Choose Your Own Adventure! Sorta

The Dreamhold seems like a scary place to a person that is unfamiliar with what it is. The reader/interactor/player/narrator – what is the proper term anyway? – wakes up in a cramped space with only a narrow gap to escape from (I almost got stuck because I could not figure out the phraseology to climb out). My mind immediately went to the movie 127 Hours. I definitely did not want to cut my own arm off, even in interactive fiction land.

The evolution from last week’s digital poetry to this week’s interactive fiction seemed logical. We keep comparing everything to “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, but this interactive fiction truly embodies the example and then takes it so far beyond. No two stories could ever look the same (ok, I’m sure there is some small sliver of a chance). The story does not exist without the reader (we will call it that for simplicity’s sake) and the story obviously does not exist without the writer (ok, now what do we call this person? Writer? Creator? Coder?). This interactive fiction takes us back to last week’s discussion regarding where the story truly lies – in the code? In the story that particular reader creates at that moment of interaction? Every new step creates a new story – or does it? Is it only complete when the reader closes the program? Who is the writer? Is the reader the writer? If so then we cannot refer to them as the writer any longer. Montfort helps makes sense of this slew of questions by deeming interactive fiction the ultimate fusion on multiple genres. I agree in theory, but with The Dreamhold, I became frustrated because I still felt as if I was being led to do certain things. I also felt like it wanted to say no and deny my actions as much as possible. It kept telling me my singing was bad! I cannot even pretend like I can sing in interactive fiction land?! It just seemed wrong. I thought it lacked the freedom of expression that seems to be an emphasis of interactive fiction. While interactive fiction is indeed a fusion, I’m not sure it is the ultimate fusion, mainly due to its limitations. Despite that frustrating aspect, it is truly of value to play with the idea of reader, writer, observer, creator and the many other roles that could be a part of interactive fiction. This play can help the audience and interactors better understand other forms of literature that do not fit the traditional mold of normal literature.

One thought on “Choose Your Own Adventure! Sorta

  1. I like that you’re still asking about the writer. I had the same question just reading about IF this week. I like the conversation from Monfort’s essay. With the Choose Your Own Adventure model, there is a path, generally speaking. Dreamhold opens that up: there is still a story, there are goals to meet in picking up the masks (and probably other things, I’m only two masks in.) I can’t pick anything up in a CYOA book unless it is one of two or three options at the end of a page. I realize that the computer can only respond to my directions to examine books or walk north and that the responses are pre-determined by the coding…but it still feels like a conversation. Really, it feels a lot like a game of D&D with a repetitive DM.) Your questions about authorship and narrative structure are on track. The computer may be just be an instrument of the coder, but unlike a pencil and paper or a typewriter, the processing power of a computer confuses (maybe that’s too negative a word?) our relationship with the piece. It appears, at least, to take on characteristics of the storyteller.

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