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Messages - Villain Mastermind

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Discussing Game Design / Writing/Game-design as personal therapy
« on: September 05, 2013, 01:09:42 PM »
If you don't laugh, you'll cry...

This is the quasi-philosophy that probably saved my life... that and my horrible track record at suicide. Suicide is not something that you over-think, and that is horrendously difficult for an almost comically over-analytical person such as myself.

According to some of Kafka's friends, he used to read his stories and laugh riotously. This may come as a surprise anyone that has read "Thank you for your cooperation", but I've never read any of Kafka's body of work. I swear... Always meant to, but never got around to it. Despite this, I completely understand why he would laugh at his stories that so many people regard as being depressing as hell. It wasn't until I had finished writing TYFYC that I watched Orson Welles' film version of "The Trial", and it is painfully obvious that Welles completely missed the humor in the story. It may be difficult to see, but there is a significant amount of absurdity in "The Trial", but this is overshadowed by the horror (especially nowadays where life appears to be imitating art).

I was in a pretty dark place when working on TYFYC, and to try to ward off the crushing depression interspersed with ennui-based numbness, I came up with the idea to create a purely humorous CYOA to eat up the time I otherwise spent waiting for an job-interview or  the eventual financial ruin and homelessness that comes with said ruin. It was probably the act of writing TYFYC that prevented me from spiraling into madness which would have landed me in the looney bin (again). It was an act of catharsis that allowed me to face emotions and memories that I in the past have just let build up and fester until I broke away from reality and became an avatar of the madness I saw all around me.

The ridiculous piece of shit that is TYFYC was exactly the steam-valve that I needed. That being said, I simultaneously love it and am disgusted by it. Every time I look at that damned thing, I catch a new mistake: An awkward sentence, a poor stylistic choice in a passage, reaching a bit too far to cause harm and misery to the protagonist, etc... But that is likely just partially my inner critic having another fit. Who fucking knows.

Feeling that I was on a roll, I decided to participate in a Mini-Ludum Dare. Out of that was birthed "Revelations", which was another cathartic exercise. But it felt hollow. It wasn't until I tried to write "Nzambi" and another story called "Fly on the wall" that I realized why writing was actually making me feel worse... It was all horror and no humor. The scenarios and events were surreal, but the there was no over-the-top absurdity to soften the blow. Just a depressing punch to the gut that beat you over the head with how helpless you (as the protagonist) were in the given situation. While CYOA's are notorious for killing you in all sorts of horrible ways, there is always the hope that you can "win". In TYFYC, there are very few "wins" in the traditional sense... The "wins" (if you can call them that) are not meant for the protagonist, but for the reader in being rewarded with bizzare situations and/or comically gruesome deaths. The reward is the journey, not the destination.

How rewarding can a journey honestly be that makes you want to slash your wrists with a rusty knife while jumping off a building into a pool filled with broken glass, razor-wire, and old car batteries?

I'd rather have at least an uncomfortable chuckle or guilty giggling.

As I thought about it more and more, I realized that there were plenty of embarrassing/traumatic situations I've been in that would be delicious fodder for more written lunacy. The very idea of it perked me up and started the gears spinning until steam piped from my ears and smoke billowed from my nose and mouth.

For example: A disastrous New Years party I attended that ended with a drunken "Sex in the city" marathon, a very uncomfortable interrogation by an ex-member of Mossad (the Israeli CIA), and a heated argument over whether or not to dine and ditch at a Perkins.


Even I sometimes take the walk of shame through my memories and wonder if I just hallucinated large portions of it.


And that is how I decided to write a follow-up to "Thank you for your cooperation"...

Enough of my rambling... Here is a video that some emo I-Fiction writer and/or Game Designer might get some comfort and maybe inspiration from:

Thoughts anyone?

Discussing Game Design / Re: Educational Resources Exchange
« on: August 07, 2013, 12:32:21 PM »
I suppose the best way to explain the relevance is to give a quick example of how I applied one of the things I learned in a unique way to one of my works that wouldn't work in a more linear medium like traditional literature.

Originally, "Thank you for your cooperation" was going to be the creative equivalent of "Brain Vomit". Pure randomness that entertained by its absurdity and off-the-wall situations. No real plan, no real structure, no real point... I burnt out pretty quickly following this path. Seeing no purpose in what I was doing, I abandoned it for several months and went back to my fruitless search for another corporate master to whore myself out to for a few shekels.

Feeling utterly defeated, I started doing research in my downtime, a long-held habit performed whenever I hit a wall of some sort. Stumbling across the aforementioned series of lectures, I would listen to them absentmindedly while doing some other task and let the words sink into my subconscious. As it usually does, this plan eventually bore fruit and inspiration struck.

Structure and form... A circle at first, then a series of circles fanned out around a single point, then a single point with an arc erupting from it that bifurcate into other arcs that bifurcate into other arcs with each eventually arcing back to the origin after an interval. The chain-reaction of inspiration continued and the wall melted away, leaving the way clear to carry on. With a game-plan (pardon the pun) in mind, work resumed and the fun began.

Since IF is different in nature from traditional literature, a straight application of Structuralist and/or Formalist thought would have been difficult, restrictive, or even just plain impossible. So my subconscious mostly just took the "spirit" of the idea and reinterpreted it in the context of the medium to provide me with some much needed direction. Trying to directly apply the theory of one medium to another (even if they are tangentially related) would be foolish, probably leading to pointless dogmatism and imposition of the limitations of that medium onto the medium you are working with.

I hope I'm not being too vague or even painfully obtuse. If so, I apologize... Work leaves me rather drained both physically and mentally, so clearly expressing a thought is far more difficult than usual.

Discussing Game Design / Re: Educational Resources Exchange
« on: August 01, 2013, 09:28:27 AM »
It is very academic and a bit dry, so most people will likely find it a wee bit boring. The lectures contain a pretty comprehensive history of Literary Theory, which is surprisingly young.

Despite of how hard it is for the layman to digest, it is a great lecture series that may inspire some to approach their work in a more structured fashion and add greater depth to what they produce creatively. That being said, it is important to stress that "Interactive Fiction" is a great deal more flexible of a medium than traditional literature, so treating them as one in the same is limiting yourself for no good reason other than not understanding the medium you are working with.

As for what "Literary Theory" is in a nutshell... It can be officially defined as " the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature" (Wikipedia), but it can more simply be defined as a collection of methodologies for understanding what is "Literature" and various methods of how to holistically analyze a work and/or break it down into into it's component parts for study and sometimes interpretation.

It is often confused for "Literary Criticism", but this is a mistake. Serious literary criticism may utilize literary theory, but theory itself is not concerned with the "Literary Merit" of the work in question, just analysis and interpretation. In other words, theory is understanding a work and criticism is using this understanding to measure the supposedly objective worth of a work. I could outline my thoughts on the validity of criticism, but that would be a short essay that would likely bore the pants off you all.

Discussing Game Design / Educational Resources Exchange
« on: July 03, 2013, 03:22:50 PM »
One of the things that intrigues and draws me to Interactive Fiction is the feeling that it is a natural possible evolution of Literature, whereas in a certain sense, modern "Video Games" are an evolution of other "art forms" (e.g. Film, Card games, board games, etc). Then again, pigeon-holing I-Fiction is the last thing I want to do, even in my theorizing.

That notwithstanding, I propose a clearing house for "Educational Resources" in recommended lectures, articles, and other such things to help us grow in our knowledge and abilities.

Let me start it off then with some YouTube videos...

Here is an introductory series of lectures from Yale on Literary Theory

A lecture series on one of the greatest works of the Western Cannon, Don Quixote

An excellent talk by John Cleese on Creativity

One of my favorite websites ever, TV Tropes

Just a note as well--it seems the apostrophes and quotation marks have the weird bug from when you copy/paste them from Word or another text processor that makes them come out funky in the html build. There's a fix for this here:

Sadly, I haven't had time to fix it yet... Probably do it this weekend.

EDIT: It should be fixed now (7/3/13)

One of the failings of the community may be the way they think of I-Fiction as a genre and limit themselves to certain conventions, but I can't say for sure as I have just recently thrown my hat into the ring.

Interactive Media, and by extension, Interactive Fiction is just a medium like canvas, clay, etc...

Contests / Re: Proposal for Adventure Cow Compo
« on: June 08, 2013, 11:27:04 AM »
Now that I'm employed again, my free-time is virtually nil, but I will attempt to participate if possible.

Until the end of the month, I'll be off on Sundays and Mondays. After that, I have no idea what is going to happen.

I'll admit it is a bit confusing to those expecting something linear or even semi-linear, but the circular structure is tied into the overall theme. All the threads return to a common point, all endings are beginnings, possibilities diverge and converge, cause and effect blur, everything that preceded is nullified and reset to zero...

Is there actually a difference between dreams, delusions, and reality?

It is Divergent Possibility Entertainment, an obscenely obtuse satire on CYOA in general.

The original introduction with all of its talk of choice and the illusion of control over your life or even your own thoughts was much more revealing. The first person I ever had test it actually reacted in the exact way I had hoped for:Complete confusion and helplessness over the ultimate fate of "her character". Eventually, she gave in and "just went with it" (her words).

In games, how much choice do you actually have? For that matter, how much do you have in this flesh-and-blood life?

Are you really in control of your choices? Which choices do you actually have a say in and to what degree?

Now re-read it with that in mind and try to go through every thread... Then let it sink in.

I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Extra Credit Challenge: In several "ending" passages, two or more threads combine in a way that shouldn't be possible unless their separate realities overlap. Can you identify them?

Contests / Re: Proposal for Adventure Cow Compo
« on: June 03, 2013, 09:16:07 PM »
What I liked the most was the feeling of focus from having a theme and a time restriction. The idea of having a built-in audience that might offer constructive feedback was nice, but I have no idea how many views I got.

While we're on the subject, here is the announcement post. My entry is titled "Revelations" and is hosted here at AdventureCow.

I hope this idea comes to fruition, but there are pitfalls to be aware of, like greed (if prizes are offered) or competitive ill-will.

Competition is good and all, but it should come second to building a creative-community that drives its members to improve their craft and have fun while doing it.

Contests / Re: Proposal for Adventure Cow Compo
« on: June 02, 2013, 04:48:47 PM »
The judging criteria seem pretty good, but do you think that also judging on literary technique might be important as well?

"Literary Technique" would be under the heading of "Impact", more or less.

Would entries be restricted to Adventure Cow games? Twine games in general? Any work of interactive fiction?

That is up to debate and whatever Chris decides. I'd venture to guess that it would be aimed at a select number of genres/tools, but not necessarily exclusive. I hope it isn't too restrictive because I'm actually thinking about creating my own I-Fiction library/tool that is inspired by my positive experiences with Twee/Twine.

Would works be restricted to unpublished games or would pre-written/published games be allowed?

I honestly hadn't thought of the possibility of using already existing games. But since you brought it up, I'd prefer them to be created just for the compo. This is just speculation for a possible compo in the near future, so everything is up for discussion.

Would something other than games be allowed?

The definition of "game" is pretty flexible. By many people's definition of "game", I-fiction doesn't count. I, myself, wouldn't count anyone out. For example, let's say that an entrant create in Twine a little app that carries out a short conversation with you. That wouldn't qualify as a "game", it would be something closer to a "digital-toy". And I would gladly accept it into the compo if it was my decision.

Let me mention that my vision of the AdventureCow game-jam/compo wouldn't be about "games", but "digital art". And by "digital art" I am referring to creative expression through a digital media primarily in the form of I-Fiction, Video-Games, and anything else that people can create and experience through their computer screens.

Hopefully this idea will inspire some to push various boundaries and create some things we've collectively never seen before or never considered possible.

Hmm, didn't even think about the possibility of teams.

I'm partial to single-man teams, but that is just the way I've always worked because I'm a creative-control freak. Again, this is up for discussion, but I'm biased towards smaller, more intimate, efforts.

Contests / Re: Proposal for Adventure Cow Compo
« on: June 01, 2013, 03:10:20 PM »
I suppose the final call would be up to Chris, but some brainstorming wouldn't hurt.

Major Elements
  • Theme: Theme-based Compos are popular and help focus the devs or at least provide a little inspiration.
  • Prizes: Monetary prizes might be out of the question because of resources and the problems they can bring, but sometimes community/creative recognition is more than enough. As much as I could use a few bucks, I'd be happier with a collective pat on the back. But that is just my opinion.
  • Restrictions: Primarily team-size and time...
As for additional restrictions: They should likely just be viewed as suggestions to add an additional challenge, not a rule set in stone. My suggestion is to treat them like extra credit for judging purposes.
Here are my judging criteria very loosely inspired by those of Ludum Dare:
  • Innovation: Creative interpretation of theme, unexpected and novel use of tools, etc...
  • Impact: Does the game/story have an impact (intellectually, emotionally, ideologically, etc)? Good examples of this are games/stories that stir up emotions in the player/reader, ones that stick in the their mind (for whatever reason), or ones that provide substantial surprises/shocks (not cheap twists, but genuine instances of Fridge Brilliance or Ascended Fridge Horror).
  • Presentation: The value of visual (and audio, if applicable) elements only in terms of how well they enhance the game/story. Doesn't matter how much or how little, just how complementary or integral it is to the work as a whole.
  • Extra Credit: Adherence to "extra" limitations or criteria, such as... Word and/or passage limits (minimum or maximum), no or limited macros, required use of a particular repeated word or phrase, etc.
These criteria are looser and somewhat more abstract than Ludum Dare's and other compos, so that way they don't compel devs to cater to expectations like catchy soundtracks or pretty graphics. My goal with this is to encourage a more holistic appraisal of the entries rather than separating them into disparate elements. Devs should endeavor towards creative synergy of a work's elements rather than concentrating on parts and pieces.

Contests / Proposal for Adventure Cow Compo
« on: May 31, 2013, 05:01:41 AM »
After participating in the Mini-Ludum Dare 42, I was wondering if Adventure Cow should start a small game-jam/compo.

I would be a great way to drive up awareness of the site and Twine. I'd love to see these forums bustling with activity in areas besides Technical Support.

For those of you not familiar with game-jams, check out,, or see the Wikipedia article:

Any thoughts?

Sometimes limits can backfire, but it might depend on the person.

I tend toward grandiose, bloated, out of control projects that never get completed, so placing a hard limit and sticking to it is one of the only ways that I can actually finish anything.

What I am trying to say is this: People that do not see their limits (or ignore them) seem to benefit from imposing limitations, while people that see limits everywhere may be hindered more than helped.

It sounds familiar, but I can't put my finger on it... Completely agree with it though.

The important thing about learning from mistakes is actually owning up to them and fixing it (if possible).

“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

Limitations are a commonly acknowledged element among those that study any sort of theory, but the unfortunate amateurs that dive in rarely learn the importance until they have crashed and burned at least a few times. 

3. Was your limitation on the # of pages? I haven't figured it out yet!

That was one of the several limits I set for myself... Had to keep it under 100 passages total. I have an unfortunate tendency to overreach in my goals, so I had to give myself a hard limit or risk having it balloon out of control.

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