[Comp G] You try not to think about it

Had this idea playing around in my head for a while, of showing the day-to-day anxieties and other stresses of being a woman. Often we're not even acknowledging them ourselves because it's just normal.

Anyway, this is the first part of the story and I plan on finishing it by the end of the month, but feedback now would be useful to find out if I'm hitting the right marks in terms of what you're feeling or thinking about the experience in the story.

First Twine game I'm publishing (second I've written in any sense) so there's nothing fancy in terms of HTML or effects.

https://dammit.itch.io/not-anxious-just-woman?secret=mbxXFKOg6hphx7xprLC0N90zGc

Comments

  • I just wanted some toast! :D

    Can't wait to play the rest, such a cliffhanger when the screen just went black ( ...to be continued).
    Thanked by 2dammit Boysano
  • haha, yeah, I'm actually thinking of adding a third breakfast option :P Thanks for playing!
  • Nice start!

    By the way on the getting out of bed screen neither of my browsers have a scrollbar, and the last line with the action element is below the fold.
  • roguecode said:
    Nice start!

    By the way on the getting out of bed screen neither of my browsers have a scrollbar, and the last line with the action element is below the fold.
    Thanks for letting me know. I'll get that fixed asap.
  • Same problem as roguecode ;) Hacked the window so I could keep on playing.

    Really like where this is going. This is the kind of personal subjective experience that's hard to come by. Also I have so many questions (make-up fascinates me)? Things like why am I buying tampons AND panty liners (also these are scented? Holy crap. Are there different, uh, scents)? These are the kind of things which are (to me at least) voyeuristically interesting but as a man I have no clue about. ;)
  • I think I'm having the same problem. The last line I see is "You roll over, put your feet on the floor and hit the off button on the alarm." and then I have no options to continue with. I also found Restarting results in a 404 error.

    Also, what cat sleeps on the floor nearby when there's a bed or even your face to sleep on?
  • edited
    Same problem as roguecode ;) Hacked the window so I could keep on playing.

    Really like where this is going. This is the kind of personal subjective experience that's hard to come by. Also I have so many questions (make-up fascinates me)?
    Makeup terrifies me :P
    Things like why am I buying tampons AND panty liners (also these are scented? Holy crap. Are there different, uh, scents)?
    Because tampons aren't perfect and you don't want to stain your underwear. Also, some ladies use panty liners all the time as a way to keep your underwear nicer for longer. Yes, there are different scents... generally each brand just has one (as far as I am aware)
    These are the kind of things which are (to me at least) voyeuristically interesting but as a man I have no clue about. ;)
    I'm glad it's interesting. It's quite a weird thing to actually take apart something as mundane as a morning routine and explore every minute of it to share with someone. If I were writing a story about something else, I would totally gloss over all these details. My intention now is actually to add more details. I realised I forgot to get the character to brush their teeth before going to work, for example.
    Fengol said:
    I think I'm having the same problem. The last line I see is "You roll over, put your feet on the floor and hit the off button on the alarm." and then I have no options to continue with. I also found Restarting results in a 404 error.

    Also, what cat sleeps on the floor nearby when there's a bed or even your face to sleep on?
    I'm sorry. I will fix this the next time I work on it - I've spent the weekend not being quite well so didn't add to this on Sunday :(

    While this is not auto-biographical in nature, obviously I'm borrowing from personal experience. My cat loves lying on the yoga matt which is on the floor next to my bed. That's when she's not trying to sleep on my face. Delicate balance...
    Thanked by 1TheFuntastic
  • Through itch.io I've enabled scrollbars so hopefully that solves the issue for now :)
    Thanked by 1Fengol
  • I was going to pharmacy when I got a blank screen... Not sure if that's as far as you've gotten or it's a bug.

    Loving it so far, but I feel like I've put on too much make-up just for work. I only have my wife and past girl friends to go on, but it feels a bit much for an accountant. Maybe an option to skip some and quip about feeling undone? I love the comments about running out of supplies though, I hear that often.

    I will get my wife to play this and add her comments.
  • edited
    @Fengol: Why would you think that that's too much? Remember that a lot of makeup it put on in a way to look like it's not there. You would probably be surprised at how much makeup people around you might be wearing.
    Also, it's a fairly personal thing. Some women won't ever leave the house without the full works while others might only throw on a little bit.

    Also, you should get to buying stuff at the pharmacy - it ends with booking a doctor's appointment (or thinking about it at least).
  • edited
    Ok, I was a little bit confused, I thought I was still on my way to the Pharmacy.

    Maybe update the line "There's a few things you need to pick up and you might as well get them all now." to "There's a few things you need to pick up here at the pharmacy and you might as well get them all now."

    I did get as far as needing to book an appointment. Playing it again, there's not much choice there yet. Is there more branching planned?

    My wife pointed out that muesli is spelt wrong :P
  • Also PS: Muesli is way high in sugar unless you get something specifically without sugar added. I now eat corn flakes because the sugar free stuff is about as fun as cardboard.
  • Muesli - my nemesis word :(

    And yep, I know all about trying to find sugar free breakfasts. Sugar free weetbix has to be the worst things ever (and also, I'd never thought of weetbix having sugar cause it's awful anyway).
  • @Fengol - Yes a little branching will happen. The reason there isn't much branching yet is because it's still early in the story. The earlier I branch the more confounding the branches become. Also, there's a degree to which no matter what you do, you are still going to get dressed, go to the pharmacy and go to work because there are things that I want to show the player in those environments.
    Thanked by 1Fengol
  • This is cool! :D

    Dunno if it's something you'd want to try, but I've found in a lot of branching story games they give you multiple choices that actually take you to the same place/next page anyway. You may or may not keep track of what the player actually chose, but just having the game offer the choice helps a bit with making it not feel linear, while not resulting in actual branches. And then, as long as there's consequence for the more important branches (and a couple of the minor ones to make the other minor ones feel as if they matter), it feels pretty good. (Although unfortunately players might feel cheated if they play through the second time and realise that some of their choices didn't matter, a la Telltale games.)
    Thanked by 1dammit
  • @Elyaradine - Absolutely where this is going, though ultimately the end game will have serious branching with a couple endings to the game (as I'm envisioning it - though we'll see how scope and time works out).
  • I like the idea of exploring a day in the shoes of a woman but sounds more like I just heard my wife telling me what she did. So I would expect meaningful choices.

    I now wonder if makeup makes woman better artists due to all the practice?

  • I really like the structure this is taking so far! Not so concerned about whether or not it branches (though I'd probably encourage the linear experience, to tell just one powerful story instead of attempting several).

    The way that you list many things in a staggered manner is feeling like one of your strongest empathic devices, funnily enough. There's nothing quite like forcing readers to pause a beat while you Add. One. Word. At. A. Time!

    And the level of hyper-detail feels excellent right now, if it's not absolutely exhausting to write I think you should go back to the scenes you've covered and think of even more mundanities before even stepping out the door. :P Maybe.
    Thanked by 1dammit
  • Actually, a lovely device if you can work it in:

    Trying to build an "inventory system" into your Twine game, but instead of usable items, it's actually just a list of everything you have to remember / keep track of / attend to. And the list never shrinks, just grows.

    If you let this list swell to ridiculous proportions over the course of the game, and give the player opportunities to view it on occasion, I think it could be a powerful complement to what you're trying to do.
  • @Nandrew :D Thanks for all that feedback. Definitely am going back and adding more details - including, as Jem suggested to me personally, more of the actual inner dialogue of the character too. I'm planning a full overhaul and rewrite over this weekend and so hopefully will get a better story with more details. I'm glad you liked my staggered list - I felt that forcing the player to actually click each item forced the player to consider each item of the list as well because you cannot skip or skim read the list this way.

    I love your second idea of the inventory system, but I don't think I'll fit it in scope-wise just yet. A slight deviation in how I'm writing the story (which will also change the title) I think will go a tiny bit in that direction so hopefully you'll enjoy the next build :)
  • It's good. I like this.

    Uhm... Don't really have much feedback that hasn't been mentioned. Keep doing what you're doing. Just want to reiterate what @Nandrew mentioned about the way you stagger the list of stuff to do or buy is what really hit home for me in
    dammit said:
    showing the day-to-day anxieties and other stresses of being a woman
  • Update! The link in the first post should still work, but adding it here again: https://dammit.itch.io/not-anxious-just-woman?secret=mbxXFKOg6hphx7xprLC0N90zGc

    As you may have noticed, I've changed the title for my entry. The storyline is essentially staying the same (and for those who have played it, the game still hasn't gotten further in the timeline). I have, however, rewritten pretty much every bit and added a lot more content to the story so far. There are also a number of choices (not a large number, just a number), including THREE breakfast options (now also all legit choices).

    I've changed the style of writing a little. The first one was a very sort of punchy style - one sentence etc. But I felt that if I wanted to start exploring the thoughts of the character, I needed to add a bit more substance to my writing. Let me know if it does get too tedious now.

    Promise the next update will see you actually getting to *work*. And even some after work activities.
  • Sadly, not going to be able to add any more to this title before the end of the month - life happened :P BUT I do intend on taking judging feedback and giving Twine a bit more attention for a while. A good possibility of extending this project as practice.
    Thanked by 2vince Fengol
  • I hope you continue to work on this after the comp! It's a pity you couldn't get more in before the deadline.
  • Very nice work @dammit, opened my eyes a little.
  • A very quick Postmortem

    What did I learn?
    Firstly, and most frustratingly, I learnt that I very much underestimate how long it takes to write things. Having an overall plan in my head and heading in that direction was good - but it was only when I sat down and actually had to write each particular step that I found out how much work there was.

    I suppose this isn't a problem I usually encounter with writing as I often skip the details as my usual style - letting the reader fill in a lot of the blanks. So, in a way, this was also a good exercise in challenging my own usual style of writing (short stories, anyway).

    What worked well?
    I think the thing I'm most happy about - and this is based on the feedback really - is that my emphasising lists and repetition and each item by forcing players to actually click on each item in a list or go to a new screen for each small thing worked well to drive the point home. It's so easy to skim read a list, or skim over "putting makeup on", that I had to figure a way to make the reader/player see each item. In that, I could have gone further and been more verbose. For example, I don't describe in any detail the process of putting several blobs of base on your face and then rubbing it in and trying to blend it into your neck before moving on*.

    *See point one about more and more details that could really be added. I could have spent many more months just working on the current bit of the story I've written.

    Results
    I'll definitely be trying my hand at a few more twine games. I feel like these might be the right place for me at the moment - an interesting narrative space to explore and (given the feedback) something that others are willing to engage in. Will wait for judges feedback :)
  • edited
    I played it and enjoyed it; like the others I hope you complete it.

    I thought the linear progression was effective, because it allows you to emphasize something in each page. Too much branching would take away from this effect. In addition to making the player ponder items on lists individually, I like the rhythmic variation that it brings (long long long short short short long...). I like your writing style too; it's straightforward and unpretentious (many Twine stories have that niggly writer's thing of "trying too hard"; yours doesn't).

    Some ideas if you do decide to work more on it: There are some opportunities for dramatizing certain things a bit. Money is central to the story; you could consider revealing the pay difference at a more interesting moment when it really hits the character (the moment of finding out, or a moment when the other person is spending his extra money on something you cannot afford, or pulling in next to John(?)'s BMW).

    Similarly, although it's a "mundane" morning of everyday choices, the choices have consequences, and perhaps you can emphasize their significance somehow and turn up the tension knob - maybe by making things that could happen eminent without necessarily going into how they DO happen: "Will Henry make a comment again if I wear these shoes?" and then the internal thoughts walking past his desk, or something like that, just better. In real-life these things do happen, but I'm thinking here of Hitchcock's bomb under the table scenario, which could fit nicely with the "things to not think about" theme.

    The actual eating of the breakfast is not so important; that could be reduced to make more room for going more into the choosing (and consequences, perhaps later in the story). Maybe the dream sequence at the beginning is unnecessary; I got the impression it's to provide a bench mark against which to measure the real-life anxieties, I am not sure it succeeds for this purpose, and the story may be tighter without it.

    The inventory system idea @Nandrew proposed is a cool one. It could be called "Things not to think about", and a nice touch would be to add an item each time you click "You try not to think about it", and perhaps change the angle slightly to make all the items have emotional hooks ("John gets paid more than me", "My legs are not shaven", "I cannot afford this lipstick", "This will make me look old in 5 years", "This will make me fat", etc.). I'm not sure how Twine works, I would definitely try to have that list always on screen if possible - the things not to think about should always be there. Anyways, I realize it may be out of scope, just wanted to give it a vote.
    Thanked by 1dammit
  • This was different...this was.....try not to think about it :)

    Thanks for making feel bad about my chocolate brownie breakfast (true story). I hope you work on this more when you get a chance. Feel a bit robbed that it didn't have a "proper" ending. Like the writing style. Well done!!
    Thanked by 1dammit
  • edited
    @Hermantulleken - thanks for the massive amount of feedback. It's definitely something I've read closely and will be considering a lot for next versions :) Thanks for taking the time.

    One thing I found interesting:

    The actual eating of the breakfast is not so important; that could be reduced to make more room for going more into the choosing (and consequences, perhaps later in the story).
    Obviously, I haven't finished the game and perhaps it becomes a lot more apparent when I do, but food choices land up being a big aspect of being a women (I believe...people with different experiences are welcome to comment, and of course I cannot speak for every woman ever). This comes back to the whole thing about having to look a certain way and dieting sort of being a requirement of being female. While I don't actually diet, I do believe that I spend more time thinking about food than, perhaps, my male friends do. I don't count calories, but comments about both being too skinny (when i was younger) and being too fat (yep, I have been told that) along with constant media images and magazines pushing the "athletic look" and "healthy lifestyle" make food a focus point.

    Anyway, because makeup was questioned earlier, I thought this video might be relevant. I mean, would you believe just seeing this woman at the end of the video that 36 products were used to create that look?

  • So, as promised, I am working on this particular project. With all the feedback - as well as my own ideas - there's a fair bit of work still ahead. Today I decided to try adding sounds so this is actually what I want to get feedback on now. I've added sounds to the beginning of the story (up until breakfast) and I want to know if that is actually adding to the game or not. I'm in two minds about it personally - part of me thinks that any noise detracts from the reading and your imagination of the events being described and part of me thinks I should really be making more use of the digital medium.

    Anyway, thoughts appreciated. Here's the link again:
    https://dammit.itch.io/not-anxious-just-woman?secret=mbxXFKOg6hphx7xprLC0N90zGc

    (and just a heads up, no additional content has been added, if you're looking for that. I need to know first if the sound thing is functional or not before writing more because it changes how things are written. Also taken out the initial dream sequence)
  • I tried to have a look but got a "The developer has not uploaded a game yet..." error message :(
  • Might help if I upload the correct file... thanks @francoisvn :P Should be working now
  • The sounds seem to work from a technical perspective without issue. In terms whether they add to or detract from the medium, I'm not 100% sure. I thought the alarm added something, but the phone notification was almost a bit corny. I suspect that overall the sounds will help, but you'll need to take special effort to make sure they are good, which might be more trouble than they're worth. Maybe only adding a few noticeable sounds and some soft ambient effects would help. I imagine well-designed sound will allow the player to make stronger associations, but I'm no expert here.
  • The sounds seem to work from a technical perspective without issue. In terms whether they add to or detract from the medium, I'm not 100% sure. I thought the alarm added something, but the phone notification was almost a bit corny. I suspect that overall the sounds will help, but you'll need to take special effort to make sure they are good, which might be more trouble than they're worth. Maybe only adding a few noticeable sounds and some soft ambient effects would help. I imagine well-designed sound will allow the player to make stronger associations, but I'm no expert here.
    That's pretty valid. I'll wait on some more opinions but I'm guessing that I would need the volunteer help of an actual sound person to make it really worthwhile...

  • I think the sounds will add a lot to the immersion of the story and like @francoisvn mentioned help with associations. I like the alarm, it's jarring and annoying just like the text suggest. It would be cool if it just kept ringing up until you clicked the link. I disagree the phone sound didn't seem corny, I thought the cat sound was the corny one. All in all I think sound will be a bit tricky to time because of reading speeds but there points you can really play with especially with clicking the links to next story point. Or key words that may seem to have something more but just play a sound. I think it's worth looking into further because I believe it'll add a lot to the immersion.
    Thanked by 1dammit
  • Finally got round to playing this! :D

    I really liked it! :D

    I loved how you used the "try not to think about it" line as a hypertext motif - became really effective :).
    It's so good, that I want you to perhaps push it even further? Maybe towards the end you have each page have "try not to think about it" on it, with the overall text decreasing on each page until you only have "Try not to think about it" followed by a page with just "try". Then it finishes? This could work neatly as an ending.

    I like your final page because it's brutal and blunt- it really drives home the point after you've just spent 5-10 minutes getting ready, and then this aisle of staring woman and barking headlines tells you it was all for nought. It works nicely that it's the longest(?) page in the game too - it literally feels intimidating. I think it ending right there is great, but you could also have a little bit of a denouement where players absorb your blunt climax - the quick few pages with the "try not to think about it" link to "try" could work really well for this, but it's just a random idea :).

    I also enjoyed the section with the applying of make-up - it works particularly well because it's prefaced by a collection of pages with a lot of text on it. The quick and short nature of the make-up pages is a nice pacing contrast. In addition, on these pages specifically, the hypertext links are spread all over the page, making the player move their mouse all over the page to progress. This frantic mouse motion feels in tune with the hurried make-up application, which is great :).

    Also, perhaps use links for emphasis more? Individual links for 'sugar-free' in the breakfast page could have been cool - perhaps they lead to a simple page saying "I miss sugar every day." or something simple yet poignantly funny :) . Perhaps replace 'whole-wheat' with 'sugar-free' too? It's completely silly, but it's funny because of that, and emphasises the overly healthy nature of the food ("lol, sugar-free bread? That's ridiculous").

    Not sure how I feel about the sounds. They certainly add some context - but perhaps be wary of using them as a crutch? Why are you adding the sounds instead of using words :)? Hypertext fiction is a very pure medium, I think, so adding sounds almost breaks the immersion of reading the text for me and I don't think you need them - the writing is good and gets across the point excellenty! :)

    Random Aside
    I haven't done any hypertext writing yet, but i am really fascinated about the medium. Some other general things I thought about while playing:

    - How the mouse moves around the screen is important in hypertext, I think, it seems? :D It can add emphasis and contrast to the words. Having the links be all over the screen feels chaotic and complex, having them in the same place for a few pages feels linear and straightforward. Thinking about where, physically, to place links could have an interesting impact :).

    - Shape of words. Words are the hypertext's core, but not just their meaning - I think how the words, sentences, and paragraphs end up being shaped can also have interesting effects on the player (just like in 'normal' writing). I think you already consider this, based on the final page and the makeup sequence, but you can perhaps tweak this more in the first half of the game? :) Shape can make pages feel intimidating or simple - scary or loose. How you break up sentences into paragraphs can maybe provide an insight into the character. IE: In the beginning of the game as you're waking, the paragraphs are all 1-2 sentences long, split into lots of paragraphs per a page. Later, as you wake up, the sentences group together more, having bigger, but fewer paragraphs per a page. Then by the end of the game, the sentences break apart.

    in sum, I really loved this! Love some of the writing choices you've made, and I think you're using the hypertext medium in cool ways :D.
    Thanked by 1dammit
  • So, surprise* update!

    *Not really a surprise since it needs some work before A MAZE. Link in the top post.

    Anyway, I've added what I see mentally as "chapter two" in this piece and will hopefully have finished up to "chapter 3" and possibly 4 (but don't hold me to it) by Thursday next week.

    Some of you may notice that although I considered a lot of feedback, I've actually kept the system much the same. The game/story is linear with a few opportunities to make some decisions along the way. In some cases, certain decisions leave you experiencing or not experiencing certain aspects of the story - whole chunks. Maybe that creates replayability. Maybe not.

    I also have not added an inventory system for the things you are trying not to think about. After a lot of consideration, I realised that that missed the point entirely. The point is that in my own life - and I expect in many other women's lives - we do not need a list written down for us. We are constantly reminded of all these things that we do not want to think about. We cannot escape it. The best we can do is try not to think about it and just get on with things.

    That's the point of this piece.

    And I must admit that it has been hard to put together. I do not like writing about these things. I do not like reminding myself about some personal experiences I've had or conversations I've had with friends. I do not like thinking about a lot of this stuff because all of it is basically crap and anxiety producing.

    So if I don't quite get to a chapter 4, you'll understand why. It's literally because I don't want to think about this kind of thing right now.
    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
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