What if all the big choices you’ve made in your life, whether they were a mistake or not, were publicly displayed on your body for everyone to see?
In the interactive fiction game With Those We Love Alive, you get to experience this first hand as the game invites you to draw sigils, or symbols on your body as you progress through the game. It’s a free twine game created by Porpentine Charity Heartscape, who is a 2016 Creative Capital Emerging Fields awardee amongst many other things.
The game is set in a dark and monstrous world filled with dead people where you are forced to serve a monstrous empress. The first colorful description of her reads “Her larval skin floats across the lake like the carcass of a pale leviathan” setting the tone for this dark, terrifying world of death and agony.
You live at her palace, but are free to move around to a few different locations such as a lake, the nearby town, and parts of the palace. You are ordered to craft different weapons or ornaments for the empress every now and then, otherwise you are all alone and just waiting for someone to give you a task. In this dark and sad world, the game progresses while you sleep. Every few days you are told to “reapply hormones” and you inject them into your thigh.
The writing is outstanding, and Porpentine manages to paint this terrifying world vividly and creatively. A world where we are constantly seeking attention, trying to be heard and being judged by our actions. It’s a world where hope has gone to die, but somehow you manage to find it again. It shows the ugly reality of surviving in an oppressive system. The sigils that I was being told to draw on myself somehow blurred the line between digital and physical experience, and I thought it was kind of fun, until I realized that I was marking myself as a result of violence and oppressive actions.
The game was inspired by mob violence, trash struggle, C-PTSD, and child abuse. Visiting this beautiful and terrible world made me question everything I know to be true about the world we live in. I come out of this experience with nine sigils eternally marked on my arm (not really, but still!), and deep in thought about who I am as a person.
– Olivia B.