February 27, 2013 10:55 PM | John Polson
Shawn Trautman's Cherry Creek is a short, simple Twine game that verbally paints a picture of a homeless character's fanciful escape into the imagination to deal with the life-threatening situation.
Sharing that much spoils the first few Twine-scenes already, so I won't say more about the story. However, I will say the inspiration for the story came from Trautman's daily bike commute along Cherry Creek, a small river in Denver, Colorado. He says that the river is cut off from the streets above by a large flood wall, and there is a "fairly sizable" homeless population that uses this space to sleep.
We talk about the game in a very spoiler-filled fashion after the jump. Play Cherry Creek first, if you don't want to spoil the experience.
So, did I die in the end?
Shawn: You are correct - the protagonist/player dies in the end, and while that is certainly tragic, I envisioned him experiencing bliss in his final moments, mostly unaware of his death. In his mind, he is exactly where he wants to be, and everything is perfect, making an otherwise horrific death a little more bearable or palatable for the player. As an aside, some of the sensations he's feeling in the last fantasy portion (chills, brain misfiring), are meant to be taking place in the real world. His body is shutting down and, as humans do, his brain is incorporating those events into the dream fiction. I'm not sure if that's obvious or obscure, so I thought I would mention it.
I don't think there's a way to lose or arrive at a happier ending.
You are also correct that there is no fail state and no alternate endings in Cherry Creek. This was my first time using Twine and my first time doing interactive fiction, so it is fairly basic. There are occasional branching paths, and there's some content it's possible to miss entirely, but it is ultimately a linear story. You start and end at the same places, and experience much of the same story in between. It was a story I had thought a lot about prior, so when I got down to business, it came together extremely quickly - probably less than four hours total.
What did you set out to achieve with Cherry Creek?
The goal for me was simply to tell a story that people could connect with. I didn't set out for this to be a "political" or "issue" game - though if it makes people think about the homeless in a different or more sympathetic way, that's a lovely side effect. I have never been homeless myself, but I did grow up poor, and my parents experienced times of homelessness before I was born. The inspiration for the story came from my bike commute. I ride along Cherry Creek (a small river that runs through Denver, Colorado) every day to and from work. The river is cut off from the streets above by a large flood wall and there is a fairly sizable homeless population that uses this relatively safe space to sleep.
Recently, a city ordinance was passed in Denver that outlawed "outdoor overnight camping" - a political way of saying homelessness - and threatened these people with jail time. Signs have gone up all over the Cherry Creek trail advising them of this, and it really got me thinking about them. These people have nowhere to go, and nowhere they're allowed to be. They keep getting shuttled from one place to the next, with people constantly telling them to go away, that they're not wanted, that they're dangerous. And all they want is to be safe and warm. And that's the feeling I wanted to get across in the game. In the end, as bad as it got, I just wanted my character to be safe and warm and loved. And since that was unlikely in the real world, I made it that way in his mind.