“With Those We Love Alive” is a hypertext E-lit piece and Twine game by Porpentine. The title is derived from the Bhagavad Gita:
“Better to live on beggar’s bread with those we love alive, than taste their blood in rich feasts spread, and guiltily survive.”
It is a nightmarish experience in an unknown world. You are given a name. You are living a life in the game. In a world that is full of self-harm, abuse, and violence. You were asked to get works for a monstrous empress. Her abdomen is swollen, and she smells like dead candy. Like a monster. You had a chance to explore into the field. In the palace, there are balcony, chambers, garden, workshop, and city. You could explore into those places, but you would find you are returned to the palace again and again. You are isolated, waiting to be noticed, waiting for something to happen. Then you had to sleep in your chambers to advance the process. You got messages. You get works to do. You were employed by the empress to do works for her, such as making a gift for the ceremony or designing a weapon for her, although these tasks seemed to make no sense. The empress hunted people. Everyone was fearful to be the victims so they did not dare to question the custom. It is a dream of trauma. You went through it.
During the adventure, I was asked to draw sigils on my skin of: New beginnings, Relationship with the chasm, Shame, Insight, Influencing this outcome, Pain, Severing, A thought loop, and what I feel. Those sigils are like imprinting about what I suffered and experienced. Tangible and compelling. This interaction process really is a distinct feature of this E-lit piece. Drawing sigils as a part of the gameplay is an impressive interaction for me. Physically. The influence is really profound. Sigils that readers draw on their skin represent their emotional symbols. Check out here for sigils. You will see various kinds of sigils that people draw. Like a exposure of what inner traumas they have. They are physical remarks of what violence and trauma bring to us.
Here are my sigils
A question is asked if we are part of the world or alone. Does being part of the world with others mean conniving the society full of abusing? I am not sure, but in this world I think it does. If we choose to be part of the world, we would participate in the eradication of the princess-spores, put them to death. We would be merciful if we choose to be alone and separated from others. In this mundanely monstrous world, You work for the cruel empress. She has supreme power in her field. “Power is wounded by anything that refuses to be destroyed by it”. If we choose to be apart, we are the ones that were not destroyed by power.
In the note of this piece, the author writes: “Punishment isn’t for people who do bad things. Punishment is an energy that flows toward the weak, predictable as water. Punishment happens to those who cannot stop it from happening.” Then the result would be that those who fail to question the bad things get the punishment. Like the following picture shows.
She comes. Sedina, with whom You hate the world together. You have most of the conversations with her in this game. She is considered as the representative of hope in some ways, but it is she that told you that “hope is a shameful thing”. I have a personal estimation that maybe she is another me. She came to remind me of hope in this dark world. She reminds me of my bravery to get over my trauma. Recover. And get energized.
Sedina, so as “I”, see this place clearly. We are not what we choose to be. We are trapped and we have no power. This point also is conveyed in the playing procedure. With many only one-choice hypertexts, we seemed to follow a fixed path of life. We are pushed to move forward. We have no choice.
Sedina has scars on her appearance. She said: “What they did to me on the outside, they did to you on inside”. It sounds like the trauma that they did to “me” is inner and spiritual. The trauma is very deep. Porpentine states: “In most media there’s an unspoken belief that feminine lifeforms can’t survive on their own, can’t have spaces of their own, can’t have relationships of their own. I try to go against this with basically everything I make.” We can survive through those traumas.
My favorite part of the game (also the most confusing part) is about distilling the dreams of children. “My” (the character’s) mother gave “me” a cup to drink and “I” will no long dream. Is it another type of adult abuse? When children lose their ability to dream, they lose innocence. They are forced to grow. I kind of feel that way. It is vague to tell but also have connections with previous contents. It is a ritual, at least to my estimation. Like the ceremony of empress, like the re-applying process of hormone. “She gave you the cup. You drank it, because she was your mother.” Very customary like a routine in your life.
Living in a world full of abuse, violence, and harms, “every day is damage”. That is the main theme in the world of “With Those We Love Alive”. It calls back some dark old days of the players. Anyway, a very impressive game.
BTW, I strongly recommended you to read Kelli’s blog posts about this piece. Her first blog post is mentioned by the Porpentine in Tumblr. It is a an abuse-centered analysis of this piece. https://helterskelliter.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/because-i-am-alive/
Porpentine’s Tumblr: http://porpentine.tumblr.com/
Porpentine. With Those We Love Alive. http://slimedaughter.com/games/twine/wtwla/