Building A Game Writing Portfolio: PWW Assignment 3 – Short Interactive Fiction

The third and last part of the Pixelles Writing Portfolio Program assignment was making a 2-10 minute (later they modified it to 5-10) piece of interactive fiction. I wanted to make something that used an array of values, to create a random feel on replay. I also wanted to make the piece feel like a brief, interstitial moment. 

I figured out the title pretty quickly: “Scam Likely.” What is a more nothing time than a phone call in this day and age? And what is more opaque than seeing “Scam Likely” on your phone?

Before I spill some of the meat of it and how it’s put together, here’s a link to go play the game on Itch.io

I really just wanted to play with Twine

Twine got pretty since the last time I saw it. And Harlowe, the language I like using for it, got a big upgrade. The fanciness made it easier to at-a-glance parse things like the arrays I used to randomise the caller.

A screenshot of a code block in Twine, showing notably variable arrays for the name of the caller, their company, and the company they're conducting the survey for.

Here’s what that looks like in the game:

 A screenshot of a page of a Twine game, showing the array variables from the code snippet above in play.

I sort of wanted just? I don’t know, something very fleeting feeling. I also wanted to force (strongly encourage) the user to play. Nobody wants to answer a phone, but here you are, playing a game to do so. The layout of the game is very simple, it’s just a couple of branches to get you to the phone survey and then it’s the questions.

 A screenshot of the passages for Scam Likely, zoomed out to not show individual passage text. The bulk of the game is non-connected passages, with only a few looping passages before it.

The questions though are where the fun (to me) is. There are three paths to take.

  • The normie path, you just answer as directed, from one of the three options. Depending on chance the questions could be a little strange, but not weird.
  • The sassy path, you chose the longer answer that is not within the three suggested answers. This opens up the possibility for question variables that are far more mirror-world.
  • Refuse to participate. This deeply modifies the questions (not just the variables) to be far more existential.

Yes, I used a spreadsheet for this.

Mostly the interactions are just pleasant nothings. I didn’t want this game to do anything, just create a moment that is never quite the same each time, and I think I achieved that.

A version of this post was initially published in a locked Patreon post on July 7, 2021.