My Problem With Interactive Fiction

  • tomsmith 

I’m planning to teach a session on Twine soon. Draft here.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of hypertext, but when it comes into Interactive Fiction, I both love it (conceptually darling) but also, have these issues.

Presentation. The fonts, font size and screen layout are awful. They need to be Kindlized. Often just hard to read. Reading. I link to the Temple of NO because it was a breath of fresh air in this regard. It felt both subversive (of the genre) and stylish at the same time.

There is always the nagging feeling of “have you read it all?” or “How far through this am I?” because it breaks the physical contact of a book. I don’t like the loss of control of time but love the loss of control in narrative. It could end at any point

And whilst the uneccesary diversion is a fantastic thing in itself, a weird island of experience, for some reason, I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. Maybe that’s just something I need to get over?

Temple of No Spoiler alert… “Er, yeah…. psshh, pff, pff!”

There is a fear of losing one’s place or stare, and that feeling that you haven’t won somehow and the idiocy of “getting a different outcome” and therefore wanting or needing to play the game again to get a different outcome, or a better outcome. What’s that all about?

But then. I have a problem with fiction. It’s all made up you know.

When I watched Bandersnatch, to be honest I wasn’t in the mood. I didn’t like having to click all the time, when sometimes I want something to just wash over me. I stopped half way through, although where half way is moot, and watched that Ennio Morricone/Tarrantino film.

Then, all interactive narrative has to deal with the distractions of the internet. See Netflix. I wonder what Twine on a Kindle is like?

What I Like About Interactive Narrative

In the case of Temple of NO, it was the playing with form and the humour.

Authors make people DO things. The inverse of the clicking thing. I actually sang along with a song. I clapped. I’m not sure how much sentience and agency the media I am interacting with has. Can it hear me? Can it see me? Can it rifle through my internet history and send for help? I don’t want to give away any spoilers but this is an idea I want to play with myself.

With I really enjoyed what the author did. Go try it. I’ve always wanted to time travel and this must be what it is like.

I have always been a fan of dada and the disclocatative. I love Tristram Shandy, Monty Python, Q8, Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Personally, I am naturally distracted, distractable and passionate. I get lost in thought rabbit-worm-holes every second. Maybe this tendency makes interactive narrative games a challenge, not that they’re too weird, but they’re too close to home.

Despite being hyper since Ted Nelson’s Intertwingularity, the rise of indie games and interactive narrative is all new to me, and it’s clear I have a lot to learn.

So here goes.