This is a guest post by the delightful Kathryn of Contemporary Japanese Literature.Don’t Go In The Old Greene House is a short haunted house game made using Twine. Although it features ghosts and gets creepier as the player progresses, ultimately the story is about a young woman coming to terms with her body and her identity. [Contains mild spoilers.]
The game begins as its protagonist, a high school student named Lisa, enters the eponymous Old Greene House, “the one everyone in town says to never enter,” on Halloween night. She’s been put up to this by her friends, who are not really her friends at all.
Her task is to spend an hour inside the house. Even if the player chooses to stand still by the door, the game pushes Lisa deeper into the house, where she encounters a six-year-old girl named Madison sitting at the kitchen table. As children do, Madison explains her presence in the derelict and abandoned building as only natural, assuming that Lisa knows all about her situation and is familiar with all the names she mentions. Even with only this patchy information to go on, it’s clear that there’s something terribly wrong with Madison and her family.
When Lisa tries to leave the house to get help, she finds that she’s trapped. Madison tells her that the only way to escape is to bargain with her older siblings in order to convince them to let her go. Lisa then ventures upstairs, and that’s when the real fun begins.
Although there are some light jump scares in the game, and although much of the imagery is quite macabre, the gentleness of the art style and color scheme ensure that the horror of the story comes largely from the player’s creeping realization of what’s happened to the ghosts, as well as what’s happened to Lisa herself. In the end, what’s really scary isn’t the supernatural but the unintentional cruelties regular human beings inflict on each other.
Don’t Go In The Old Greene House is the work of Laura Knetzger, a comics artist who has recently published a short stand-alone piece called Sea Urchin through Retrofit Comics. Sea Urchin explores the relationship between creativity, self-worth, and depression, and it’s one of my favorite releases of 2015, with deceptively cute stylized art and an honest and approachable narrative voice. In her comics and illustration work, Knetzger alludes to her love of video games, especially those in the Pokémon and Legend of Zelda series, and her first solo Twine project evinces a similar flare for adventure and bravery.
The fears that Lisa and the player must confront in this game, however, will be familiar to anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in her own body and has had to move forward on her own.
Content Warning: This game contains depictions of abuse, neglect, suicide, blood, and body horror.