Denied Choice: Review of Interactive Fiction in the ELC

Katherine Hayles’ Electronic Literature Collection (ELC) carries a variety of literature in different electronic forms.  Authors come together utilizing different elements of fiction/poetry with the use of computer programs.  Different writers use Flash Media as a way of expressing their works not only through words, but with music, images and animation.  There are specific writers that utilize a certain program that allows the reader to interact with the work itself.

Jon Ingold’s All Roads is one story where the reader has certain command words to continue it. Unfortunately, the reader doesn’t know any of the key words so they fumble to find the correct words to continue on.  There is some difficulty to this considering the list of initiating words is unknown.  There’s a sense of instinctual word choice.  The reader is to assume what the next word would be such as, “walk” or “jump”.  There was one instant in the scene of All Roads where the character is hanging from a rope tied around his neck and one wrong move, the reader’s decision, to commit suicide.  In some points of this work, the frustration sets in when one decides to stray away from the hidden keyword selection and tries to make the story go in their direction.  Again, they are denied this choice.

Aaron A. Reed’s Who the Telling Changed is a slightly better version of this concept.  Reed’s piece asks the user whether they want the key words emphasized to point them in the right direction.  Also, if the user were to type in the wrong instructional word, a suggestive list of words appears on the screen to help progress the story.  It is aggravating because the reader only has a few options to choose from in order to continue. Ingold and Reed have the commonality in where they want to direct their reader to a certain point but still have the control to manipulate the story to the way they want it to go.  Reed has an advantage because he aids the reader on how they would like to end the story.

The frustration of interactive fiction is the disability for the reader to choose the next step to continue the story.  It is difficult for the reader to choose the next option because they are denied by the program.  If it is interactive fiction, why can’t the reader decide their character’s fate in the work?  Why advertise to the population of readers that they are able to control fiction?  It’s misleading.  At the same time, it’s understandable that the author still wants the control as the manipulator of the story.  This only teases the reader to have this option; but allowing the reader to have complete control of it would defeat the purpose.  The author pushes the user to believe they have the directions to manipulate the story, but in the end, the author has complete hold over his/her work. In this case, it does seem have an advantage; it’s like the Choose Your Own Adventure books in electronic form.


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