October 11, 2004

Hypertext Fiction- Better than Interactive Fiction?

In my blog entry entitled "Frustrating Fiction", I wrote about my dislike of Interactive Fiction. However, after reading Victoria's blog on hypertext fiction, I think I have found an enjoyable replacement.

Hypertext fiction is similar to interactive fiction in that they are both stories where the reader can chose what happens. In interactive fiction, the reader has to type his or her commands to control the games. This can be frustrating if the commands do not work or are not recognized. Hypertext fiction is much easier. The commands are listed for the player, so the reader only has to chose between A,B, or C. This is more direct and takes care of the somewhat confusing commands. Also, important words have links that provide more information about the story or setting. This gives the reader a better view of the scene.

In the world of Internet writing, hypertext fiction seems to have just as many supporters as interactive fiction. Hyperizons, an hypertext fiction website at Duke University, has many links to games, criticisms, and reviews. Apparently there is a strong hypertext community out there which has involved players.

I tried the hypertext fiction "Matthew and Jake Fly a Kite". While the story didn't give me many options to chose from (there was the happy ending and real ending), it did include many funny links in the story.

So is hypertect fiction better than interactive fiction? Yes, definitly. It is much easier for the reader (no typing of commands), and I didn't get confused once.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at October 11, 2004 12:54 PM

Although I definately agree with you on that one, I will play the devil's advocate. If something is easier, is it necessarily better? Is it a question of better since both effectively target an audience? Which one is more difficult to make? Be prepared to counter questions like these from die-hard interactive fiction fans.

Posted by: Evan Reynolds at October 11, 2004 01:26 PM

Thanks Evan, for preparing me to answer those questions. No, because something is "easier" is isn't always "better". Sometimes, working hard on something worthwhile makes the project better than if it were easy to do. However, for something such as hypertext and interactive fiction, I think easier is better. It isn't creating a cure for cancer, it is just interactive fiction.

Although I have never made my own interactive or hypertext fiction, I can't really say which would be easier to make. However, from what I have observed, the latter would be much easier. In interactive fiction, several scenarios have to be written for a reader's commands (which can be quite numerous). Hypertext fiction does not give the person as many choices, therefore reducing the amount of writing.

Posted by: Vanessa at October 11, 2004 01:35 PM

Honestly, I think that nothing is ever truly "easy," and that includes both interactive fiction and hypertext fiction.

Interactive fiction is of course difficult because it requires so much in-depth programming and forethought on the part of the author.

Hypertext fiction can prove to be just as difficult... Consider, for instance, the fact that after the original foundation for the story is created, it becomes more and more difficult to create fresh and interesting extensions to the plot with each update, because the more writing that has been done, the less new stuff there is to write about. Interactive fiction is only written by one author, who can do anything he (or she) wants, without regard to the ideas laid down by other writers (and perhaps even readers). The author of hypertext fiction may want a story to take a particular direction, but find that after several readers have added to the story, it will be all but impossible to bring it back to the author's original intentions.

As for my belief that nothing is ever easy, consider the following example...

Say that you have a "simple" device which includes a button, a light bulb, and a wire. Push the button, and the light bulb lights up... However, this is an incredibly complex interaction, because of all of the different properties and attributes of electricity, the wire, and the light bulb that make it possible (I could go into greater detail, but I don't want to derail the blog entry from its original topic).

At its heart, anything is complex, because of the laws that govern our world.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 11, 2004 09:02 PM

Chris, you are exactly right. "Easy" wasn't the best choice of words on my part. Hypertext fiction just looks less complicated than interactive fiction, but what do I know? Everything takes hard work, no matter what it is. Yet for me personally, the way hypertext fiction is set up is much more appealing.

Posted by: Vanessa at October 11, 2004 10:22 PM

Yeah, sorry, I... Don't know, I went off on another one of my weird tangents there.

But I can understand what you mean. At first glance, hypertext fiction "programming" is definitely more appealing when compared to all of the strange code stuff that goes into making an IF game.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 12, 2004 01:06 AM

It's ok Chris. Tangents can be interesting too. I'm glad we've come to an understanding though. Haha.

Posted by: Vanessa at October 12, 2004 01:26 PM

Nessa, I must agree about the interactive fiction. I found it very confusing as well, but practice makes perfect...I've been able to re-inforce this statement by playing IF over, and over, and finding it's starting to become a bit more enjoyable!

Posted by: storm at October 14, 2004 11:27 PM
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