Howled House

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Howled House, December 1, 2016
by CMG (NYC)

Howled House is a short piece made in Raconteur where you play as the titular house. Three imprisoned ďhowlersĒ howl during the night as they sleep, and a house with three wings is ďraisedĒ by their howling. Each wing has its own personality, and when an explorer enters, the wings attempt in their own ways to either repulse his advances or seduce him toward his doom. What does this explorer want? To scour the house, to take something from it, to understand what canít be understood about its secret rooms (some open with links; others never open)? The house itself doesnít quite know. The explorer is not repulsed, is not seduced, but is nevertheless trapped because, once heís entered the house, he canít leave.

Howled House itself is also the house it describes, and the player is the explorer. Its words invite you inside and yet they push you back. What do you hope to achieve by playing? What right do you even have to poke around inside this house whose very walls have risen from anguished howls? Itís a question that extends to any art, but especially to art thatís born from pain. That description makes it sound deadly serious, which isnít right. Itís lively and alive ó but it is potentially deadly. ďThe blade-box, what fun!Ē says the clowning third hall.

As I write these words, I feel I must tread with caution. At this very moment, Iím walking into the houseís trap, and it wants me or it doesnít want me or it wants both things. Maybe Iím a guest or maybe Iím a plaything. Maybe I have no business being here. No, I think Iím welcome. After all, the gameís been written for people to experience. But itís difficult to know where I stand, just as itís difficult for the house and the author to know what readers want, what their agendas are. And not just this house, not just this author, not just this reader: itís difficult for anyone to feel their way forward through communication with another person.

Of course this reading might be wrong. Maybe Iím lost in the house. Maybe I took something from it that it never had or never wanted me to have. Thatís a danger. All I can do is acknowledge the danger. Itís a dangerous game, but also a game I consider worth risking the danger to play. I wouldn't be surprised if, a few months from now, I understand it in a different way.

The language is phenomenal. I may be unsure about a few things here, but thereís no question in my mind that Howled House ought to be nominated at the XYZZY Awards for Best Writing.