Untangling Twine: A Modern Day Choose Your Own Adventure
If you were an enthusiastic reader as a kid, chances are you know the unconventional joys the Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) series brought to your childhood. And if you’re anything like me, you love a little nostalgia to remind you of the good ol’ days of interactive fiction. If either of those descriptions applies to you, well then I’ve got wonderful news! Twine is basically a modernized version of CYOA for adults. But unlike CYOA novels, Twine is interactive fiction you won’t be too embarrassed to read in coffee shops. Because I know that’s what you’re all worried about.
Twine is an open-source tool that allows anyone to create and share interactive fiction online. It offers authors and readers the ability to navigate a story and indulge in multiple endings if they aren’t completely satisfied with the initial one. Whether you are creating Twine or reading it, you understand the power both readers and creators have in controlling the direction of a story in the decisions they make. However, instead of choosing your own adventure in Twine, you basically choose your own reality.
Thais Weiller’s “Rainy Day” captures the arduous reality of those suffering from anxiety and depression. Weiller is a professional game designer, but this narrative is far more intellectually elaborate than any of her other projects. She captures the essence of joyous gaming through playful texts and soft background colors but no amount of pale blue can cover the true depth of her words.
The story begins with a rainy day, then follows a woman’s thoughts as she decides if she’s emotionally capable of handling the expectations of work and the social interactions that accompany them. Although the character drawn in the game is a young woman, the main character is actually the reader. The readers get a chance to help her decide what actions to take next, gearing the story in whatever direction they wish. And Weiller has cleverly crafted decisions catered to any kind of reader: the anxious, the realists, and the optimists. Options such as “go to work,” “make some coffee, try to cheer up,” and “maybe a shower,” are all purposely placed within the game to show how seemingly positive thoughts will eventually lead to the same outcome.
You see, “Rainy Day” is a story but it is also a game. While the plot follows a path that we choose, the endings have all been created by Weiller, and we really aren’t in control. Twine is the perfect platform for this story because like the protagonist, readers work to untangle themselves out of a pessimistic situation only to discover that it’s impossible. No matter how many times readers try to encourage the woman to complete certain tasks or look on the bright side, they are left hopeless. Her condition can’t be fixed by us, and that’s frustrating but also eye-opening. Those who suffer from anxiety and depression face questions such as “so what?” and “what’s the point?” almost everyday. Simply getting out of bed in the morning feels like a chore, one that they constantly find excuses not to complete
To help readers understand this hazy feeling, Weiller uses specific fonts, colors, and stylistic features that also assist in augmenting the plot. The words look handwritten, personalizing the story and humanizing the device it’s being played on. The options are blurry, and only when you hover over the text do they come into focus. The majority of the story is told in front of a faded blue background but the moments where the young woman is trying to be optimistic, we get a glimpse of a faint yellow. Other times, the background and the text are so close in color that it’s difficult to even see the words on the page. Each stylistic choice was made purposefully by Weiller. The text and the features of the game illuminate the clouded thoughts that suffocate the minds of people like the main character, who is also purposely unnamed. She’s anonymous because she’s a representation of every person who feels this way on a daily basis.
There is one ending in the story where she describes this feeling of immobility. She is “tied down,” “drowning” in a tide of tar. And once again, readers can’t help her. But we can now empathize with her because the story makes us feel the same way. We’re surrounded by options, but none of them seem to lead to positive outcomes. The options themselves are so hard to detect that you don’t even feel confident after you’ve made your decisions. The readers are as immobile as she is in that imaginary but somehow very real tar.
That is exactly why Twine is the perfect tool for Weiller and “Rainy Day.” The story addresses the reality of living with a cloud above your head and how the smallest circumstances, such as a rainy day, can negatively affect your attitude. Readers only understand how she truly feels because we can experience the circumstances with her, through her. Twine allows us to live inside her mind, feel her emotions, and ultimately adopt her reality. The more we try to untangle the depths of her mind, the more we realize that we are supposed to get lost in Twine. And that’s the beauty of it.
You can find “Rainy Day” here!
Thais Weiller is the creator and author of Rainy Day, a professional game designer, and co-founder of studio JoyMasher. Her past projects include Oniken, Odallus, and other browser games such as Hans Hans. She is currently working as a producer at Black River Studios where she is continuing her path in game development.