I'm Genevieve from King of the Nerds. I write books and spend too much time in my PJs.
I think there is the potential for interactive fiction to be a wonderful way of delivering a plot. Stories are supposed to be immersive and escapist, and allowing the audience to interact is a wonderful way of achieving that. That being said, how interactive do you go? There’s two major pitfalls you run into with interactive fiction:
1. Choose Your Own Adventure
Remember these stories? When I was little kids ate them up. You had a chapter book, and every few pages you had the option of choosing which way the story would go next. Ultimately, I wound up with a million dog ears as I tried to pursue every avenue.
The issue with these is that you have a 100-200 page book, but each iteration of the story was only about ten to twenty pages long. So as you suggest, it certainly weakened the plot and prose to force a construct where the reader had the ability to choose from multiple outcomes.
Let’s say you had a video game that was the cinematic equivalent of “choose your own adventure,” and for about 200 minutes of content, only 10-20 will be a playable story, and then you have to go to the beginning and rehash it over and over.
2. Cinematic Click - Through
You’re basically clicking through a pre-determined story. You play a level, you get a piece of story. It’s almost like a mouse and maze scenario - complete task a, and your reward is another piece of the story.
So on one end of the spectrum - too interactive and you have ten minutes of story/play for every 100-200 minutes of game prepared. On the other end, you’re yawning as you click ‘A’ to get more of your nummy story bits.
I think things are going to get super interesting when AI is improved to the point where the story can build itself within parameters (like in Ender’s Game), or, we have the storage capacity to allow for all of the variable outcomes to be planned ahead.
Meanwhile, some video games are beating the Catch 22 that it’s possible to build a great interactive story already:I don’t dig zombies but The Walking Dead by TellTale games is great. The interactivity creates an emotional investment that a straight up, non-participative story wouldn’t. I love puzzle games, and a few of the inexpensive HOG games have proven to have really interesting stories mixed in with creepy puzzles and imagery (Return to Ravenhurst Manor comes to mind). I think any game where people who aren’t playing are enticed to sit in the room and watch are doing a pretty good job of telling a story.
On a side note that is tangentially related to the question: I think sometimes telling a story weakens the game more than interactivity weakens the delivery of plot.
Let me explain: I feel there’s a recent trend of video game makers who are so wrapped up in the video part, they lose track of the fact that there is supposed to be a game somewhere in there, too. I was just listening to an NPR guest explain how he’s currently designing a video game about a father in a hospital who is dealing with the death of a terminally ill son. He talked about his “game” for several minutes without once explaining the challenge, the puzzle, the mechanics, or the goal.
Ultimately, the “game” was supposed to teach people that there were no right answers, like a poem. In my opinion, that’s not a game, and it shouldn’t be labeled as such. I’m not saying it’s not valid as art, but it’s not a game.
Because a game has rules, it tests some kind of skill, and ultimately, it is intended to challenge a different part of our mind than a straight up story is. I pick up a novel to be engaged in a story and escape to another world. I pick up a book of Sudoku to challenge and test my mind. Sudoku dressed up in a pretty narrative package is a more fun version of the puzzle, but if you took the puzzle out of that narrative package then I’d be left with a passive story again.
In other words, if I play a video game, I want a challenge. If the so-called game just involves wandering through a house, reading someone’s old journals, and all I ever do is click through, I’m not challenged. So, while I love people using new technology to tell stories and create art, it’s becoming one of my pet-peeves to see them labeled as “video games.” Let’s call them “interactive media” instead, and leave the game label for actual games.
Sour apple, probably. Nothing fancy for me. Chocolate tastes weird as a jelly bean or I’d have gone that route ;D.
Because I had one old account that I originally set up a few years ago, and then when Google + merged with YouTube it created a second account and I wasn’t ever able to merge them.