AEGIS WING (Anna Anthropy)

aegiswing

what counts as our first date? the first time we cruised each other, over some xbox game? the first time we had phone sex? the first time we saw each other in person? i was forced to make a game about all of these. - [Author's description]

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38 Comments.

  1. Critomatic Immunity

    Alright. I hope the author wanted feedback, because I’m about to feed her back all the matter you just stuffed into my helpless facehole. She’s about to be on the receiving end of about a decade of pent-up rage against modern art, and three months of similar disdain for TWINE, and I apologize.

    First: let me be perfectly clear. I entered this story with an open mind and found myself regretting it on the way out. By about midway through the piece, I hated the narrator. What I couldn’t stand is the tone the writing takes – the flippant, pseudo-deep, high-schooler-on-myspace kind of tone. This is the kind of almost-poignant bullshit I would write in 7th grade to upset teachers and win favors with anarchist classmates. It is not the kind of almost-poignant bullshit I want to see coming from an adult. So much of the text is spent describing kinky sex and fickle relationship issues that I wanted to reach into the story and beat the characters over the head for being such self-absorbed pricks.

    Secondly, she uses death as a catalyst for emotion in just about the clumsiest way I’ve ever seen, and I’ve watched Michael Bay movies. Ok, so let’s look at the cat’s death as a metaphor for the inevitable, the way the author sees her own relationship coming to a close. That would be really great, but instead we get “Cat died. Slut’s gonna die. Cue “I Will Remember You” by Sarah Mcclachlan.” There is nothing beyond that. There was no thematic growth, no real underlying connection. I’m sure it felt powerful when she wrote it, judging by the autobiographical nature of the piece, but it just doesn’t even try to make a deeper connection.

    If this story had been published in single page format and posted on a blog or writing forum, it would have been critically panned for being short, vapid, and ultimately not worth the time it took to read. I’ve looked up this Anna Anthropy, and she seems like a good person in general. She wants to take back the game media, and I have a lot of respect and personal emotional investment in that cause. Subpar stories written in TWINE, however, are not the way to see this cause through.

    • OK, firstly I think labelling it with “pseudo-deep” or “almost-poignant” and other odd contractions is pretty unhelpful of you if you don’t demonstrate why it’s only “almost” or “pseudo” this quality. What does it lack? Humility? Self-effacement? Who knows. I don’t.
      Secondly I take offense at the notion that descriptions of kinky sex (a.k.a creative and risky sex that involves exchanging trust instead of contempt) make you “self-absorbed” (god forbid you be that in an autobio piece) or, I dunno, lording your kinkiness over everyone (god forbid you do that in a society that exoticises kinksters as freaks and deviants).
      Thirdly, I’m not convinced an autobio piece such as this really needs to use death as some grand rhetorical flourish, and in fact I think doing so would only cheapen or misconstrue it in some way. Framing Meowzbow’s death as just a factual event among others, another bead in the string of time, is in keeping with the mood of the rest of the piece. I’m not sure if it was clear to you, but this isn’t a story about death, even though it contains death.
      Finally, Twine isn’t an acronym.
      I hope this feedback is helpful for your future comment-writing endeavours.

      • also “cat died oh no sluts gonna die” ugh way to disrespect my poor dead kitty and WHAT I LITERALLY TOLD ANNA TO DO WITH MY BODY WHEN I DIED.

        like how lonely -are- you, sorry love and companionship makes you uncomfortable

    • I’m baffled why this paritcular piece has served as a catalyst for all your “pent up rage”, and more baffled why you chose to mobilise your rage against this particular author. (I suspect your pre-emptive assertion that you have an “open mind” and distaste for “kinky sex” might give us a clue here).

      At base, you recognise that Anna is sharing a story that is very meaningful to her (“I’m sure it felt powerful when she wrote it”). It is honest and unswervingly frank in its delivery. Yet you call the actors in the story “characters” and “self-absorbed pricks”. Fucking hell. These aren’t characters in a book. These are real people.

      Would you watch a famished person starve to death because their plea for your assistance lacked thematic coherence, or “didn’t try to make a deeper connection”? I doubt it. Now, I know this is the internet, but you could at least try to cultivate a little human empathy.

    • hey way to be a jerk about how much ma’am loves me!

  2. I don’t see that this is “pseudo-deep” in any way. It’s a chronicle of sharp memories the author personally values, phrased in a direct and beautifully concise manner, and that honesty makes it easy to empathize even for a straight softie like myself. The free jumping through the timeline was especially strong, I thought (and perfectly set up the ending bit).

    Also, I can understand how it might be a bit of a lesser work, but I remember having a good time with When Pigs Fly! : ) I noticed Auntie removing it from her sidebar a good while back, but I see no reason to be ashamed of having made it.

  3. this is one of the best things anna’s ever made

  4. wow I wasn’t going to say anything about this because I thought it was self-evident how great it was? but that first poster made me want to say something, so uh: this was amazing! it made me cry (in a good way)! in particular I loved the writing style, and also everything else about it.

  5. I mean, when you elicit actual ANGER AND OFFENSE at an interactive love letter between two people in a relationship that is clearly deeply important to both their lives it kind of makes me feel sorry for you

    Probably the best thing you can do with your reaction instead of providing oddly hostile and insecure-sounding ‘feedback’ here is to really spend a few days looking inward and figure out why you experienced dislike so profound it prompted you to attempt to belittle the author herself

    Normally when people don’t like things they just stop doing them and shrug and move on

    Seriously do some soul searching you will find an important inner wound and you will probably come out healthier and more lovable for it

  6. God forbid anyone not like something someone else made?

  7. Okay, I overreacted a bit.

    Still, just because someone disagrees…

  8. Awesome punchline. I enjoyed reading this and I like Anna’s stuff, but this is really not a game. I think it could be vastly improved if it included some form of player interaction that wasn’t just clicking “next” or reading a detail sidebar. Classic Twine problem I guess. Just using Twine to tell a story, broken up into little bits, doesn’t automatically elevate something to GAME.

    The story jumps around in time somewhat arbitrarily so why not let the player decide (knowingly or unknowingly) how to move through the narrative? Or how about adding some branches where the player can make a lasting choice or two? If keeping it real is important, color code the text so choices that match Anna’s are clearly marked. Then the player can diverge from her true experience and explore a little creative fiction. There’s actually several opportunities for this in the story (cat crushage, person comfortage), but they lead nowhere.

    Better yet, ditch Twine and tell the story with fewer words in a way that puts me in the moment and lets me experience it more viscerally. A quick session playing Aegis Wing over FakeBoxLive, chatting with Daphny. A scene at the shitty party, trying to escape. A stealth segment to sneak into the hardware store, find the wrench, and unscrew the collar without getting caught. I dunno. It’s a lot of work sure, but this is what interactive games let us do. They don’t have to just talk at us about feelings, they can let the feelings emerge naturally from our own interactions with the world. Dys4ia did this pretty well so now reading a non-interactive Twine story feels like a step backwards to me.

    I wasn’t gonna say anything, but the way everyone jumped on that first poster made me think more about why I felt this (and a couple other recent Twine stories TBH) didn’t fit on a game site. Also my video rendering is taking forever and I’m just sitting around waiting.

    • The game needed more RPG elements. I can only relate to emotion when it’s metricized and displayed in a table.

      I enjoyed reading this and I like Anna’s stuff, but this is really not a game.

      But seriously, here’s a suggestion: Stop asking “is this a game?” because it’s a terrible, nonsense question and the answers can only be hegemonic. Start asking “what if I treat this as a game?”

      • i liked this, but i don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out that a linear series of paragraphs with the occasional branch that goes right back to the path isn’t really taking advantage of the medium at all. you could achieve the same effect in a book with footnotes.

        there are plenty of good twine games that avoid doing this, and i actually think this game didn’t overdo it (so maybe this isn’t the best place to talk about it) but i get the impression not liking this structure is a fast track to losing all your indie street cred or whatever.

        • Pretty sure making a linear level where you shoot other people in the head over and over until you reach the end of the map isn’t really taking advantage of the medium either, but that’s not slowing down Call of Duty, Halo, Doom, Borderlands, Far Cry, Battlefie-zzzzzzzzzzzz.

        • not liking this structure

          If you’re thinking like this you’ve already failed as a critic. There’s no ultimate structure for a game, so liking or disliking a structure per se – that’s taste, but it’s not critique. The critical approach is, does this structure work for this game? (Notably, there’s no way dys4ia’s structure would work for this game.)

          “I don’t like this game” is fine. dukope’s comment, and yours, go beyond this (and Critomatic Immunity’s goes beyond basic decency). “Good Twine games don’t do this” or “this is not a game” is not criticism, it’s dogma and orthodoxy.

          • that’s a fair point.

            i wanna point out that i don’t agree with dukope that this would be better if it wasn’t twine. this game did what it set out to do perfectly well. just venting i guess.

    • What the hell is elevating about something being a game?

    • Wow, tough crowd in here. I regret posting.

      I guess I made my point poorly. I didn’t mean to slight Anna or denigrate this work. Apologies if it came out that way. It’s a vivid story and unlike the first poster, I actually like her writing style.

      A STEALTH SEGMENT

      C’mon. Each of those things I describe would fit fine in a short-form game about this subject. I wouldn’t be surprised if even at the moment they were unscrewing the collar they felt like they were in some stealth game scenario. The fumbling with the wrench is a perfect analog to lockpicking.

      The game needed more RPG elements. I can only relate to emotion when it’s metricized and displayed in a table.

      Hey not fair. I didn’t go that far and the stuff I suggested is similar to what Anna herself has included in previous works. I honestly feel that a short scene playing an AEGIS-WING-alike while chatting with Virtua-Daphny could be a powerful reliving of this important moment in their lives. This is what Dys4ia did so well. It took experiences and events completely foreign to me and presented them in an interactive way that made me feel a much deeper connection than if I’d just read about it.

      But seriously, here’s a suggestion: Stop asking “is this a game?” because it’s a terrible, nonsense question and the answers can only be hegemonic. Start asking “what if I treat this as a game?”

      I get what you’re saying, but that’s just too noodly for me. I find it useful to say that a game should be interactive on some level beyond what’s present here. Maybe I misunderstand you but if I start treating everything as a game then literally everything would qualify and the word loses its meaning completely.

      What the hell is elevating about something being a game?

      Elevate was the wrong word. Should’ve just said “make”. The meaning I was going for was more like: Just because it’s created in Twine doesn’t mean it fits on a website about games. FreeIndieGames is not my site though and I can understand how this, being an enjoyable piece from a popular developer, is within the general interest of the readers here. I’m just making the mistake of sharing my opinions about games and interactivity.

      The video render still isn’t finished if you can believe it. I need a faster computer.

      • Each of those things I describe would fit fine in a short-form game about this subject.

        …She DID make a short-form game about this subject. You just played it.

        the stuff I suggested is similar to what Anna herself has included in previous works.

        Wait wait wait are you seriously gonna try and frame this as, “this isn’t enough like the last game you made”? THAT’S your critique?! H-have you SEEN Anna’s body of work? None of her games look like the last game she made. If you’re waiting around for Dys5ia or something, you’re going to be waiting a looooong time.

        I find it useful to say that a game should be interactive on some level beyond what’s present here.

        “A game is an experience created by rules.” — Anna Anthropy

        • I’m not sure why everyone is so reluctant to be critical here. We can say that this could have been better without getting into a pointless semantic discussion about the meaning of games, or aligning ourselves with the idiot above who has “pent-up rage against modern art.”

          dukope makes a great point here about the advantage of interactivity: it’s a great tool for creating empathy for people in situations that may be entirely foreign. I should add that that is also the advantage of great writing.

          But I also felt that AEGIS WING doesn’t succeed in either regard. It reads like a love letter — rife with in-jokes, uncomfortably intimate, and ultimately alienating to anyone not intended as its recipient. And if we’re not allowed to participate in the process of video-game-as-seduction, it’s hard to stay interested.

          I get that everyone wants to support each other’s work, but you have to be open to criticism. This story just doesn’t work for some people. And while it’s best to ignore people who just want to hurt nasty epithets, I think it’s a mistake to shut down thoughtful objections.

          (I say this as someone who generally likes anna anthropy’s work, particularly dys4ia.)

          • A key thing here is that people are not saying, ‘this didn’t work for me’ and leaving it as a personal opinion.

            People are saying, ‘this didn’t work for me…and therefore this isn’t a game/this game should have been a different game/my opinion is all by itself intellectual critique worthy of consideration.’

            It’s fine if a game just doesn’t hit you — eg, you say this game played to you like it was alienating for anyone not intended as the recipient. I’m definitely not the recipient, but this game made me cry and over-filled me with love for my partner and made me so happy that other people feel that way for their partners too.

            But I don’t think that me feeling that way (or any way) stands in for an actual critique. My critique is that I like how Anthropy used Twine passages of various lengths and loop-backs to simulate the way memories work, the way you can’t just remember *one* thing, the act of remembering branches and you don’t just remember a look or a game you remember your job during that game and the city where you saw that look and whether you were hungry or in mourning or elated or or or.

          • Well, saying that “this is not a game” shouldn’t be the same thing as saying “this is worthless.” It’s making the fairly obvious point that most work produced in Twine more closely resembles hypertext fiction — which encapsulates a large body of work stretching back to the late 1980′s — than what has been classified as a game on this site.

            And that’s not a bad thing, I think — after all hypertext fiction was getting pretty lonely before game designers recently picked it up and claimed it as their own. But traditionally hypertext fiction and games have worked in very different ways — and have been aimed at very different audiences — and it’s just not useful to treat them as if they were identical for critical purposes. After all, if your definition of game is “an experience created by rules,” you could call buying groceries a game, or using the toilet, or sitting in a prison cell. It’s technically accurate, but doesn’t evoke any truth about the actual experience itself.

            Look at the word “art,” a term which has gradually expanded to include so many definitions that it has become entirely meaningless. The word now only signifies an attitude, a vague sensibility, a certain high-culture caché — which is why most people avoid using it entirely.

            So much for avoiding the discussion about semantics. I guess what I’m saying is that obviously I don’t support people saying “that’s not a Game” in the same way that tourists say “that’s not Art” when they visit the MoMA — that is, if the purpose is to exclude from some imaginary canon. But that’s not what dukope was saying. He was offering some thoughts on game mechanics — not at all dissimilar to past work done by Anna Anthropy — that might better support the themes of the story. I imagine he would not have offered those thoughts if this website were called Free Hypertext Fiction.

            If we are discussing AEGIS WING as hypertext fiction, I agree with you that the structure did effectively evoke the sensation of remembering. But the writing just didn’t stir anything in me. I know Anna Anthropy’s not a bad writer, which is why I compared it to a love letter: something that one dashes off quickly without considering how it might read to a larger audience. If you find this story affecting because it reminds you of a relationship in your own life, that’s great. But I think you can recognize that for most people, sentences like “there’s a Twist(TM) – if our little spaceships fly near each other, they can attach, one on the top and one on the bottom, forming a larger, more powerful spaceship” may not exactly be finding the universal in the specific.

            I don’t say this to be dismissive, and I’m all in favor of personal sentiment in games. But I think craft matters too.

      • I sympathize with the points you’re making, but creating a game in the way you’re describing would imply a complicated, weeks-long development process, whereas this was more of a spur-of-a-moment thing (sparked by a weekend jam) that doesn’t seem like it was ever intended to take more than a couple of days. It probably even needed to be made in this way to maintain much of its immediacy. Again, I understand where you’re going, but letting an indie developer do their thing and value it for what it is is often the best support we can provide them, I think.

  9. i’m just imagining the first commenter standing with their family while they huddle around their dying pet, rolling their eyes like “omg this is sooo cornball can you believe it”

    whatever, this made me cry, i love you both.

  10. Ah, memories. At least something good came out of Aegis Wing :) This is great. A love story for the Xbox generation, that could only appropriately be told through words on a screen!

    • Also, everything could indeed qualify as a game. It’s a question of attitude. Life is games within games, if you choose to look at it that way.

  11. this is a beautiful game and it made me cry and continue crying for several minutes after playing it. it’s able to express something really special and cool about love better than I’ve ever seen it expressed before.

  12. I think the main thing to complain about in this game is that the ending CLEARLY rips off How To Speak Atlantean, which Anthropy has DEFINITELY played.

  13. i thought the ending was stupid. but i liked a lot of the middle. and that’s the most important part isn’t it? so whatever you get away with it kinda. :P

  14. Very cool, I enjoyed the experience.

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