Interactive Fiction and Narrative Games

When I was reading “Galatea”, or rather talking to Galatea, my experience quickly became one of exploration of a very small portion of the story. I seemed to kind of go in circles while I was looking for ways to continue to conduct the interview with Galatea. I ended up starting over the story several times, starting from where I had left off the previous time, in order to try and get further to within the story. To me this seemed like a definite part of the way the narrative is meant to be experienced. The story dealt with someone interviewing an inhuman intelligence and the difficulty of engaging in conversation within the story program could be representative of understanding a highly intelligent computer program and the challenges of accepting it as human or not. Overall the interactive element worked very well in this story because it was so open ended much like a conversation in real life would be.

“Howling Dogs” and “Those We Left Alive” were very good at establishing habits for the reader to participate in in order to progress the story. In ” Howling Dogs” particularly, the reader had to do five distinct steps before accessing the activity room. The activity room was were most of the meat of the story was but the steps you had to take to get to the room were what created the atmosphere of the story. The protagonist of the story is concealed to a small area on a long running mission and defining the limited amount of things to do in this space places the reader in the protagonists shoes, which in turns place them deeper into the narratives within the activity room. “Those We Left Alive” was similar in the way that the reader had to sleep in order to progress the story. After a while I found myself just sleeping the days away in order to get to the next part of the narrative. This actually added to the dark and depressing atmosphere of the story in my mind because the world described within the story isn’t one one I would be particularly fond of living in. I think the interactive elements in these stories functioned very similarly to the way VR functions. When wearing a Virtual Reality headset people are more willing to do things that they would otherwise find routine and boring just because they are experiencing the headset. A second reasoning for this is that I believe that people just like to complete tasks. By giving the reader a set of tasks that the protagonist must complete, Porpentine effectively gives a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of their characters to the reader.

Blog 6

When looking at both “Galatea” is the level of choice the user has in deciding what to talk about. To me it comes across as a perfect example of multi-linearity. If you want the story to have some semblance of linearity, there are defined paths that a user can take.

What path the user chooses is ultimately up to them. What I noticed quickly as Rettberg did is that the artwork is not necessarily a puzzle intensive experience, it isn’t an incredibly challenging piece. What Emily Short does that I love is really focus in on the writing of the story. Quality of writing is an incredibly important element and Emily Short really does a fantastic job on this front. Galatea has wit and a unique character as she is carved from stone. There is clear inspiration and reference to Greek mythology which I must confess, makes me like the work even more. Who the sculptor was and why he hated everyone, the idea of love, etc. all create a beautiful tapestry. With all of that said though there were some problems. One in particular was the text options. At times I would feel limited in my options despite it being a relatively open experience. However it wasn’t a big enough problem that it brought the entire experience down with it. Rettberg discusses how Short doesn’t create games to be won or lost, but rather stories designed to create an experience. In this way Short differentiated herself from the rest of the crowd during the time, using the framework of interactive fiction to explore different narrative paths. (Rettberg 100)

A less enjoyable story that I explored was Jason Nelson’s “Game Game Game and Game Again.” It wasn’t necessarily a bad IF, there was a clear point and statement. For example, while there is an “objective” which is the door, you don’t really feel like you win much of anything. Nelson is exploring as he described it, “artists changing worldview lens.” In this way it, like Short’s Galatea, utilizes the IF framework as a method to explore different ideas and forms. The problem derives primarily from the visuals. As a person who is obsessed with visuals, the design of this piece is just ugly. Now its pretty obvious that this was intentional on Jason’s part, as he explained that it was an anti-design statement; but it doesn’t make it any less easy to engage with.

It didn’t help that the writing was not the best, and often times I was left more confused than satisfied. Perhaps I ought to take a few more looks at the work to see if I can decipher any more meaning out of the piece.

I will say though his line, “Come on and meet your maker,” is now stuck in my head.

Interactive Fiction & Narrative Games

Some of these games I felt where really enjoyable in their own way but the two games that really stood out to me would be “Game, Game, Game, and Again Game” and “Howling Dogs”, both giving up deep meaning to each activity we make from within the game though.

Game, Game, Game, and Again Game is this interactive, side scrolling platform game that immerses you into a world of random stuff that happens when you collect items that are wildly spasming out all over the level and when you collect one it gives you, what I think, are riddles as well as little music clips of his life throughout the years.

As you can see. Depending on the items in which you collect can give you more to receive as you progress throughout the game which is what I really like about it is that in order to get more information you would have to progress and work for it.

Howling Dogs, on the other hand is quite a bit different than the other. Howling Dogs is more of a Narrative Game than it is an Interactive Fiction. The game starts you in a room that gives you several room to choose to go in and “explore” and depending on your action will see if you progress further or circle back to the room you start in. I like it because it’s a more settle game than Gamesx4 and instead of your characters actions being tracked it’s YOUR actions. These games try to see what YOU would do in these situations. It was a real daring experience for me.


Image capture is “Game, Game, Game, and Again Game”


Blog 5: IF & NGs

I chose to look into With Those We Love Alive and Deviant: The Possession of Christain Shaw. The first thing you will notice when playing these games is how they choose to tell their story. Deviant uses graphics an animation, similar to an amateur flash game, to showcase the reader what is going on while music is added to establish an atmosphere. The music changes as you progress throughout the game and things take a turn for the weird. Characters’ mouths move but no sound can be heard, monsters appear and disappear with the flick of your mouse, for something so simple it sure does a good job of being creepy. When I first played this game I was a bit unsure of how to progress but when I played through it the second time I had a better idea of how to progress. Little X’s would take you to the next “scene” but sometimes you just couldn’t help but feel like you missed something important.

The gameplay in Deviant relies entirely upon hovering your mouse and/or clicking on things. Hoovering over flowers makes them wilt and causes berries to become demonic supposedly? According to the text provided at the end of the game Deviant: The Possession of Christain Shaw is based on one of the most well-known cases of ‘demonic possession’ in Scotland’s history that happened in 1696. The game illustrates this by showing the interactor some disturbing events that supposedly happened in 1696. As you go through the story, Christain’s condition gets worse and worse. She has a rash on her stomach, her eyeballs start sinking into the back of her skull, and at one point she pukes up a lump of coal that is extremely hot to the touch. One could argue that the goals in this game are unclear. While you could say the imagery for Christain’s condition is your “health bar” it is rather unclear whether or not you were helping Christain or not. Sure, in the end, she turns out to be fine but according to the event that this is based on

“She, an 11-yr-old child, was able to sustain herself against and repel the devil from her body”

So were we the savior or the demon?

In the IF With Those We Love Alive the narration takes a different approach. Unlike Deviant, this IF depends entirely upon words and your imagination. The music in the background is calming, as if oblivious to the giant bug queen. The goal in this game is to make the giant larvae queen happy by crafting items for her. Progression through this game takes a little while to figure out but it almost plays like a modern game. You can either explore the area or fast forward to the next day by sleeping. Not much of your surroundings changes other than what the queen’s hounds are doing. Other than giving the queen gifts on the occasionssion there isn’t much else to do. The game doesn’t offer the reader any puzzles, they aren’t pressured to do anything until the queen demands it, it’s almost as if the game is lacking in areas. The game loves to pick at your brain. From customizing the queen and her accessories, to the idea of what’s real and what isn’t. Although the game may be lacking in “objectives” the story really pulls the reader in, especially after the queen releases her spores. The little details and the anticipation as the action begins to pick up really grabs the reader’s attention.

IF and Games: A Look into Twine Narratives

Both of Porpentine’s Twine narratives engulf the interactor into the work, immersing them in the fiction as their eyes trace the words along each line.

Porpentine’s earlier work, “Howling Dogs,” truly portrays a dark sense both with the language used–the way the first line alone reads the moment the user goes to read the work–and also by the colors on the page, immediately opening to an inverted color scheme as though the thin white letters on the page would be sucked in to the massive darkness surrounding them. Not too far into this work, the interactor is provided with a sort of map or at the very least a text description of the environmental layout.

Upon exploring the various areas, more times than not a dead-end will be reached, providing a sense of stuck-ness or being trapped. Visiting the lavatory then the shower within gave an even stronger sense that reinforced that very feeling of confinement.

The shower is a peaceful time for you, a way of demarcating space within extremely limited space, moisture and temperature standing in for spatiality. This is wet space, warm space, flowing space.

Porpentine is very purposeful about what type of language to use in certain situations. Even so, when it comes to goals or puzzles, the text itself is a giant mystery to be unraveled. The user must explore various areas and put the pieces of information together to simply figure out what is going on and then what they feel they are supposed to do. This is true of both “Howling Dogs” and “With Those We Love Alive,” both of which were created by Porpentine.

The difference between the two however, is how complexly they are laid out, the stories themselves, and that the later created IF (“With Those We Love Alive”) also uses sound and various other color schemes to immerse the interactor and communicate certain, very specific feelings and messages as they explore the work.

They are both a matter of solving the big unanswered question by finding and putting together the puzzle pieces hidden throughout the text. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you just have to try again. Can’t that very same thing be said about everyday life?


Porpentine’s “Howling Dogs”
Porpentine’s “With Those We Love Alive”