back again so soon?! thats uncharacteristic of me, isn’t it? well, it’s because i stumbled across something i feel really really strongly about recently and im really excited to try to process my thoughts about it. and, it’s unfiction!!! if you’re unfamiliar with me outside of this website, you might not know that i have a reputation as an unfiction guy; i’ve been fascinated since i was a child with pretty much any story that involves that kind of melty reality, which is a space the unfiction really loves to play in, and since it’s historically been a genre characterized by its interaction with “the internet”, it tends to possess a really compelling tangibility and relatability for me that stories that take place elsewhere can’t as easily manage. “online”, “games”, and “stories” has always been my only real home, way realer for me than the real world, for basically as long as i remember. as a result, stories that are nested inside that framing device tend to resonate with me especially strongly, and because of THAT, some of my favorite works of fiction ever utilize that kind of medium

as a quick primer for those who may be unfamiliar with “unfiction”, it’s ostensibly an alternate reality game, without the game part. “ARG” as a term has a history of being overgeneralized and applied to pretty much any type of story that takes place online and attempts to present itself as nonfiction, but a true ARG requires direct player interaction to progress or change the story. meanwhile, unfiction inhabits that same framing device of presenting itself as nonfiction, but plays out the same with or without audience participation. it’s an important nuance because attempts at “ARG” type interaction with unfiction can sometimes be destructive or disruptive to the more “on the rails” and immutable type of story. unfiction is a term that has been around for a while, but i only became aware of a concerted effort to implement the term in internet alternate reality horror around the time that petscop was ongoing, because it was such a massive event and it really couldn’t be sorted cleanly into the ARG box (there was also an initiative to start calling petscop’s specific BRAND of unfiction “TGIF”s, or “This game I found”s, but it didn’t really have any wind in its sails following petscop’s conclusion; i still use it all the time though, especially for works that are more directly derivative of scop, because i think its incredibly funny.) incidentally, petscop is one of the most important stories in my life. i was only 15 when i first stumbled across it, and at that time, it made me feel like nothing had ever made me feel before. when it comes to interacting with alternate reality games and unfiction since, i’m always just grasping at that feeling. it’s this feeling of like, standing over a well, dropping a pebble in, and never hearing it hit the ground. just a feeling of being completely dwarfed by the enormity and emotional weight of something. yesterday, i finally felt that way again. and, i cannot stress this enough, it was a motherfucking doom mod that finally did it.

this is also going to be a rare occasion where i feel it prudent to stop you before you read any further and say : PLEASE, if you have any interest in stuff like this at all, either install this mod if you have the doom prowess and play it yourself, or seek out a playthrough and just experience it blind One Time. you don’t have to find all the secrets or anything, just experience it the way it’s intended to be experienced once. it’s an hour or so of your time, and i only say this because i think this thing is really, really special. please don’t read any further if you have even the slightest inkling that you might wish you’d played it first, and know that JUST THIS ONCE, I really, really want anyone who can to seek this thing out and see it through their eyes before i start on my incessant rambling.

It’s House of Leaves in Doom. It’s P.T. in Doom. If that pitch does anything for you, GO PLAY OR WATCH IT BEFORE READING FURTHER!!! I MEAN IT!!

here’s where to play it and check out all the supplemental material!
okay, with all of that established…where do you even start with this shit!!! i started with the journal attached to the google drive, and i’m fairly sure that was the intended experience. the first impression it left was largely unfavorable, to be completely honest. to the “internet horror literate” like myself, nourished by your smiledogs and your russian sleep experiments and your godzilla NES’s since childhood, it will likely also come off as tropey, underwhelming, and trite. i actually laughed out loud once because it got so ridiculously goofy. but the real utility of the journal is less to be an independent piece of prose and more to provide hints to the player about what’s going to play out in the game and how to solve the winding, supercomplex puzzle that the “true ending” of myhouse.wad demands of you (And yes, there are several endings to this doom wad, this thing is so huge i have a hard time conceptualizing it.) however, it also had the unintended effect of setting my expectations extremely low for the narrative quality for the meat of the thing, and that initial perception is probably what made the actual experience feel so brain blasting. i wonder if it was intentionally subversive, or if prose just isn’t the author’s strong suit? regardless of the thought process, i’m glad for the journal document being so unsubtle and ordinary, because it made the crazy shit feel so much crazier by comparison.
i guess here is probably a good place to say that i’ve never played doom in my life. i’m familiar with how it looks and plays, but i just don’t have any first hand experience with it at all (i’m a bit too young for that unfortunately) let alone the insular modding community and its conventions, let alone the type of shit that the engine is capable of if twisted to its limits, let alone what people typically expect from custom maps. however, i suspect that the “subversion” effect i experienced from the supplementary material alone is probably apt to come on twice as strong for someone going in with those preconceptions. either that, or it would be significantly blunted. how often do people make high art shit like this in doom? if this isn’t the only project out there like this i need to get the fuck into doom. (getting into doom in 2023…?!)
with the bar set extraordinarily low and with almost no prior experience, i was kind of expecting this to be a “the walten files” experience – all style, no substance, relying mostly on the novelty of the medium and concept to make an impact. but, uh , this thing is kind of the complete package, and it becomes impossible to ignore that much the very first time you leave the house, step through an invisible portal, and realize that you’re in the same house, but it’s just so very minimally different.

every enemy respawns. objects shift, change color, appear where they weren’t before and disappear where they were. it’s almost impossible to identify where the threshold you just crossed was, and it’s even more impossible to go back. you enter the front door of the new house, and the game engine itself almost imperceptibly shifts.. tiny details of the geometry are just different enough to catch your eye. the music (just a track from the vanilla doom game at first glance) starts to skip and play the wrong notes, almost deteriorating. but it’s more or less the same level. you do everything exactly the same; you clear out all the enemies, pick up the slightly-different collectibles, backtrack. and by the time you’ve done all that, the front door is gone.
it’s almost impossible to identify where the threshold you just crossed was, and it’s even more impossible to go back. you’re stuck in the house now. it’s alive, and changing around you. and it fucking hates you. all you can do is go deeper and deeper into its belly, as it changes slowly, falls apart, becomes something unrecognizable, and seeks to smother you to death.
when i say this shit feels like PLAYING house of leaves, i mean it. the representation of non-euclidean geometry in a 3 dimensional space here is pretty remarkable. it’s incredibly disorienting to watch, and i can’t imagine how much more disorienting it must be to play. it seems like the first time you step through a portal and lose your footing, the very first time you get confused, it’s almost impossible to reorient yourself completely. because after that, you never know which door you’re going to walk through and end up in the room you just came from, which door you’re going to walk through and end up in a hallway that goes nowhere and shuts itself behind you, which door you’re going to walk through and end up in a burning house, which door you’re going to walk through and end up at the end of the game.
and this is all in service of something, just so we’re clear. this game makes it very obvious that it’s not just throwing you into a scary non-euclidean house because its cool (though who could deny that it’s cool?) this is a grief game, and there’s a lot of little things in it that communicate that in lots of little ways. in the “brutalist house” loop, the house becomes an indistinct concrete maze. it has two identical sides. on one side, there’s a cerberus-like beast. it’s loud, it chases you, it kills you easily, and it’s almost invincible. on the other side theres a cute, completely harmless dog that follows you around placidly while you explore, keeping you company and cutely barking at you. if you kill one dog, the other dies too. good doggies are good doggies. bad doggies are bad doggies. i was really touched by that.
there’s a lot of things in this game where i wasn’t sure if it was like, a bit, or part of the message. lots of “artifacts” as they’re called that seem to be references to silly inside jokes, really jarring in the bleak and oppressive atmosphere of the environment they’re housed in. there’s a point where you’re stalking through the dark in a burned out house, when myhouse.wad is very nearly at its most emotionally intense, and there’s a discord ping noise that plays out of nowhere, for no real immediate reason. it could be a prank on the player, or it could be part of the grief game. i don’t really know and i don’t want to know. the tone problem, the weird lilted tightrope walk between cracking a joke and falling apart, is a really beautiful space for a game like this to occupy. in a house you can never go back to, the same scene plays out thousands of times, and every time it deteriorates just a little more. you might not know whether to laugh or cry.

now that the poetics are out of my system, here’s something that’s fascinating about this project: it’s BRAND FUCKING NEW!!! this shit just came out baby! we’re witnessing, in real time, what “good horror storytelling” looks like in a post petscop, post the walten files, post mandela catalogue analog horror weirdcore traumacore backrooms aesthetic pinterest board era. and i’m frankly incredibly inspirited. i’ve been feeling pretty bleak about the state of things recently to be honest with you, readers. it seems like every time i see someone mention some new web horror project they’re like, no man really you’ve got to watch shittys scary bakery or whatever the fuck it’s really good, and so i’m like, ok cool i love that kind of stuff, and i go check it out and it does absolutely NOTHING for me. it’s all just been photoshop liquify tool on stock image face superimposed over a black block in the background of a cute innocent drawing with some vaguely creepy phrase in red sans serif all lowercase font “YOU COULDNT SAVE HER” or whatever shit since basically the instant that specific style of internet horror took off circa 2020 or 2021. that’s all “unfiction” and “web horror” has been, and it has always, since the very first time i watched the walten files, felt utterly substanceless and contrived to me. which isn’t necessarily to say it’s /bad/, but when the output prior to that was shit like PETSCOP and ALAN RESNICK’S SHIT and like MARBLE HORNETS it’s really hard to just accept that that’s all people want to do with the medium. i knew there was still some hope for us yet; stuff like diminish (incredible btw) and valle verde (also really good) had me holding onto a little bit of hope. but this is the first time web horror unfiction has really occupied this unique cultural space that we’re in in the present moment and just completely blown me away. i couldn’t be happier!!!!

myhouse.wad wears its influences on its sleeve, too. there’s a hidden backrooms area you can access through an easter egg , and several of the levels (the water and daycare levels respectively) seem directly inspired by popular ‘backrooms’ images. the deteriorating music track that really lifts this project from great to incredible is directly inspired by the viral ambient album “everywhere at the end of time.” there are MULTIPLE references to danielewski’s house of leaves both in the supplementary material and core game. for christsake “the most mysterious song on the internet” plays out of the radio in a crashed car in one of the loops. it’s practically screaming “I WAS DEVELOPED IN THE 2020s!” at the top of its lungs. and i feel this way about a lot of things – i see the modern state of “horror on the internet” seeping into just about every new project, i can trace it back to the instagram “aesthetic accounts” that propagate it. but this is the first time i’ve felt like a piece has taken those parts and really made something new, heartfelt, and cohesive with them. something huge and kind of life changing. something extremely tied to this moment in time, just so immediately, immediately dated, but still with such a distinct identity and clear and vivid pathos. it’s so fucking NIGHT MIND!! its so “NIGHTMARE EXPO!!” but for the first time, i can say that and also emphatically say……ITS SO FUCKING GOOD!!!!!! just restores your hope for the future a little bit man….
…only a little bit tho :3.

well, that’s really all i’ve got for now. since this isn’t really a longform piece with characters i can mention without directly spoiling like the entire experience anymore than i already have, i’ve decided to mostly eschew my established format. thanks for bearing with me to anyone who checks these out! and if i managed to get you to check out myhouse.wad….GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HOPE YOU LIKED IT!!!!!!!!!!! LETS GO FORTH TO A NEW ERA OF 2020 INTERNET HORROR THAT IS BETTER THAN WHAT WE’VE BEEN GETTING!!!!!!!!! I BELIEVE IN YOU GUYS!!!