the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

porpentine on social failure and trauma

Posted by rigorousm on November 24, 2014

The concept for the game is tremendously simple. A number counter is set to zero, with plus and minus buttons beneath it to make the number bigger or smaller. “I counted this high,” it begins, and then the game is just that: counting up, though the purpose of doing so isn’t clear at first. I’ve played it four or five times now and never made it all the way through without crying.

Sometimes, nothing happens when you click to the next number; other times, words appear like stray thoughts. “Who would you miss if they were gone for a day?” it asks at one point. Keep clicking, and the word “day” is replaced by “month,” then by “year” and finally “forever.” Sometimes it asks you questions. Sometimes it tells you stories. At one point it quotes from the suicide note of a Czech student who killed himself by self-immolation, later from a news report about a woman who committed suicide after being raped. “This is the game,” it says.

The numbers start to feel like days, and the rhythm of clicking feels like passing time, like checking off days on a calendar. It isn’t always “fun,” per se; sometimes, when you click 10 or 15 times in a row and see nothing but an empty screen, a little part of you wonders when it’s going to end. But you keep on clicking. After all, what other choice do you have? It feels like surviving.

But somewhere around the number 300, the game decides to throw you for a loop. Click the wrong link — or the right one? — and it catapults you suddenly into the tens of millions. The moment you see it, your guts twist with panic; the space between where you were and where you are becomes a vast numeric desert, and the idea of clicking millions of times to get back seems impossible. You won’t be able to do it, you think for a moment — you’ll just have to quit the game. Then you remember you’re playing a game about suicide.

“That’s what it feels like to wake up insane or with trauma,” Porpentine said. “It’s like, Oh, God, how do I get back there? It feels like it’ll take a million days to get back, a million steps. That is the crisis. ‘Will I ever be the same again?’ And you won’t.”

On “Everything You Swallow Will One Day Come Up Like a Stone”, a game about suicide.

— “Twine, the Video-Game Technology for All” interview with Porpentine by Lara Hudson for the New York Times. (link to article)

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