Friday, October 6, 2017

"Will Not Let Me Go" and "Hexeteria Skaxis Qiameth" (reviews)

"Will Not Let Me Go" is a Twine story by Stephen Granade

"Hexeteria Skaxis Quiameth" may or may not have been written in Twine, but has a similar mechanic for player interaction. Hexeteria was written by Gabriel Floriano

Both works have been entered in the 2017 interactive fiction competition. Both are reviewed after the cut break.
Hexeteria is the shorter of the two. There is no apparent ending (it just keeps looping back) but the blurb suggests you might spend fifteen minutes examining possible variations. The work is an almost academic discussion of linguistics. Wittgenstein is mentioned in the opening paragraph, introducing the idea that language is flexible and that word meanings are a cultural construct. Perhaps even the nuances of words are unique to individuals. The interactivity comes when the player is allowed to invent and change the words which are used to tell the rest of the story. Each retelling (and they seem to go on forever) is a unique linguistic construct created by the player. Overall, a self referential work of interactive linguistic art. Interesting, but feels too brief as an entry in this competition.

"Will Not Let me Go" is much longer, requiring almost a full two hours commitment. My opinion of this piece changed through the playing. Initially, I felt it was too linear. What does it say about Twine that even a game designer with as much experience as Granade can make the player feel as if they're just turning the pages of a book? But the story-telling is powerful enough that I stuck with it and by the mid-point I began to appreciate why Granade had chosen this medium.

The player character, Fred, is suffering from senile dementia. The story calls it "altzheimer's" though technically I don't think that  can be diagnosed without a brain autopsy. The second person voice common to IF puts "You" directly in Fred's head, making you to see the world through his eyes. You forget the words he forgets and you repeatedly fail to recognize strangers as your own very close family members. This is achieved with dynamic text replacements, a screen color which brightens or darkens in parallel with Fred's memory, and in the final chapter a sudden change in how you interact with screen itself. None of these would be possible in static fiction, and certainly none would be possible from a third person voice.

"Will Not Let me Go" is also a powerful love story, showing a wife who can not leave her failing husband, except in her own death. Somewhere near the midpoint the player is tasked with fetching medicine for Fred's dying wife. I had already become emotionally drained by this point in the reading and found I had trouble clicking the right links to do what I had to. I kept wandering back and forth between rooms I had already visited. In other words, I was stuck in one of those damned menu mazes. But rather than being a bad design choice, here the effect was fully deliberate. Fred would be wandering from room to room, feeling frustrated to the point of helplessness. This was the place where my opinion about "Will Not Let Me Go" suddenly shifted. This was the point when I felt fully invested in Granade's choice to use Twine as his story-telling medium.


  1. "Hexeteria Skaxis Quiameth" does have an ending... It's a puzzle to figure out how to break out of the loop. Fairly easy puzzle, I think, once you recognize it as a puzzle?

  2. Doug Orleans, thank you for pointing that out. I went back in and solved the "puzzle" to bring the story some closure. Best appreciated as a linguistics art project, I think.