When it come to making games in the classroom, my go-to tool for newcomers is Twine: it’s relatively easy to get started and make something that works, but it can also represent complex mechanics and logic. I recently had the fun of joining the Indiana Humanities celebration of Frankenstein to run a Twine-driven workshop (pictured above) to build games inspired by the themes and journey of the classic novel. In our Frankenstein workshop, I asked the cohort to think about the process of making a text game through the lens of reshaping a familiar story: this can be a great first project in Twine, as the framework of a novel can provide settings, characters, and plot points that can be translated into Twine’s framework of passages (the stuff that displays on each “page”) and links (the essential connections that make the nonlinear narrative come to life). The very act of putting some of those elements into pieces requires the game designer to rethink the very organization and outcomes. It’s also one of my favorite assignments to use with fairytales, as even if everyone works from the same story the games can end up very different.
If you’re new to Twine and want a more detailed sense of how those core elements work, check out my past ProfHacker posts:
- “Starter Exercises for Interactive Storytelling”
- “Making Story Games with Twine 2.0"
- “Games in the Classroom with The Twine Cookbook”
Note that older posts (both here on Profhacker and on the web in general) will frequently refer to Twine 1.x, so pay attention to dates and versions when looking for Twine resources.
Preparing for this workshop gave me an excuse to take a deeper dive into the current capabilities and advantages of Twine 2’s story formats, and particularly Harlowe, the newer format that has emerged as the default and one of the best-documented options for Twine 2 projects. When I say Harlowe 2 is a story format for Twine 2, it’s important to realize that the word “story format” is referring to much more than visuals. When you pick a story format, you’re also committing to a logic system and a way of thinking that will fundamentally structure the project: while it’s possible to change your mind after starting, it will often require rewriting a lot of the project. Here are a few more resources for getting started with Harlowe 2 and Twine 2:
Harlowe 2 has thus far struck me as a really good pick for literary projects: there’s a lot of built-in ways to manipulate both the appearance of text and the pacing or revealing of text sequences using the format’s concept of hooks and macros. If you’re planning a class project or workshop using Twine 2 for digital humanities or other transdisciplinary exercises, Harlowe 2 is worth careful consideration.
Do you use Twine, either in the classroom or otherwise? Have you tried out Harlowe 2? Please share your thoughts in the comments.