. Taroko Gorge was albeit more simplified than World of Awe but both really wanted to drive the point across as to what they wanted to show us.