Micro-Essay 2: Interactive Fiction: How Much “Game” Is Too Much?

By: Mathieu Klein

The term interactive fiction leaves room for quite a range of games. There are parser and hyperlink forms from our readings but how far can this genre be stretched? While Howling Dogs is clearly a hyperlink game, does the Stanley Parable fit into interactive fiction? Another pertinent question is if the large sub-genre of visual novels fit into interactive fiction as well. In this paper, we will explore the range of interactive fiction through an exploration of the difference between the north american interactive fiction (parser and hyperlink) and the Japanese counterpart (visual novels). Using this exploration we can see if the Stanley Parable is a part of interactive fiction or if it is something different entirely.

Porpentine’s post covers the world of interactive fiction in an interesting way. By denouncing the capitalistic norm of our society, they show off a new emerging form of artistic expression in the form of traditional interactive fiction and Twine. Before this class, text based games were not in my definition of the term “interactive fiction”. While doing the assigned reading and games for this week however, I experienced my first true text based game. Howling Dogs is essentially a choose your own adventure book on a webpage. There is no “gameplay”, just pure story. While relatively bare, the story sucks you in and you forget that you are clicking on hyperlinks and instead want to find out the sad story that is unfolding.

This is a stark contrast to what I usually consider as interactive fiction. Visual novel is commonly referred to as a synonym to interactive fiction due to its focus on story and lack of gameplay elements. The large difference is that instead of only text/slight use of pictures, visual novels usually have a full background with static images of characters and story elements. To this end, visual novels are more game-like but still maintain the focus on story. The main question now is, how far can push the gameplay aspect before a game stops being able to be called interactive fiction?

So where does the Stanley Parable fit into the mix? Unlike the other games we have looked at, you can move around and interact with a 3D world. The story is not told by text but through a narrator who is the main force of the game. You as the player are able to make choices just like any other examples of interactive fiction above but instead of going to a new page of text or a new background image, the whole game world changes around you by the power of the narrators voice. Personally, I see no reason to exclude the Stanley Parable from interactive fiction because it maintains the purpose of telling a story first with “gameplay” being very light or even non-existent (such as the broom closet ending).

Now that we have explored a few different perspectives of interactive fiction, the readings and games for this week can be viewed in a new light. While some forms have more game like elements to them, they all focus on story above anything else. For this reason, the games that fit under the umbrella of interactive fiction can be seen as some of the most creative and expressive games out there. It is not just text based games, but games that take a chance with story and presentation; games that are not afraid to not be very “game” like.

Works Cited:

Maxtasy. “The Stanley Parable – Easter Egg – Broom Closet.” Youtube. Youtube, 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEXhxX6nBLs&ab_channel=Maxtasy>

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