Playing as a Reader: Interacting with Interactive Narratives

The focus of our next unit will be interactive narratives: creating texts that progress, unfold, or change based on the reader’s interaction with it, whether in the form of decision-making, text input, or physical movement. Today, we’re going to begin exploring these kinds of texts as readers / players, to develop an understanding of how and why interactive narratives succeed in getting readers to participate.

You all have read the two short pieces listed on the syllabus on “Interactive Fiction” by Emily Short, and “Interactive Narrative” by Marie-Laure Ryan. Today, you will work in pairs to choose one sample interactive narrative and spend significant time reading/exploring it. You should choose one of the pieces below (some of which are free, and some of which cost to download / play):

Free options:

Paid options:

If you happen to have brought a laptop, you could also choose Tale of Tales “The Path,” (Mac or PC purchase), which is a favorite of mine, but is also a paid download.

Pick an interactive narrative that sounds interesting or compelling to you, and spend some time engaging with it, exploring, playing, experimenting, and, well, interacting. You’ll have about half the class to “read” your choice.

Then, I want you to use this Google doc to write a response of the interactive narrative you chose to read in-depth. This should not be just a general review or response. Specifically, I want you to discuss your experience reading / playing the piece using the concepts from either the Short or Ryan articles.Below are a few questions that grow out of ideas raised in either article you may use as springboards for your response:

What kind of interactive narrative are you exploring? How does the narrative constrain player agency (and is that constraint part of the message of the piece)? How does the narrative work on the question of what the player is willing to do or make the protagonist do? How does the narrative use “the mechanics of deep exploration” or deploy a goalless immersive space? How does the narrative incorporate puzzles, or require the player to overcome obstacles? What narrative function do those puzzles serve?

Does your enjoyment of the narrative increase as a result of your interaction, or relationship to your player-character? How does the narrative balance the user’s role of control over the story with a well-formed narrative arc? How deeply into the “onion” are you, as the reader, allowed to penetrate with your input?

You and your partner should post a joint response by the end of class time today. Make sure to include your names with your contribution. I’d also like you to embed links to the interactive piece you discuss, any other sources you reference, and / or multimedia like images or screenshots that help us understand your response. That is, I’d like your response to be as interactive, hypertextual, and multimedia as possible.

If you like, you may also use your response as your weekly blog post, but all responses should be typed into the Google doc.

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