P2: The Company


THE GAME CAN BE PLAYED HERE: https://thsieh123.itch.io/cs-377g


The Company is an interactive fiction based around capitalism and how money drives a lot of action in our lives. You are a software engineer at a large cooperation when you suddenly come into contact with a USB that contains insider information. You are then tasked with unlocking the USB but as you do you learn more information that may change you view on the company.

Ultimately I wanted a story about how we are all part of a larger system but is up to us how we want to navigate it. I drew a lot of inspiration from Mr.Robot which also talks more broadly about society’s issues and how large cooperations play a role in it.


Setting and Characters

The setting mainly takes place inside a computer where you are trying to solve puzzles to decrypt the USB (denoted as green text within the game). Otherwise there are some situations where you are actually in the office meeting your boss and coworker but they aren’t critical to the story.

I’m not a good writer either, so I wanted to keep my characters relatively simple. Each character isn’t that fleshed out but they do represent something for the player. As the player I wanted it to be as casual as possible similar to how I might talk to myself as the events are developing. Charlie the co-worker represents one path that goes against The Company and serves as an example to deter the player from doing against The Company as well. The boss would be the more physical manifestation of what The Company or what the system represents.


Iteration 1

The first iteration was a minimal game that didn’t include any puzzles. It just had the main premise of getting something that was encrypted that you had to unlock, you learn something bad about the company, and finally you were tasked with a decision.  I ran the story idea with folks within 377G and others. I could have made it fantasy and said that the cooperate overlord were aliens or something, but I ended up moving forward that was more realistic to what current society is facing especially in the tech industry. I also gathered some feedback on what kind of puzzles could be used especially since there was a hacker theme to the project, and I ended up going with a lot of cipher puzzles. They fit the theme and had a varied range of levels, but in the future, I would love to create more puzzles that may feel more “hackery” since the player is working on a computer.


Iteration 2

I added the puzzles in this iteration that included a wordle, Ceaser Cipher, and a Vigenere Square Cipher. The story was also more flushed out with some descriptions and choices that the user could make. I had my partner and dorm residents try out the game and for the most received good feedback. The story wasn’t as exciting as I hoped it to be since I didn’t develop the characters as much and the plot may have been too predicble. But the puzzles themselves were pretty challenging and it helped me write better hints for them as well.

Final Twine Map


Overall, I thought this project was fun but very difficult. I wouldn’t call myself a writer and I have not genuinely written (outside of classwork) in forever, so a lot of my time was just trying to ideate and figure out the plot as well. I even substituted a good chunk of the playthrough to be puzzles so that I wouldn’t have to worry about awkward dialogue between characters. Even now I think the story/plot is mediocre and doesn’t necessarily compel the user to feel a certain thing, but I thought I learned a lot throughout the process. In the end I was still able to create a finished storyline that included several puzzles so I am glad I was able to do it.

In terms of the story, I wish I was able to go more in-depth with the nuances of capitalism and how it impacts people differently. I thought I wrote the story in a pretty black or white perspective (capitalism = bad), but I think it would be easier for folks to relate and understand the message if it came from multiple perspectives. I also learned that it can be difficult to write a character you want folks to emphasize or relate to. There needs to be some sort of connection between the character and the player, so I tried to write as if I was the character myself dealing with these issues, but it definitely could’ve been fleshed out with some finer details. I also wished I gave the user some real choices since the only one I had was at the end with how they decide what to do with their newfound information. I underestimated how complicated each branch of the story could become, and in the future would love to explore more possible paths.

In terms of the medium, I learned how to use Twine and how certain mechanics can really make or break the game experience. Simple things like using color to indicate whether you are on the computer or not help users understand which setting they were in. I will also say that there is a learning curve to the program, especially you when want certain mechanics (password checking) but overall I thought the platform was really useful! Seeing my flows being built out also reminded me of how quickly the game could become too large and complex when you give users decisions. It makes me respect games that follow this kind of platform even more especially when they are offering so many more decision choices.

Ultimately this project taught me that having a cohesive story/game takes a lot of planning and iterating both of which I wish that I had done more. I also came to appreciate the group projects that we had before since I would usually be able to rely on my teammates when it comes to my weaknesses (writing/storytelling). Lastly this project reinforced that game design is super hard especially when you are trying to send a message



  1. SMILE
  2. MONEY
  3. 15
  4. FAKE

About the author


  1. What values you see in the game, and how they are reflected in the choices made by the game designer

    I saw the values of this game being about anti-capitalism, anti-corporation, and basically anti-Bezos It felt like you were a cog in the wheel of The Company and you were basically fed lies about what the company did and its ethics.

    I also felt like there was a component of this that was thinking about the employee’s role in the situation. We were given the powre to whistleblow and/or to sell out to the company which I feel like fits into some of the complicity we see today.

    Thoughts on your experience relevant to the objectives in the rubric , specifically:

    How well did the game get you to care about the given topic or cause?

    I was already on the same page as this topic but I think that the game did a good job of making references to the real world that made it feel meaningful. I liked the reference to the amazon story where they tried to make people drive during a tornado.

    How well did the game’s use of the medium fit the story?

    I really liked all the puzzles in the game! I felt like I wasn’t just clicking through the text and actually using my brain. I almost feel like it worked too well at certain points as I felt like I forgot I was in a story during some of the puzzles.

    Did it have choices that were interesting and consequential to you? (Did any make you really stop and think?)

    I feel like the last choice in the story is really impactful and was really well set up to be a strong ethical dilemma.

    At least 1 thing you appreciated or thought was awesome

    Loved the puzzles and the topic like I mentioned before!

    At least 1 thing you think they could improve on, if they were to turn it into their P4 project

    I think that the biggest place for improvement would be making the Company seem bigger or more impactful in the players own life. We know it is as we play the game but the impact isn’t super meaningful just yet. I also feel like an emotional connection to other characters would make the final choice more impactful as well.

  2. What values you see in the game, and how they are reflected in the choices made by the game designer

    I see a main theme of greed in capitalism, as well as inequality, suppression of information to benefit the powerful, and apathy from the wealthy if it means they can be comfortable. I think parodying Amazon was a great choice, because your voice is satyrical, yet at the same time it’s no joke that Amazon workers really did die in a tornado – it’s so awful it seems like it should be satire. I think the tone of your writing really gets at the horrible reality of it all.

    How well did the game get you to care about the given topic or cause?

    I’m already aware of the poor working conditions at Amazon warehouses, and I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my own future as a well-paid software engineer. I don’t think the game really pushed me any further than where I already am (I feel like if I was more emotionally affected, maybe it would have), but it has great points that could be brought up for people who don’t know anything about the inequality and lack of ethical consideration that exists in tech.

    How well did the game’s use of the medium fit the story?

    Really interesting use of puzzles! I think their inclusion fits in with the story of cracking into an encrypted USB. I love feeling like I’m working towards unlocking something. I like that the puzzles themselves use the word “money,” to continue the theme of capitalism and greed. However, while I do like the puzzles, they feel a little out of place in that they seem to be standalone gateways that pull me out of the story for the time it takes to solve them.

    Did it have choices that were interesting and consequential to you? (Did any make you really stop and think?)

    The main choice comes at the end – what will I do with this shocking information that I’ve found? I went through all the possibilities, and I like that you can choose to hide the usb and live with guilt, die from knowing too much, or try and fight the system. It gets at the moral responsibility that we may have as whistleblowers in the future. To me, this is the only large choice in the game – I’m wondering if there is a possibility to add some other choices in the middle between the puzzles?

    At least 1 thing you appreciated or thought was awesome

    It’s awesome that you designed these puzzles yourself! Making puzzles is hard af so I totally admire you for putting this together.

    At least 1 thing you think they could improve on, if they were to turn it into their P4 project

    It might just be my laptop, but when I play on my laptop the puzzles push the link to answer offscreen and there’s no scrollbar – so I had to zoom out in my browser window with ctrl+minus in order to input puzzle solutions.

    I also think that the last puzzle felt a little tedious rather than exciting – I wasn’t able to figure out how to do it on my own, so I ended up just reading the hint that told me what to do.

    If you’re thinking about other puzzles to include, I also love nonograms and cryptograms which might fit into your game! MIT also has a yearly puzzle hunt, and there are hundreds of archived puzzles that might be fun to look through! https://puzzles.mit.edu/huntsbyyear.html Most of them are pretty damn hard and elaborate, but you could pull inspiration from them.

    Also, maybe it could be cool to have more emotion in the story – maybe Charlie was my bestie and I remember things about him as I move through his USB. But also, if you want to keep the more sarcastic/lighthearted/satyrical tone, I think you can leave that out.

  3. Effectiveness:
    – Concise but compelling plot—very relevant to the “big tech” work culture and the ambiguities we need to contemplate as engineers!
    – Unique use of puzzles—makes the experience more fun and engaging
    – Appreciated references recent events
    – Run through a few more times if you want to focus on this for the final! Are there any more puzzles like wordle? I feel these are still satisfying/slightly less tedious than the caeser cipher-like ones
    – Nice job narrowing it down to 2 meaningful choices
    Honoring the Medium:
    -Fix the resolution! took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t seeing the whole screen and options…
    -Again, creative use of puzzles! I especially liked the wordle screen
    -Nice detail! Make the Twine map image larger for future iterations

  4. 1. The main message of this story is that we are all part of a larger system, but it is up to us how we want to navigate the system. We can expose the system’s corrupt parts while risking our own safety, or stay safe but be complicit in immoral deeds. The game designer embedded this message into the story with the final decision, which was whether to share my findings with my boss. If I shared my findings and tattled on my coworkers who were fighting for justice, the ending(s) were incredibly unsatisfactory. So I was compelled to not share my findings, which led to a more satisfying ending in which I joined the revolution against capitalism and corruption.
    2. Trying to solve the puzzles in the game made me feel like I was doing something dangerous and risky, which elevated my experience of the game and made me feel immersed in the story. Because it took brainpower to get through the puzzles, I felt like I was working towards a huge revelation, which is that the Company that I work for is corrupt. At the end, I did not want to betray my coworkers, which I think is a good indication that the story made me care about its message. All of the choices in the game, other than the last one, are actually inconsequential, which was a little disappointing. But the last choice was actually hugely consequential, so I think the game had a decent amount of consequence.
    3. I thought the writing was extremely funny! I loved the names “Jeffery Bezos,” “Bezos Pesos,” “Steven Jobs,” etc. It cracked me up. I was also really impressed by the puzzles!
    4. When I got the 3rd password wrong, I couldn’t go back to the previous page to reread the puzzle, so I was stuck on the “enter password” page until I guessed the number right. It would be nice to have the option to go back and reread the puzzle.

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