With Those We Love Alive

by Porpentine profile and Brenda Neotenomie

Surreal
2014

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Number of Reviews: 6
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1-6 of 6


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Life Changing, December 21, 2022

"With Those We Love Alive" was the first piece of online interactive fiction of this kind that I remember engaging with. Before it there had been webcomics, DeviantArt choose-your-own stories, Quizilla supernatural romances, online forum roleplays. But even among all of those, this was different. I got a marker and stared at the screen, sucked into this world surrounded by the darkness of my room, navigating imagination through the kind of ever-fraying sleep deprivation that is unique to schools.

I was an impressionable young creative who had a mind soaked in unreality and a longing for things as strange as I was. I played through much of the story in one sitting, within one night, and I believe I came to some conclusion after another day of play. Two nights, and even though it was eventually tucked away into some obscure corner of memory that I no longer have access to, I cannot overstate the deep emotional and inspirational impact it left on me. I have never forgotten this story-- not its name, its themes, its format, its style of worldbuilding. I was starstruck by how it constructed itself out of the mundane grotesque, how it structured the story navigation to allow for repetitive exploration while also rewarding curiosity. I had never considered before the possibility of creating a story like this, in this style, or having these kinds of themes. It was also, I believe, the first time I had ever encountered a canonically trans protagonist. I do not recall whether I was aware of my own genderfluidity at the time, but witnessing our main character apply what is explicitly an estrogen patch in the form of a glyph awakened something in my mind that would have remained neglected for years otherwise. I hadn't known that this sort of artistic expression or worldbuilding experimentation was allowed. I hadn't known it was possible.

All of that to say, now that I do have an account on this forum and have come across this game again, I did replay some of it. I have a more nuanced appreciation now that I am mature, but age and experience could never be what influence this review. No matter what my more modern experience of the game is, I would be doing everyone a grand disservice if I did not allow my younger self to finally be able to express the way this game bound itself onto a part of their soul. With each new symbol I was instructed to draw on my body, I was absorbing the game and this experience deeper and deeper into my skin, until it embedded itself upon my artistic psyche forevermore.

Thank you, Brenda and Porpentine, for being such a formative part of my growth. I hope to be able to pay homage to this gift you have given me with my own creative works in the future.

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A masterpiece, April 1, 2020

Porpentine uses the same device than in Howling Dogs : a place around all "events" (including wandering) take place, but she plays even more on time, forcing you for instance to sleep or meditate if you want to advance in the game. This apparent loss of time helps you to appreciate more the following events, until the freeing end, which the fantastic world finally appears like the shape taken by sorrow. Another brilliant Twine game (with a good sound design as well).

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A dreamlike dark fantasy in service to the empress, June 10, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is one of Porpentine's best games, by her own admission and the acclaim of others.

It has music and takes the unusual tack of having you draw symbols on your skin as the game progresses. I chose not to do so, but many who have played have done so, and you can search for some of their images.

The game casts you as an artificer for a massive, insectoid alien queen. Isolation and body change are themes, as you wander a city and castle and spend time on yourselves.

The game has music and interesting styling. The story includes friendship and love and bizarre, alien history.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
the best homage I can think of is that it inspired me to write, March 26, 2016

This is going up front in the hopes of helping someone else - I managed to utterly, utterly miss the point of the game's central mechanic, in which the reader is invited to actively participate by drawing symbols onto their skin, thus dissolving the distinction between player and character. It's implicit in the text, but I'm so used to the experience of a game being purely virtual that I entirely overlooked this, and therefore missed out on an intriguing manner of interactivity. Someday, when the memories have faded, I intend to come back and experience this properly. (Spoiler - click to show) ... And maybe I'll be lucky and met this fabled slime kid, too.

With that said, the game I experienced on screen was so rich an experience that it seemed complete to me. The worldbuilding is deeply, richly apparent, better so than many SF stories I've seen. One is is imbued with the fascination, trauma, and frustration the protagonist finds in - carefully limited - explorations that make up the story's heart.

(Now I'm having a go at Twine myself - my first finished game will have a "makes reference to" credit to this one - and I'm finding that one doesn't appreciate all the subtleties of coloured links and backgrounds until attempting to code. That's the kind of art that works by not drawing attention to itself, and Porpentine is a master at it.)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Liked it, made me feel and think things, July 3, 2015
by openmedi (Berlin, Germany)

I liked this one very much. There are bunch of reasons, but mostly because of the shared intimacy that comes with drawing on you own skin. I also became very aware how different genders manifest their reality and get manifested (if that makes sense) in very different ways. This leeds to very different ways of talking about our bodys "and using them" for world building. These are all pretty na´ve points, but than again I'm but a na´ve humanů I liked that it was more of an experience than a skill based game. (Spoiler - click to show)And it made me kind of emotional, although the end came a little abrupt.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Wow, April 22, 2015
by Chris Longhurst (Oxford, UK)

First up, a confession: I'm really bad at high-concept stuff. To me, games are just games and as such I always feel like I'm missing something important with Porpentine's work - some point of contact that other people have and I don't.

But even then...

Even when I'm not getting the full experience -- playing, as it were, with a towel wrapped around my head...

With Those We Love Alive is a really, really good game.

The writing is brilliant. The world just the right level of underspecified to sink its claws into your imagination. Crammed with clever and interesting detail, but delivered with that sparse Porpentine style. And you can play through it in an hour.

I recommend this game to everyone. Even if you're not normally a fan of Porpentine's games, or find them inaccessible, or just too weird to play... give this one a shot.

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