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November 9, 2006

EL236 What?... No narrative?

Interactive Fiction has given me some challenges this semester, and I'm beginning to understand why some parts of storytelling are more (or less) emphasized than others. For example, narrative is not necessarily a good thing in IF. While I am a literature major and tend to enjoy a good narrative, in IF it doesn't move the story along because the player isn't interacting with the text.

Okay, I guess that'd be the reason it's Interactive Fiction, huh? :)

Here's what Dr. Jerz had to say in his article on Exposition in Interactive Fiction:

Putting long stretches of narrative prose into the mouth of the IF narrator will not turn a great puzzle-fest into even a passable story. IF without narrative has its value (c.f. Marnie Parker's Iffy Art Gallery). But even a short stretch of gratuitous narration can be too long, if it leads either the player or the author to lose sight of the interactive potential in an IF setting.

I wish someone had explained this to me earlier. I mean, not that it would have solved all of my problems, but this is helpful stuff. While I sometimes expect to have someone telling me what's going on (or at least be hinted to about what I need to do or where I need to go), it's not necessarily standard practice in IF. I've learned not to get my hopes up.

I can understand how narrative is the ultimate "telling" in IF--the player isn't doing anything to "earn" the information that's given in the narrative. It might be disappointing for a player to interact with the game only to be told what's going on instead of being shown through actions. This puts "showing" (v. telling) into a whole new realm of meaning. Whereas in fiction you work with action verbs, removing passive tense, adverbs, and extra clauses to "show," in IF you make try to intrigue the player into typing "look/examine/touch/take/kick, etc." in order to do the "showing." It seems more acceptable to insert the text that describes what the player looked at/examined/touched/took/kicked, etc. than to merely go through the story without giving the player a shot at making choices.

Maybe this is a no-brainer to some, but I'm glad to finally sort of "get" it. Feels good, y'know?

Posted by KarissaKilgore at November 9, 2006 7:11 PM


In linear fiction, SHOWING the reader is usually better than TELLING.

In interactive fiction, letting the player DO is better than SHOWING the player.

I'm glad that you've made this connection, Karissa. It's the kind of thing that only really makes sense once you've had experience with the medium.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at November 10, 2006 12:08 AM

As you pointed out earlier, we seem to have similar impressions and experiences with IF.-- It also took me awhile to catch on to the *interactive* part of Interactive Fiction.

I like how Dr. Jerz's has applied the whole "show vs. tell" we've had drilled in our heads, into "do vs. show" for IFs.

Posted by: Cherie at November 12, 2006 12:38 AM

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