Is Bitsy interactive fiction?

Red maze on black background, created in Bitsy 3D. Sprite in bottom left corner.
from madotsuki’s closet by Bagenzo

Bitsy, a tool created by adam le doux, is a “little editor for little games or worlds.” Earlier this year, a question arose on about whether games created with Bitsy could be considered interactive fiction. The question originated in part from data about how developers classify their own games: on, about 1 in 4 Bitsy games (1,297 of  6,047) are tagged “Interactive fiction,” but on IFDB, only 3 games total (out of 11,901) are tagged “Bitsy.”

I have played a fair number of Bitsy games over the last few years (here are some of my favorites), and have made some Bitsy games as well. Formal characteristics (such as meaningful choices and multiple endings) aside, I think that some Bitsy games definitely have an “IF vibe” to them. That is to say, they possess some of the experimental, “zinester”-like qualities that I love and am excited by in games of the so-called Twine Revolution, which is my point of reference for IF. 

This got me wondering whether a genre can be defined not so much by its formal conventions, but rather by its political positions and possibilities, its modes of production, its relationship to cisheteropatriarchy. Whether a genre can be defined by qualities like intimacy. And whether these shared positions might be one of several axes along which to build community, along which to create and experiment and imagine together. 

So here are some of my favorite Bitsy games that, to me, seem to share some qualities with early Twine games: 

R.E.M.-scape by Linda_ND: A game based on short snippets of dreams I’ve had 

This game was inspired by the author’s dreams and by LSD Dream Emulator. Perhaps the most “traditionally” IF-like of these examples, it features consequential choices, multiple endings, celebrity cameos, and an ingenious system of dialogue and navigation.

Vaporwave Vision Quest: Kmart Sepulcher by Lvl 14 Bard: Your 90’s Nostalgia and Inner Demons

In this game, an abandoned Kmart where the narrator used to work becomes a surreal, Ocarina of Time-inspired quest that involves working through difficult memories and reflecting on subjects like friendship, time, and memory. A multi-layered, evocative game. 

Corridors by communistsister: fumbling through a dream

A game about confinement, agency, and the permeability of boundaries that separate dreaming from waking. It uses repetition to menacing effect, and features an interesting and effective mechanic that I’ll leave you to discover.

madotsuki’s closet by Bagenzo: yume nikki is a trans game 

This is an amazing game about Yume Nikki fan theories and how they relate to being trans. It is immersive (both visually and sonically arresting–borrowing, of course, from Yume Nikki’s weird imagery) and intimate, and combines several different storytelling modes really effectively. 

Root of Wisdom by Grim Baccaris: “Does anybody else remember that game?” 

A short body horror game with strong writing and strange, occult-y graphics. It is an unsettling tale that reminded me a bit of the confident voice and tightly choreographed dread of early Twines like my father’s long, long legs and the uncle who works for nintendo.

TAIPEI METRO QUEST by hellodri: ❤ a narrative game about time-traveling home ❤

A beautiful and gentle game about change and time and in-between spaces. It conveys the heartache–and peace–that comes with getting older and renegotiating your relationship to home, family/friends, and self. 

Combining Bitsy and Twine: For great examples of games that combine Bisty and Twine, see the work of Grim Baccaris and Freya C