Methods of distribution for Interactive Fiction

Whereas Howling Dogs can be viewed as unerringly faithful to the genre, The Stanley Parable requires a somewhat more liberal interpretation of what qualifies as interactive fiction. It is essentially a parody of the videogame in the style of a graphic fiction game, keeping the player entertained with a reactive narration whilst they move through a series of binary choice sets. It is not the degree to which either title adheres to the tenets of its genre, nor is it the exceptionally broad exposure one title has enjoyed over the other, or the difference in cost to the player that serves as the greatest contrast, but the means of distribution. The Stanley Parable began life as a modification of the Source engine and therefore, at least on Apple computers, required the player to own a copy of Half Life 2, which is owned by Valve Corporation. The standalone remake of the game, as well as its demo, is available only through the Steam digital distribution platform which requires the player to both install the Steam software and by doing so, support digital rights management (DRM).  While it should be noted that developing a game using the Source engine does not necessarily limit one to distribution on Steam, Dear Esther is, to my knowledge, the only example of a Source-based game available as a DRM-free download.  Generally speaking DRM is almost non-existent in interactive fiction when compared to video games.

This leads one to question; do games like The Stanley Parable signify a trend towards distributing interactive fiction through the same DRM-laden digital marketplaces as videogames? Perhaps not, as it is a unique piece of interactive fiction in that it looks like a videogame, it feels like a game, and it is concerned primarily with addressing how choice and consequence are approached in videogames. It is because of this that it is treated much the same as a traditional videogame, just more thinky than most.  By contrast Howling Dogs does not look like a videogame, it does not play like a videogame, it does not concern itself with videogames tropes.   In “Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution,” Porpentine constructs an appeal for developing interactive fiction using Twine. A game built on Twine can easily be distributed and requires little to no overhead cost. Most importantly however, it can be played by anyone. Twine provides an accessible means of producing interactive fiction without subjecting its audience to the same invasive policies that are now present in most other forms digital media. There is simply no foreseeable reason why a game built using Twine would necessitate distribution through steam or a similar platform and for anti-DRM players this makes a world of difference.

Works Cited

Porpentine. “Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution.” Nightmare Mode. 25 November 2012.

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