By Olivier Sylvestre
The Addiction is an interactive autobiographical short story heavily inspired by Dietrich Squinkyfer and Anna Anthropy’s work. It tackles the theme of cigarette addiction, which I deal with every single day.
The game consists of a browser-based text adventure, a hypertext fiction, a system of fictional texts that can be navigated through links (Montfort; p. 12), made with the free and open-source game-making software Twine. It depicts daily interactions between the world and me and my relationship with cigarette through the medium of text.
Just like Anthropy, I never came across a video game about the internal struggle of quitting smoking and miserably failing at it (Anthropy; p. 1). Although not as marginalizing as being a trans person can be (Dys4ria) or not fitting within to the sexual binary view of society (Squinkyfer), the feeling of failure and of social exclusion associated with smoking in our current society can be deeply alienating.
The game is designed so that it makes a loop always bringing you back to the start. A variable, the “smoked cigarettes” counter, is the only constant presence throughout the game that will invariably go up the longer you play. Whatever choice you make, you will inevitably smoke more and more cigarettes, even if you take the most logical approach to quit smoking. This is done intentionally to reflect my own struggle with addiction; I tried quitting with sheer will alone, with an electronic cigarette, and with nicotine patches. None worked.
Since I designed the game so that it forces you to act in certain way, it is really the game that is controlling you while you think you are in control. This is to reflect the fact that while most smokers, including me, think they can quit anytime, that they are in control of their own will, many of them, including me again, will not be able to quit smoking out of their own will. This idea can be found in the idea of the Panopticon, the perfect prison of social control, explained by Michel Foucault (Garite, p. 10). While playing the game, whatever choice you make leads you to smoking a cigarette, making your “smoked cigarettes” counter go up one unit and exacerbating your own feeling of failure.
The Addiction is thus an exploration of these failures and serves as a catharsis for the feelings of inadequacy that come along with them. Also, in some of the paths, the game explores the reasons why smokers start smoking, often times at a very young age: peer-pressure, the example provided by parents who smoke, social status, etc. As I made the game, my goal was to further my own understanding of my addiction so that I can (maybe) get rid of it, and also further the understanding of the non-smoker toward the smoker.
The game itself consists of a simple .html text file hosted on my Dropbox account and can be accessed through this link. I highly suggest that it be played on the Google Chrome browser since Safari for macOS did not succeed on opening it. I would love to know your feedback about it.
Anthropy, Anna. “The Problem With Videogames.” Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2012. 1-21.
Dys4ia (Anna Anthropy 2012)
Garite, Matt. “The Ideology of Interactivity (or Video Games and Taylorization of Leisure).” Level Up Conference Proceedings, Utrecht: University of Utrecht, November, 2003.
I’m Really Sorry About That Thing I Said When I Was Tired and/or Hungry (Dietrich Squinkifer 2014)
Montfort, Nick. “The Pleasure of the Text Adventure.” In Twisty Little Passages. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 1-36.
Twine (Open-source software 2009)