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About the Story
Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism
Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism
Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism is a Porpentine game commissioned for Vice. It tells the story of a person obsessed with wasps, desiring to be a wasp, and inhabiting a world where wasps are pestilentially omnipresent. Leaving our apartment requires exiting through a wasplock, lest they get into our flat.
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Okay, so, I feel like what I write can't really do justice to this story, so... please play it first? As with a lot of other Porpentine stories, major content warnings here for body horror, discussions of trauma and mental healthcare. And insects. The story was about 30 minutes long for me. As with all of Porpentine's stories, it's incredibly well-written and vivid, conveying a ton of information in small bits of text, but confusing at parts. There are cool visual effects, including changing backgrounds and colors, and links exploding in four when moused over.
The world of this story is basically a world where, instead of covid, we have a giant swarm of wasps. Every time people go outside, they have to put on a full-body rubber suit to protect themselves from the wasps. Also this society is a cyberpunk-esque late-capitalist hellscape, but that's a given. The protagonist is basically someone who is so alienated from society that she has more empathy for the wasps than any other humans. She partakes in rituals where she drinks fluids from the wasp queen (who is some kind of sexy anthro wasp?) because it gives a kind of meaning to her life. Meanwhile, she has an ambiguous relationship to a therapist who is the embodiment of the commodification of emotional connection, a surveillance-enabled agent who is really good at outwardly displaying empathy and sympathy for the protagonist (but maybe just wants control and conformity), but is also the protagonist's only connection to other people. The wasp queen leads the protagonist to commit basically a terrorist act that kills bystanders.
Most of the hypertext links in the story are exploratory until the very end, where there's the choice to either accept the therapist or try to escape and join the wasp queen (I'm not sure if it actually leads to different endings; I've only played through once). Ultimately, it's kind of a false choice, because both choices are a surrender of sorts, whether it is to mainstream society or the wasp hive. Both of these options involve the loss of individuality and a subsumption into a greater whole, it's just that one feels viscerally good.
This is another of those stories that hits differently in the post-covid era. It probably clouds my judgment of the protagonist and her actions (this is unfair, but, like, she's literally pro-covid??? is she an anti-vaxxer or anti-masker??? it is *extremely* a stretch to call this a sympathetic portrayal of an anti-masker, but like...).
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