I was struck by a brief phrase in Ade’s review of Glimmer–“a short, out of the box Twine UI”–because it directly stated a previously unarticulated concern I often have when looking at the shorter Twine games. When I first open a game, and I see the standard-issue Harlowe or Sugarcube format, I think to myself, “I do not have high hopes for this story.”
I am literally judging a book by its cover. It is unkind, uncharitable, and gatekeeping-y. I should instead be reading the words and judging those. Still, I find it hard to dispossess myself of this prejudice. I think it anyway.
By my reckoning, there are about 7 games in this Comp that use the default style, which accounts for ~10% of the entries.
Again, this has nothing to do with the content itself. But I click on a game like Esther’s, January, or The Thick Table Tavern–none of which I’ve yet played–and they draw me in. I see the care in the author’s design before I read word one.
To put it differently, if one were to go to a social event where others will be well-dressed, should one arrive in something other jeans?
In fact, I wonder if the issue is almost aphoristic: A well-styled Twine story can do poorly in the Comp, but an unstyled Twine story rarely does well.
I’m curious how much of this is an unstated assumption of the voting body at large and how much is my own hang-up. If it’s the former, I think it’d be helpful to let new authors (these stories likewise seem to share a thread of being written by newcomers to the Comp) know that even if the graphic design of a Twine story shouldn’t matter, it does. At a minimum, brief tweaks to some of the fundamental CSS (background, text, and link colors) might be beneficial.
I’m likely confusing correlation and causation, and there are other factors at play. And these thoughts, again, feel gatekeeping-y and defy the everyone-is-welcome ethos of Twine. But ultimately, these games have been submitted to a competition, and they will be judged. And perhaps pre-judged.
I’m happy to have someone provide contemporary counterexamples. I’m equally happy to be told to [[go to Curmudgeon’s Corner]].