Interactive Fiction: Beyond the Story

By: Alexandre Huot


When given power to affect the narrativ, players must look beyond the story itself and learn how they can interact with its world. This was my experience with both Howling Dogs and The Stanley Parable. Without any control over a narrative, I’m more inclined to follow it without questions; to accept what is told. Presented with choice and control, I feel far more involved with the narrative, question it, try to break it. As such, I found my experiences with these two works of interactive fiction far more thought-provoking and memorable than traditionally ‘linear’ narratives.

“… the puzzles in a work of interactive fiction function to control the revelation of the narrative…”

Particularly true of The Stanley Parable, narrative paths are revealed only as certain actions are completed (or not completed). Perhaps not puzzles per se, the actions allowing the player to move forward along a certain path take the form of either accepting the narrator’s instructions or rejecting them, and sometimes something in between. What makes this game so interesting is that it forces the player to reject the initially presented narrative if they wish to fully experience all the games endings. The player cannot simply be a passive participant in a work of interactive fiction; they must challenge the narrative to see it move forward.

“… much of the pleasure comes from a sense of going deeper and deeper into the cave, and discovering unexpected passages.”

Perhaps what I enjoyed most in playing both assigned games this week was the sense of discovery in each. This is true of most games I play, but it is somehow more rewarding when the discoveries are portions of the story rather than other non-narrative aspects of games. Knowing that the story is not ‘on rails’, that it is mutable, somehow make the exploration seem endless with possibilities; a story can go anywhere. This is perhaps what makes a text-based interactive fiction so appealing: by stripping away the limitations of technology and the constraints of a virtual world, exploration is only restricted by the writer’s and player’s imaginations.

“…one of the joys of adventuring is that the discovery of the extents and limitations of the game’s vocabulary”

I tried to break The Stanley Parable; it was my favorite thing to do (and i guess what you’re supposed to do). I knew full well that my actions were within the confines of the actual game space, but I still loved disobeying every instruction from the narrator, as I wanted to see how far he would go. And I wasn’t disappointed: I got him to lose the story, to send me into other games, etc. As a piece of interactive fiction (and I would very much consider it so), the purpose is to push the limits and possibilities of storytelling, and as such, discovering these limits becomes one of the core experiences for the player.

Works Cited:

Montfort, Nick. “The Pleasure of the Text Adventure.” In Twisty Little Passages. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 1-36.


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