here’s a fucked up new twine story. it’s one of those Personal Games, i guess. contains references to abuse, trauma, self-harm and martyrdom. skip it if you need to.
here’s a fucked up new twine story. it’s one of those Personal Games, i guess. contains references to abuse, trauma, self-harm and martyrdom. skip it if you need to.
FROG PRINCESS is a new truetype font based on the typeface in frog assassin. the text that appears in that game is made of 4×4 pixel letters with 5×5 pixel numbers. this version adds 5×5 pixel dropped capitals inspired by illuminated calligraphic capitals. it was made in fontstruct!
hey all! there are three new zines available in my online store in both paper and pdf forms! they are:
anna’s guide to freelancing: how to not starve or burn out. a collection of advice from my years of freelancing, on how to advocate for yourself with clients, how much to charge, how to work from home and not burn out, etc. a ton of things i’ve had to learn the hard way, basically. you can think of it also as a kind of pep talk on respecting yourself and your work enough to charge a livable amount of money for it. marissa luna did the cover and jenn kaplan contributed a section on taxes, which i don’t know shit about. i’m really proud of this one.
abridged galactipedia of worlds in the hubworld region. an illustrated version of the text file that comes with where in the galaxy is kremlin san antonio? my original vision for kremlin was a digital game that came with a physical component, like the old carmen sandiego games, with their thick paper almanacs. when the game was picked up by gaming in color as a kickstarter reward, that became logistically harder to do. i came back to it, though, because i think the writing in the galactipedia stands pretty well on its own. this version contains a bunch of illustrations by moi as well as a free download code for the game.
what if it’s killing you? a collection of miscellaneous things i’ve written for various places, most of which have never appeared in print. they range from shorter pieces on dinosaur dreams, garfield’s anomie and fanfiction about videogames to longer pieces on experiencing cyberspace and cybersex as a young trans woman and the ways in which women in games and tech fields are expected to martyr themselves. the latter was written for an upcoming anthology on women in tech, “lean out,” but i got permission to include it in this zine.
all of these and many of my earlier zines are available in my online store! (save a buck if you buy all three together!) i only ship physical products to the us right now, because of the unpredictable expense of shipping internationally, but you can download a pdf anywhere in the world. because free selz accounts don’t have a “shopping cart” feature (meaning customers can check out multiple items at the same time), you should email me at the address on the site if you want to buy more than one physical item. (a bundle counts as one item.)
thanks to kissing covens’ patreon patrons for supplying the budget to hire artists and contributors like marissa and jenn.
most of my zzt-inspired work so far has been low-pressure and about exploring and having weird encounters. that’s the part of zzt i find most compelling: its grid-based shootouts often feel frustratingly chancy, which is exacerbated by the resource scarcity that plagues most zzt games. there’s this one approach to combat in zzt that emerged over time that i find kind of compelling, though. i’d be hard-pressed to name an individual author, but eli’s house (which i mention in my book) features a good example of it.
that style of combat is a kind of hand-to-hand combat where the player’s trying to bump into enemies (to stab or punch them, ostensibly) but only when they’re vulnerable, and to avoid them when they’re not. (in eli’s house, enemies change appearance when they go into defensive mode – don’t go near a rat when it’s mouth is open!) so combat becomes this kind of dance where you’re staying away from enemies until you see an opening, then rushing quickly in, then rushing back out. it’s kind of compelling.
frog assassin is a take on that. combat is super super simple: move onto an opponent to squish it, let an opponent move onto you and you’re dead. the enemies in the game all move to a regular beat – one group to the beat, one group to the half-beat, so that fighting mixed groups of them is especially dangerous. and then there are the third kind of guy, watch out for them. you’re often fighting large groups, so looking for openings and not leaving yourself in a vulnerable position is important.
it also takes a little from superfly, a 1990 dos shareware game that i like a lot. in that game you’re using the arrow keys to squish flies, who individually pose no threat to you. squishing them is effortless. they come at you in hordes, though, and their bodies take up space after being squished, so that the threat to you is being trapped in a ring of dead bugs. you’re maneuvering constantly to try and mitigate that. i like that. not about killing things, but being careful how you kill them.
you can download frog assassin (and its gamemaker 8 source file) right here. it’s a free game and so was funded by my generous patreon patrons, who got to see several work-in-progress screens of the game and an early explanation of how it all worked.
i’ll almost certainly remember 2014 as the year i met my perfect boyfriend, started dating, fell in love, and shacked up. it still amazes me that it’s our anniversary in a couple of months – how has it been a whole year? dense as it was with crises both small and large, it stuns me how fast the year’s gone.
this year i struggled with depression and, as ever, with poverty. but i’ve made a deliberate effort to get better at making money, and not without success. i started my patreon just before the start of the year and now it pays my rent. i’ve shaped my patreon into a kind of dev blog, where i get to show off secret previews of things i’m not yet ready to post in public. i feel like the content i post there is really strong, in variety and in regularity. patreon represents the more regular portion of my income.
i’ve also put more energy into selling things, that’s where money for food and bills and other expenses comes from. i sell zines on selz and games on itch. i’ve been trying to find ways to allow previously-free work to make me money: you can still play the censored version of lesbian spider-queens for free online, but folks who are willing to pay can have an uncensored version on their desktop. i’m still really excited i was able to finally release the uncensored version of the game – that was one of the most unexpected surprises of the year. money from sales isn’t as dependable as my patreon income, but it helps a lot, and just having products on sale means that i’ll occasionally wake up to discover i’ve sold an old game or zine, and that’s nice.
i feel like my craft has gone in a bunch of exciting new directions this year. in particular, i’m moving into working more with non-digital games and storytelling games. i feel like my writing is becoming more confident. here are some projects from this year i’m really proud of:
magic missile. this is a game for social media, but one where the technology is wholly managed by the players: image search and twitter or facebook. playtesting it with friends, i was very anxious that it wouldn’t be well-received or understood (it’s one of several social games i’ve developed where only the initiator of the game explicitly knows the rules), but all the games of it that i ran turned out to be super fun and clever. i like the direction this project started me moving in.
gay cats go to the weird weird woods (and its immediate predecessor emotica) both developed out of my work with zzt (my book on which was published this year, but was mostly written last year, so it’s not on this list). they were also vehicles for exploring the kind of creative, failure-free play i like in games like cosmic osmo and parts of lego island. moving in with my bf also meant moving in with this little gay baby, and seeing my encyclopedia frown have a friend and companion has given me lots of FEELINGS, which i tried to channel in this game about an adventure i imagined the two of them having together.
star court. for all the stuff i kept adding to this game i’m amazed it works as well as a game as it does. my guess is that there are passages in this game that still haven’t been seen by anyone but myself, and it feels good to think that. it’s wildly-branching and very chance-heavy, but there are definite strategies for those who look for them and i feel good about that too. it’s probably the most content-rich thing i’ve ever written, and definitely my longest and biggest twine story. inspired by a hypercard stack, it’s really clear to me now that twine is the contemporary successor hypercard has been waiting for.
plucky kid detective was my first story game (or “role-playing game”). games tend to spiral quickly into absurdity but it’s fun and it feels good to have finally published a story game, despite my anxiety that the game’s not good enough. this is territory that i want to explore, and now i feel like i’ve taken a few steps over the border. i published it as a zine, and on the subject of zines, i’m also really proud of letters to an absent child, in which i used animal crossing’s “letters from mom” as a frame to write about my own relationship with my own mom. i sent her a copy the other day and she really liked it.
the mystery of the missing mythics. a continuation of the stuff i was doing with social technology in magic missile. it feels good that by having the player manage to social media parts of these projects i don’t have the technological barriers of working with APIs and online databases keeping me from this area of design. this was one of the most fun projects this year, both to design and to write. i feel really good about the story i wrote. i don’t know if anyone’s tried the “pick images for a friend” option yet, but i spent a day researching / making up facts about numbers for the “password entry” part and i’m pretty proud for the character i was able to give what would otherwise be a pretty boring process.
despite a lot of struggle i feel like i’m in a really good place entering the new year, both in terms of my depression and my money situation. looking forward to a new year in gay cat manor with hope.
magic missile was my first experiment in designing play around internet image searches. some time later i had the idea of a twine game that would pull images from image search for use in the story. i liked the element of chance that image searches provide: really specific searches will have really similar results, but most will have a pretty diverse selection. the google image search API was way beyond me, though.
i worked on other things for a while until i had the idea of structuring the game like madlibs - that way most of the technology would be on the player’s end (image search sites, tabbed browsing) and not mine. that meant most of my work was in finding good image searches and finding surprising ways to use the images the player picks. which i hope i did a good job of. THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING MYTHICS was one of my most fun twine stories to write, and is probably one of the silliest.
i tried a new thing with this one: i let my patreon patrons have access to it a few days before everybody else, during which time i added a few of less necessary features i wanted. (those features were a set of default images players can use if they want to skip the image search part of the game, and the ability to pick images for someone else and send them, encoded. it might be the first recorded use of the rot13 function in twine.) patrons also got an early concept demo. i’ll probably do this with future games – if you want tons of updates and sneak previews of stuff i’m working on, being a patron is where it’s at.
dys4ia, my autobiographical game about my decision to start hormone replacement therapy, has been updated with an important new feature for players: the ability to actively contribute to the material well-being of a real live trans woman, that is to say, me. or to put it another way: after most of two years available to play for free on newgrounds, dys4ia is now available as a commercial game for windows and mac for five bucks.
poverty and the threat of homelessness are often the exciting sequel to dys4ia: my partner and i have been struggling with making ends meet for a while now. now dys4ia allows you to actively help with the situation – call it “gamification” if you like. if you’ve ever taught a class with dys4ia, lectured about it, used it as an instructive tool – why not pay me back for the resource i’ve provided you? dys4ia is often called an “empathy game” – here’s empathy’s final boss.
hey y’all! my online zine store now carries four new zines, in pdf and physical forms. i only ship within the us at the moment, but the pdfs can be ~enjoyed by all.~ the new zines are:
LETTERS TO AN ABSENT CHILD. in 2009 i moved across the country from my family. LETTERS is about our relationship since then. you know how in animal crossing you’ll get letters from your “mom” periodically, but you can never write back? LETTERS reimagines the animal crossing mom as my own mom. i made all the stationery myself – susan lau drew the (gorgeous) cover.
PLUCKY KID DETECTIVE. inspired by nancy drew, encyclopedia brown, and inspector gadget’s genius niece penny, this is a story game (or “role-playing game”) for two people! one player’s the kid detective, the other becomes the invisible hand of crime. this is my first story game and it usually plays pretty wacky. jeremy boydell illustrated it beautifully!
LITTLE GAMES. this zine collects a bunch of games i’ve designed over the course of a year or so, including: a stealth note-passing assassination game for parties, a wizard combat game to play on social media, a spin-the-bottle game with a cut-out-and-glue spinner, and a game i co-designed with my cat. a lot of my best non-digital game design is represented here!
MAKE YOUR FIRST VIDEOGAME IN TWINE. a zine version of my twine tutorial, ideal for handing to a cool kid (or cool older person!) in your life. i’m selling printed copies, but there’s also a free download-and-print-yourself version for videogame zinesters everywhere. find it in the store.
zines are two bucks each, but you can also get the SECRET NOTES BUNDLE – including LITTLE GAMES, PLUCKY KID DETECTIVE, and LETTERS TO AN ABSENT CHILD, in either pdf or physical format – for five dollars. that’s three zines for the price of two and a half!
get them at my online zine store!
d. vincent baker has this game called the sundered land that is actually a collection of different, stand-alone games set in the same world, with suggestions for how to string them together. first, play the game where you’re all caravan guards, telling stories around the campfire. then the caravan’s attacked – play the game where you’re fighting off invaders, using the same characters.
i like thinking about my twine games this way. star court isn’t an explicit sequel to where in the galaxy is kremlin san antonio?, but you could play it that way: if you play kremlin and end up keeping the loot for yourself, maybe star court is the story of what happens when INTERSOL catches up with you. maybe star court is the story of what happens to kremlin after she’s arrested.
i’m not really interested in literal sequels, but i like crafting games that occupy a non-linear web of connections, each offering additional perspectives to look in on the others. i feel like these five of my twine games – pulpy space operas about queer outlaws – have a lot to say to each other, so it made sense to put them together.
TWINE AND PUNISHMENT is a collection of five of my best twine space adventures, plus a new prologue – KEEP DREAMING, SPACE COWGIRL – written just for this collection. it also features a menu for launching the games that includes synopses and historical notes, and a print-and-play character sheet you can use to track your criminal record across the five games.
the bundle is available on itch.io for five dollars, which is a dollar a game. with the exception of kremlin (which i’ve previously sold for three bucks), none of these games have been available for download before. it’s a good gift for your weird gay niece or anyone interested in what interactive fiction looks like in the twenty-first century.
star court is based on a little old mac game called kangaroo court that my friend miguel made me play on his little old mac. “it’s basically an anna anthropy game,” he said. when the first witness turned out to be “a very friendly person with large insect-like eyes and a ray gun,” i realized it was true. when the game i had planned for my free patreon last month didn’t work out (it was a writing game, but the scoring mechanisms as they stood didn’t really facilitate writing interesting stories), i decided to write my own version of kangaroo court, set in the queer space opera universe of my other twine games.
by the time i crossed the 11,000 work mark – the size of a very very VERY scary house – i realized the game wouldn’t be done by the end of the month. it ended up my biggest twine project to date, with almost 30,000 words in over 300 passages (v.v.v. scary house, for comparison, has around 200). it’s just really branchy – i wanted it to contain a lot of chance and a lot of choices. and i’m finding it really easy to write for a pulp universe that is basically designed to facilitate as many weird ideas as possible. (spoilers: there is another entry in this series coming up soon!)
many ideas for the game were inspired by zak s.’s vornheim - particularly the “invoke the ancient rite” option, which is based on vornheim’s “legal situations” table. one of the game’s characters – a demon prince who rules over crime and is summoned to ascertain that the player is a criminal – is drawn almost entirely from an entry on that table. (vornheim is a treasure trove of great game ideas and i consult it constantly.)
star court was funded by my patreon patrons, without whose generous sponsorship i would have a hard time paying my rent. a bunch of amazing folks helped me playtest this huge, super-combinatorial game, including adam hartling, leon arnott, javy gwaltney, anna langford, and rob lockhart. the typeface used in the game is scifly.