Is interactive fiction the next big trend in digital storytelling?

Last week, I clued you all into Spotlight Stories, Google’s interactive short films for mobile devices. This week, a NYTimes.com article, “Text Games in a New Era of Stories,” describes another new innovation in the area of digital storytelling: interactive fiction. This week, a NYTimes.com article, “Text Games in a New Era of Stories,” describes another new innovation in the area of digital storytelling: interactive fiction.

Author Chris Suellentrop discusses a new iPad story titled, “Blood & Laurels.” Written by interactive fiction author Emily Short, the story was written using software called Versu, which was designed by Short and Richard Evans who worked on artificial intelligence of games such as Black & White and The Sims 3. Versu is an engine for telling interactive stories in which, according to Versu.com, “Every person in a Versu story is modeled with AI that gives them unique personality traits and inclinations. They remember how the player has treated them. They can become your friend, your lover, your mentor, your worst enemy.”

The iTunes purchase page for Blood & Laurels describes the story as, “the eight hundred and twenty first year of the city of Rome, a year of bad omens and unrest under a bloodthirsty Emperor.” And interestingly enough, “Blood & Laurels” is categorized under “Games” in iTunes.

Suellentrop adds, “At almost anytime in Blood & Laurels, the reader – or it is player? – can press the “Act Now” button to direct the main character to do something or press “More” to keep reading.”

He continues that “Blood & Laurels,” however, made him feel, “more like an improviser than a reader,” as the story offers a number of menu options the reader can choose for a character. The options included talking to another character, pretending nothing happened, eating and more.

In his conclusion, however, Suellentrop states that, while Short is a good writer, those who simply want to read a story should just buy a regular book. But he does add, “What Blood & Laurels offers is one of those quintessential video game moments, a first glimpse at something on the horizon,” which is something that as new platforms for digital storytelling emerge cannot be denied.

But what might be most intriguing from the NYTimes.com article is the discussion of why Short decided to write interactive fiction rather than conventional stories. She says, “I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t write multiple versions of the same scene.” Short wants the reader to have a more conversational relationship with her story.

As a storyteller, what do you think about an interactive piece of fiction? Do you ever feel the need to tell multiple versions of the same scene in a story? If so, does interactive fiction seem like a way to accomplish that?

References

Suellentrop, C. (2014). Text games in a new era of stories. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/arts/video-games/text-games-in-a-new-era-of-stories.html?_r=1

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6 thoughts on “Is interactive fiction the next big trend in digital storytelling?

  1. I have worked with interactive fiction for a project and it is difficult. But I agree it is an interactive way to read and have a choice of where the character goes, kind of a way for the reader to make their own of the story within the guidelines provided. Emily Short is a great introduction because it is like reading a book but for the more advanced IF reader/gamer more stories like the one posted should be a staple in IF.

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  2. So in a previous class, we had the opportunity to play and design interactive fictions. Learning, or trying to learn html code is not so easy. But I am puzzle person and it fascinated me that one key function led to another function that led me to figure out how to get from point A to point B. I do think that as the word about interactive fictions spread and the content within them is more tailored to a specific audience, i think this could be the newest thing in the digital storytelling age. I find them quite fascinating.

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  3. I feel it’s kind of like a psychological test when you can decide how the character should act toward a situation. It will reveal character of each reader, which reflects when he/she deal with obstacles.

    I like the way the story is told. This type of fiction is very interesting that I think readers would feel as a part of the story because they are in the story, they are the person who move the story forward.

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  4. I have been looking forward to things like this for a while now. Ever since I read the first choose your adventures book that I could lay my hands on, interactive stories have been on my ‘must get into more’ list. I hope more authors and publishers follow this trend

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  5. You’ve certainly made me intrigued by this form of fiction now, and I am considering checking it out. Regarding this specific story, I think they’ve made an interesting choice regarding the tumultuous time of Rome and history they’ve picked. I guess stories like that can have a “Second Life” underlying sensation — and that could get quite intimate 😉

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  6. This is very intriguing, but I have to agree that it is going down this “Second Life” road that I have never been particularly interested in. I like to get wrapped up in stories, and I like the idea that everyone can have a collective reaction to a book or a character, I like to relate to people in that way. When a story is individualized, I feel like we lose a piece of our collective unconscious.

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