Videogames for Humans (ed. Merritt Kopas)

VFHcvrI’ve mentioned the existence of this book before, but only recently did I get my own contributor copies of Videogames for Humans, an anthology of Twine playthroughs annotated by their players. (Here’s Robert Yang talking about the anthology; here’s me talking about Robert Yang talking about the anthology.) It’s a big chunky paperback, devoted to the unexpected task of demonstrating an interactive art form on paper, through transcripts.

Here’s something excellent from this book: Naomi Clark’s playthrough of Horse Master. It takes much longer to read than the game takes to play for the first time, because it is digging into details of wording and implementation. It reveals the game’s innards and explains them. It is also both lovely and funny. You should absolutely play Horse Master yourself first: you’ll enjoy both the game and the analysis more if you experience them in that order.

Here’s another: Riley McLeod’s playthrough of Benji Bright’s Fuck That Guy, about the experience of being a queer trans man playing a game about cis gay sex, and the ways that that does and does not feel familiar, the things that are inviting and the things that are off-putting.

Or: Squinky on Jeremy Lonien and Dominik Johann’s The Message. “I don’t know what it is about pianos in slapstick comedy,” they write, and then go on to explain what it is, which is awesome.

Or: Patricia Hernandez on Elizabeth Sampat’s Nineteen, which is about a suicide attempt that failed, and if it hadn’t failed then, among many other more important losses, I would never have met Elizabeth and played Deadbolt with her.

Or: Anna Anthropy writes a charming response to Michael Brough’s Twine about losing a scarf, a story that sounds trivial but in fact carries considerable feeling, about the importance of things in our lives and the difference between the things that we work on and invest in personally and the things that are fabricated for us by the machines of industrialized capitalism. This resonated with me.

My own playthrough covers Maddox Pratt’s Anhedonia, for which I can no longer find an active link online. This is a shame which is available here. It is a subtly illustrated, carefully paced work about the difficulty of seeking treatment for depression, and the repetitive thoughts and the self-analysis about one’s own mental state, and the way those double on themselves.

This was challenging to play through in (effectively) public. Twine games often open a space of privacy between the author and the reader, sometimes ask things that can only be safely answered because the answers aren’t going anywhere. Squinky’s 36 Questions comes to mind, asking questions that build intimacy but stopping short of returning the responses to the author. So does a certain text entry portion of Their Angelical Understanding. Sometimes asking a question but not demanding to hear the answer is a therapeutic act.

So a lot of the playthroughs in this book go deep into how the commenters’ personal experiences relate to the Twine they’re commenting on. Mine doesn’t. I talk about formal aspects of Anhedonia, I talk about how parts of the text make me feel, but there’s a place in the game that more or less invites you to indicate which depressive symptoms you’ve experienced in your life, and I drew the line at sharing that. There’s a lot of reality in Anhedonia. I felt like probably the best thing was to do my best just to let that show through.

6 thoughts on “Videogames for Humans (ed. Merritt Kopas)

  1. FYI, next time you want to look for a game and can’t seem to find a copy online anywhere, my collection is a good place to check.

    Case in point: Anhedonia, with all the multimedia files.

    https://mega.co.nz/#F!jsNTBDjT!sG6nnKV3kJefdpFaPpz3Fg

    You can’t play it online this way, though, but it’s not lost forever. Well, it wouldn’t be even it if weren’t stored at itch.io.

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