Twine in the Workplace

Horror: Colin Sandel’s Quit Your Job Simulator 2014 is a horror game about being trapped in your office while you wait for a compilation to work out. Like One Eye Open (of which Sandel was a co-author), it does some effective things with empty space and solitude and smells that aren’t quite right. If there’s a solvable puzzle here, though — anything that would have let me survive the evening, for instance — I totally failed to discover it.

Science Fiction: We Are The Firewall, Alan DeNiro. Firewall concerns a number of different characters, in a cyberpunkish future world dominated by Google-glass-like gadgets and online games that are disastrously hackable, many of whom work for a sinister Company.

Alan DeNiro is one of my favorite Twine authors on the basis of Solarium, which still gives me a shiver of Agh Creepy feeling whenever I think about it. He actually wrote We Are The Firewall first, but I missed hearing of it at the time. It’s challenging, structurally: there are a bunch of different storylines that diverge from the beginning, and the more of them you play, the more filled-in the epilogue text is; so that the game is like a bundle of strings knotted together at each end. As with Solarium, agency over the events of the story is minimal, and choices are mostly about the order in which you will see information. But it also just feels a bit less self-assured than Solarium. There are loads of Twine macros at work, doing a range of dizzying things like changing the text before your eyes or making bits disappear or causing the screen to shake. Sometimes that’s a useful effect, but sometimes a sentence I was reading blinked out before I made it to the end (and I’m a reasonably fast reader). The result is that Firewall kept me a bit anxious all the time, that I might not get it, that I might not be working hard and fast enough to get it, that I might have to replay things if I wasn’t very careful. The sense of frenetic anxiety is maybe appropriate considering that a lot of the story concerns things like human trafficking and drug smuggling and drone bombings. Nothing is stable in the world of the characters, either.

Comedy/Slice of Life: Ham and Egg Lawyer is a considerably more realistic piece: you’re a new lawyer, but not the kind in Suits or in any TV show featuring James Spader. You are missing some key information about how to get started on various cases, and all your would-be clients have no money or have really unsuitable problems (or both). The bulk of the choices are basically personality-quiz style options about whether you want to treat your clients ethically or try to make yourself some money, conceal your ignorance or admit to it, etc. As a game, it’s not entirely satisfying (I’d say) because there aren’t really any significant results to your actions: at the end you get a score representing how much money you earned, how stressed you are, and what’s happened to your reputation, but there’s no difference in the narrated outcomes. As a piece of interactive semi-non-fiction, though, it’s kind of fun. The various situations appear to be based on things that actually happened to the author, and they’re engagingly narrated. So it’s good to read, but it’s worth not going into it expecting a detailed simulation game, because this is not that.

13 thoughts on “Twine in the Workplace”

  1. There is a solvable puzzle to Quit Your Job Simulator! I think there are at least two different surviving endings. Nsgre lbh fhpprrq va fraqvat gur erfvtangvba yrggre, gurer jvyy or fbzrguvat va jung jnf gur VG thl’f qrfx. Lbh arrq vg. Lbh nyfb arrq gb qb bgure fghss. Lbh znl arrq gb unir oebxra gur qenjre bcra orsber znantvat gb fraq gur yrggre (V jbhyqa’g or fhecevfrq vs gung tngrf fraqvat gur yrggre ol znxvat lbh natel rabhtu gb fraq vg).

    My Name Is Tara Sue is another workplace Twine. I found it pretty engaging — engaging enough to finish even though it is one of the zarf-cruellest games ever (partly it zaps by fast enough that you can probably win it in about half an hour even if you are basically exhausting the decision tree until you get a good ending).

    1. I thought I’d tried one of the things you describe (zrffvat jvgu gur qenjre ercrngrqyl gb znxr zlfrys natel; nyfb gevrq naablvat zlfrys jvgu gur sevqtr. V pbhyqa’g rire trg vg gb yrg zr fraq gur yrggre, gubhtu). Maybe there’s some nuance to sequence that I missed out on.

      1. Do you pbzcynva ba fbpvny zrqvn ng gur ortvaavat? I did that on two playthroughs and it yrg zr fraq gur yrggre both times.

      2. d ang may have it; not sure what the sequence was. I’m a bit surprised that you managed to not survive given that you didn’t fraq gur yrggre; that seemed to me like the trigger for all the crazy stuff.

        Thesis: My Horrible Office games are more interesting than My Awful Apartment games because they speak to more of our lived experience; our offices are horrible because of the way we relate to other people and make our way in the world, our apartments are awful because we just can’t make the effort. Well, Quit Your Job Simulator may be to the office game as Shade is to the apartment game.

      3. d ang: I thought I had pbzcynvarq ba fbpvny zrqvn. But I’ll give it another try.

        matt: On several playthroughs V jnaqrerq nebhaq sbe n juvyr, gura qvrq. Abg fher vs gung’f orpnhfr V gbhpurq fgvpxl tbb ba gur erprcgvbavfg’f xrlobneq. I did try rngvat be abg rngvat gur sehvg naq/be pbssrr sebz gur oernx ebbz, since I thought that might be significant, but didn’t manage to avoid death.

      4. Okay — was finally able to get through Quit Your Job Simulator, with the help of some explicit instructions. I’m *sure* I’d done all the necessary things in a previous playthrough, but maybe not in the right order…? Ah well. Anyway, it worked this time.

      5. One of the things that ended up being confusing to players of QYJS2014 (and a lesson to me that I haven’t totally unraveled yet) is that gurer vfa’g n fcrpvsvp frg bs guvatf gung tngrf orvat hcfrg (be jrveqrq bhg) rabhtu gb dhvg, abe gb qvr. Obgu ner onfrq ba n fpber naq gur ynggre vf cnegvnyyl cebonovyvfgvp.

        Things that haven’t been mentioned that make your character upset: Qevaxvat gur onq pbssrr (gubhtu guvf nyfb pbagnzvangrf lbh naq vapernfrf lbhe yvxryvubbq bs qrngu). Frrvat gung gur sevqtr vf rzcgl. Evsyvat guebhtu lbhe obff’f qrfx. Gelvat gb jnfu gur thax bss lbhe unaqf naq qvfpbirevat gur ynpx bs cncre gbjryf (ohg ntnva, gur thax pbagnzvangrf lbh).

      6. Ah aha. Okay. That makes sense, and it sounds like on my first playthroughs I had the bad luck to pursue things that killed me before I could benefit from them.

      7. Incidentally, once I got past that part, I did find the results quite effectively creepy, in a way reminiscent of One Eye Open (unsurprisingly).

      8. Glad to hear it worked. I’ve been trying to take the main feedback from OEO — to ramp up the horror a bit more gradually — and effectively apply that to my spoopier games. For greater spoops.

  2. What was definitely a lesson learned in writing WATF (among many!) and seeing how people interacted with it is: timed text can’t rely on an ideal reader in terms of pacing and reading speed. So writing with that variable in mind has its own risks. But those Twine macros are so new that there’s a lot of room to see how they can be used.

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