Brevity is the soul of Twitter. Not a mere suggestion, it is a requirement is built right into its usability. Whether one attempts a stab at a sharply comic observation or wants to excitedly share a picture of a half-eaten sandwich, Twitter has one rule: Get to the point. And do it in 140 characters; no more, no less.
Contrary to expectations, novelists and writers have defied this limitation to craft beautifully written short stories one tweet at a time, most notably Jennifer Egan and, more recently, Teju Cole. Now artists and illustrators are experimenting with the form, including Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward. A few weeks ago, the acclaimed mind behind Cartoon Network’s irreverent animated series—which is adored by both adults and children—transformed his Twitter account into an illustrated role-playing game he dubbed Quest Attack.
Told in the style of a series of comic-strip panels, the first scene begins with a man asleep in a cell, a key balanced atop his head, a toilet against a wall outside. Below is the prompt, “You wake up in a dungeon cell. What do you do?”
That’s where Quest Attack’s followers come in: The fate and narrative arc of its main character is crowd sourced. A fan tweets a suggestion for the character’s next action and Ward tweets the resulting illustration. This simple setup propels the story via call and response, with Ward tweeting every turn in the story. At one point, Ward reveals a hissing rodent in the bowl after it’s suggested that our nameless protagonist check the toilet.
But the world within the strip does have stakes. Commands to kiss the rat and do nothing have both led to panels of a skull adorning the words “game over.” And among the sharp and often hilarious twists and turns in the game’s story, Ward will intermittently pause the game to play the video game Dark Souls II.
Quest Attack demonstrates anew that Twitter can be manipulated in exciting, novel ways. We’re excited to see how other cartoonists, artists, and other visual artists will turn the 140-character limitation into fun social opportunities. For now, Quest Attack has left our hero standing on the toilet, looking down on an emerald that rests beside the key, which is now also in the bowl. What happens next? You’ll have to follow to find out.