If you’re surrounded by animals, are you truly alone?
Play as a survivor of the apocalypse in this interactive fiction story. In this game, you make your post-apocalyptic home in a unique venue: a local zoo.
Zoo-pocalypse is a 50,000 word interactive fiction novella written by Tyler S. Harris. The story is broken up into 3-4 chapters depending on how it is played. It is completely text-based, with no sound effects or graphics. Vastly different endings can occur based on the decisions you make.
Play as any gender! There are no references to your gender, so play as yourself or anyone else. You do get to pick your name.
Explore the many exhibits at the zoo, and even the gift shop.
The end of the story depends on the choices you make, even early decisions can lead to completely different endings.
Different endings lead to the discovery of animals (achievements). Can you find all of them?
Will you reign over this animal kingdom, or will you find yourself at the bottom of the food chain?
Content Warning: Dark themes throughout, even for a post-apocalypse story. Heavy violence: humans and animals may die, sometimes violently.
Tyler developed this game using ChoiceScript, a simple programming language for writing multiple-choice interactive novels like these. Writing games with ChoiceScript is easy and fun, even for authors with no programming experience. Write your own game and Hosted Games will publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.
It’s not that difficult. There are some CoG games much longer than this that do the same. In this one, there’s only one major character in addition to the PC, so no, third-person pronouns don’t ever come up.
So you’d basically have to make it so no one ever talks about you? Curious. I suppose it helps that it’s just the two of you, but if I’m being honest, I would be talking to the animals about the other person all the time.
“Can you believe what so-and-so did? I know! He actually thought that was a good idea, the idiot.” Animal stares at me “Why are you looking at me like that? Okay… I probably would have done the same thing, but I didn’t!” Animal continues staring unimpressed “Ya ya, shut your face.”
Basically, the author just has to avoid or limit what people say about the PC within their hearing. It’s entirely possible the PC’s companion talks about them to the animals, but it never comes up in the story. This is a very short, very plot-driven game. There’s not a lot of dialogue or character development.
That said, some clever authors have been able to write much longer and more involved works that concealed a character’s gender. There’s even a novel in French that manages to avoid using gendered language to refer to either the protagonist or the protagonist’s love interest, and if you think it sounds difficult in English, well, it’s vastly more difficult in French.
As for the game itself: it’s not for everyone, and particularly not for the faint of heart. There is some good writing, and some memorably emotional scenes. The narrative is peppered with interesting facts about animals, and there are some dramatic and exciting action and horror scenes.
That said, this is possibly the first time in my life I have thought a content warning didn’t go far enough. There is only one route through the story that doesn’t involve the PC personally taking part in killing animals, and it involves the PC’s death halfway through the game. If the idea of being confronted with three animals, none of which presents an immediate threat, and being required to kill one in order to advance the game upsets you more than you’re willing to go for a horror story, you’re better off steering clear of Zoo-pocalypse.
Yes, Spanish and French are both heavily gendered, and it’s extremely difficult to write something of any length that remains gender-neutral, but it can be done, just as it’s possible (but exceedingly difficult) to write a novel in English without ever using the letter “e.” I’ve actually written a short story in Spanish, about four pages long, with two characters whose gender was never revealed, and I’m not even fluent.
Here’s the English translation of the French novel I was talking about. I’m not making this stuff up.
“A beautiful and complex love story between two characters, the narrator, ‘I,’ and their lover, A***, written without using any gender markers to refer to the main characters, Sphinx is a remarkable linguistic feat and paragon of experimental literature that has never been accomplished before or since in the strictly-gendered French language.”
I’m not sure what constitutes graphic by your standards, so take this with a grain of salt: it’s definitely horror and doesn’t pretend to be anything else, but it’s not gratuitously gory. There are a few passages that may make you wince, but if you go in knowing you’re reading a horror story and there will be violent death, you’ll probably be fine.
@tylersharris - I don’t know what your plans for the future are, but if you’ve given any thought to converting more Science Fiction Monologues to game form, I think there’s a lot of potential there. I love interactive novels, obviously, but I’d like to see interactive short stories find a place as well, and I think Zoo-pocalypse demonstrates that a short game can still be entertaining and thoughtful. Of course, it’s not for everyone, but if more stories like this were to come out that appealed to a broader range of tastes, I think a lot of folks here would be surprised to discover that, as pleasurable as it is to immerse oneself in a good story for hours, there’s a lot to be said for a snack-size treat of a game when life gets in the way.