If anything testifies to the importance of video games, it's how loudly and bitterly people have debated what a game is, who is making them, what it means to play one, and (of course) whether they're art. For a few years, this debate focused particularly on Twine, a simple development tool for lo-fi text games — think "choose your own adventure" stories or hypertext fiction or "House of Leaves with clickable footnotes." Using Twine could be an artistic and political statement, a rejection of blockbuster franchises or competitive games and stereotypical "gamer" culture. It's no coincidence that the whole, monstrous Gamergate controversy started because of a Twine game.
But sometimes, it's possible to forget all that and just see Twine as a medium. And almost no one has used this medium in more interesting and sophisticated ways than Oakland-based game designer Porpentine. Porpentine is possibly one of the best, most innovative writers of this decade. She uses the guided paths and controlled pacing of interactive fiction in ways that are by turn funny, brutal, surreal, and creepily erotic. It's easy to see the influences of well-trodden genres like body horror and cyberpunk, but they're just raw material.
Ultra Business Tycoon III is an office life simulator that is not what it seems. High-end Customizable Sauna Experience will allow you to hack a cupcake. Her most famous work, the quietly painful Howling Dogs, exploits interactive fiction's ability to force players into mundane tasks.
Porpentine's games are mostly scattered across the internet, but as of last month, she's collected 25 pieces from 2012 to 2015 (including those above) into a $5 compilation, along with extras like commentary and a "viewing guide." The compilation is called Eczema Angel Orifice, and it's currently available on Itchio and Steam Greenlight. It may also be the first short story collection to include a Mac and PC demo.