Interactive Fiction- “Bad Machine”

The part of “Interactive Fiction’s Fourth Era” which was most interesting to me was the IF created in 1998 titled “Bad Machine.”  The author tells us that the story begins with the question, “What do you want to do?” which differentiates this work from others at the very start.  Montfort tells readers that IF will normally give the readers a bit of background story before having them jump into the story, but this is clearly not the case with “Bad Machine.”  In this way, this text seems to me almost more interactive than even the others that came before it.  The person using the program is allowed an immediate opportunity to interact with the story, rather than having parts of it laid out for them, without allowing them a chance to choose what they want to do.

The bit of the story which Montfort includes in his article is almost incomprehensible to me.  He states that it includes a mixture of English and code, which I immediately found interesting in relation to the topics we have discussed in class.  Hayle discusses the importance of textons and scriptons in her article, and their usual separation in digital works.  Readers are usually allowed to ignore the underlying code, or textons, and focus primarily on the printed text on the screen.  In “Bad Machine,” the mixture of English and computer code within the interactive fiction reminds the reader that there is indeed an underlying code which makes the experience of any work of interactive fiction possible.  To me, the bit of text from “Bad Machine” made me uncomfortable because I am not used to looking at computer codes, and I was unable to understand the bit of story and how I would interact with it.  While this may not have been the case for many users of this interactive fiction, it does still make me wonder if the inclusion of code language had some effect on the limited success of this work.  It seems possible to me that code on the surface of a work of interactive fiction reminded users too much of the code underlying the story they were supposed to be interacting with, which could have taken away from there enjoyment of the story by constantly reminding them that they were talking to a computer and not entirely creating their own adventure.

One thought on “Interactive Fiction- “Bad Machine”

  1. Yes, Bad Machine is definitely a demanding work, more of a gamemaker’s game than a player’s game. That is, it probably appeals more to people who have some experience designing games or coding in general than to typical interactive fiction players. It’s really interesting to compare something like Bad Machine to The Dreamhold, which Andrew Plotkin explicitly designed with beginners in mind.

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