Ectocomp impressions: Invasion
Ectocomp has just released its games for judging. It’s a competition for horror and Halloween-themed IF — this year with both “speed IF” and “spirit of speed IF” divisions. First up: Invasion (Cat Manning), a horror Twine about inexorable alien monsters.
This will be a mildly spoilery discussion. Before I get to it: Invasion is great, a very creepy Twine that helped rekindle my interest in reading horror in this format, and you should go play it.
There are a lot of unstoppable horrors going around lately — both It Follows and The Babadook, this years’ most praised horror films, dealt with relentless menaces of one kind or another. As a culture, we seem inexplicably interested in inevitable, slow-marching doom. For a long time, in horror, dread was produced from not seeing the monster and imagining what it might look like. Nowadays we seem conditioned to staring at the monster from a distance, seeing it coming, and not being able to do anything about it. We know it intimately; we just don’t know when it’s going to get us. We imagine death so much, it feels more like a memory.
Memory. Manning’s monsters consume mementos, and the actual memories that go with them. It wouldn’t be so unsettling if the story didn’t spend the time to detail the implausible number of personal mementos that the player character carries. Implausible until you find out what they are: sacrifices, or bait, or a paliative tactic. The beast stalking the viewpoint character can’t necessarily be stopped, but it can be delayed, slowed down with those small offerings.
There’s a long tradition, in Western literature, of questioning whether fighting against an inhuman threat provokes the loss of one’s humanity. Invasion interrogates how fleeing — how being a victim of such a threat might as well.