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graphic generated with adobe firefly

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I made this game as a part of my Computer as an Expressive Medium Course at Georgia Tech. The task was to make a text-based interactive fiction game on Twine. Here are more details about the project:

I tried to create a story with many endings. Some explained and some vague loops, to keep people going through the same thing. In the former, they understand what happened, and they should buy the justification given to them. In the latter, they will realize they are in a loop early on but will have no option but to make different choices in the next loop. There is no “right” choice. It all boils down to the user and what they think they should do.

Understanding the possible endings [⚠️Spoiler Alert]

  • Conspiracy Theory, the original idea

    • The protagonist is convinced that there is a government or a shady organization at work, experimenting with advanced teleportation technology.

  • Parallel Universes

    • The protagonist believes that they have slipped into a parallel universe or have experienced a glitch in the space-time continuum.

  • Supernatural Intervention

    • Here, the protagonist entertains the idea that supernatural forces were at play during the accident. They explore various paranormal phenomena and come across stories of guardian spirits and mysterious entities that protect individuals in times of crisis.

  • Psychological Experiment, the chaotic loop

    • The protagonist doubts their sanity and wonders if they were part of an elaborate psychological experiment where they were manipulated into believing a false reality.

    • With this, I want to experiment and make this unobvious – throw the user in a position where they figure it out on their own.

  • Time Travel Paradox, the loop.

    • The protagonist theorizes that the accident triggered a time travel paradox, where they were somehow transported to a time where the accident never happened, and the coma was for unrelated reasons.

Critical Elements

  1. Perception of reality: I aimed for this story to question experiences that the protagonist is living through. The uncertainty should raise doubts about reality and make the player reflect on different forms of perception of the same starting event.

  2. Existential: Since the story is delving into existential themes such as life, death and the unknown, it is being made provocative with a potential existential crisis, which, in my understanding is a big part of critical design fiction. Also, there is scepticism and conflicting accounts of the appearance of the accident between characters.

  3. Manipulation of technology: The CCTV footage and smartwatch heart rate data is assumed to be a part of our everyday life now, making it ordinary. However, using today’s technology - of using smartphones for calling and manipulating it to enable teleportation can prompt reflection on technology advancements.

  4. Sensory experience: The narrative builds towards emotional engagement for the player to navigate through the protagonist's confusion and desperation to find answers. It enhances critical engagement by making the player empathetic towards the story.

  5. Control and Manipulation: In this dystopian society, some governing body exercises excessive control over the citizens, and they are using that to experiment with advanced technology. The serum that the protagonist is injected with makes them forget everything they saw, including the lab. The protagonist was not given a choice to keep their memory. There is no one to challenge the status quo because no one knows about it. The governing body’s “damage control” techniques also lead to the critical question of Medical Ethics and Practices. Is the coma and fever a result of the serum that they were injected with?

Overall, the open-ended nature of this narrative can lead to more critical themes. This narrative could be coupled with a participatory workshop to discuss with people their perceptions and add to this list.

Design Elements

  1. I used macros and CSS elements to add to the visuals of the game. The dark blue–silver/ grey text, coupled with the music choice, along with the typewriter text effect build towards the mystery. I purposefully kept the font of the buttons different to attract attention to them, based on the feedback I received from one of my peers in class.

  2. I explored the idea of tracking the number of times the user gets stuck in the same loop and has come to a particular passage. I initially planned to change the narrative based on that. However, on exploring I decided against it since the story was already complicated. Any passage with a second (or more) visit was faster.

  3. One problem that I faced was to keep the short audios playing on time. Based on different loading times, they either started right at the beginning of the passage or sometime later. I was not able to find a fix for this, despite adding the play audio tag right at the beginning of every passage.

Tools and Resources

  1. ChatGPT: I planed to focus on the writing to bring out the criticality of my game better. I wrote bigger and more descriptive passages and used the LLM to refine the writing.

  2. Adobe Firefly: I used Adobe’s generative tool for the images/ art in the interactive narrative.

  3. Pixabay: Royalty free sounds like phone ringing, siren, among others.

  4. The background music is a compilation of quartet versions of songs, as used in Bridgerton, the Netflix series. The following songs were used:

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