In doing the research for my dissertation, I discovered Twine, the open source software for creating non-linear stories. Twine seems useful in making historical sources more accessible and fun for learning. I find that assigning more bit-sized information to my students is helpful for them to better understand the content. At the same time, the academic research talks about the importance of narrative in making an experience compelling—something I also find to be generally true. The most memorable games for me are those with a narrative to follow. So with this being true, Twine seems to be a good way to engage in the creation of accessible text-based games.
Twine runs in a browser and can be posted as a URL to the game almost anywhere. This makes it insanely accessible for the largest possible number of people. One of the issues with creating games intended for large audiences is that considerations need to be made about the types of hardware and experience players will need to actually play the game. With Twine being text-based, there is largely little graphical and computing requirements for users. This means even the simplest of smart phones could run the game, so tablets and computers can also easily run the experience, even if the hardware is old. Chromebooks are often not able to be considered as a gaming computer for most games because they don’t allow downloads and everything in a Chromebook has to run through the internet. But Twine, already a browser-based game creation tool, allows the issue of Chromebooks to be virtually non-existent. In this way, the games created through Twine are accessible by almost anyone, anywhere, so long as there is some internet connection.
In addition to this, Twine provides open-source code which allows anyone to mod the software as they need. Open source and open access is important especially for archaeology as I’ve explained in a recent post. The ability to make text-based games in Twine is largely related to your own ability to code, or learn to code. Admittedly, coding is not something I’m very familiar with. I tend to work in 3D by learning how to use the scanners and programs that already exist without delving under the hood. Perhaps Twine can be used as a way to teach some basic coding as well as a way to create games—it certainly is doing that for me.
All of this being said, that since learning about Twine, I’m intrigued. I want to think about creative ways to make engaging text-based games about history and archaeology via this platform. I understand that quite a few archaeogamers already know about Twine. They already know how to use Twine or they’ve actively made games from it. This is definitely something I want to see more of. I want to play text-based archaeogames and learn this way.
Gamification of say ancient sources via text-based choose-your-own adventure type experiences reminds me of the holonovels from Star Trek. I believe it would be engaging for students in classes and anyone who wants to learn about the ancient Greek or Roman writings when reading them directly or translating the original works themselves directly. So it’s not just the creation of new stories that makes Twine interesting to me. Jeremiah McCall’s Path of Honors game using Twine is a perfect example of this. It is a way to present the materials of ancient Rome via a game-like scenario. It leads the player on a non-linear narrative that gives the user power.
I’ve made a small game to learn Twine, and I found it fairly accessible to create games with. This being said, I have a concern. There is discussion in academia of how the internet is not a good place to archive work. Many websites are outdated, links die and are left dead, and the Wayback Machine, while extremely helpful in cataloging and archiving site history, does not have the power to also catalog the links in the website. So with Twine games being browser-based, will these games fall into history like Flash games? Even if Twine doesn’t fall in the way of Flash, the ability to access the games is dependent on the website of the user who posts it. Will that website be kept up-to-date? It begs the question of archiving Twine archaeogames both on the internet and institutionally. Will libraries or archives take Twine games, or will they be seen as a trivial experiment? I’d like to hope that the future is bright in this—that Captain Janeway can play a holonovel version of a Twine game—but these considerations need to be made.
The good news is that with Twine open-source, unlike Adobe Flash, we can easily archive the games and the software for play later. So in this respect, Twine makes the ability to create and play the games consistently throughout time less of a concern. If archived, these text-based games can become archaeogaming material to study at not only the code level but also the game level for the future. This being said, Twine being accessible as well for new coders, even as a method to teach coding, may prove useful in education. For post-secondary education, Twine could be used as an assignment to have students create a historical non-linear narrative as a final project. That project can be used by anyone, if published in a searchable way. For all educational purposes and even outreach, the ability to use the non-linear narrative as a gamified experience for reading either historical sources or academic texts, might be interesting and engaging.
To conclude this, while my experimental game on Twine is not necessarily ready to publish, there are a lot of great Twine archaeogames already published or being made. I encourage you to check them out. I intend to keep working on mine and continue experimenting with it as an implementation of archaeogaming.
—Kaitlyn Kingsland, archeaogaming.com
9 December 2022