Nondeterministic digital storytelling
2016 • Skills: Writing
An excerpt from a longer essay:
In certain forms of writing, the idea of readers making choices about how to proceed is built right in. Think of textbooks — the chapters are generally modular, and it’s assumed that people may read them out of order, skip over some, or just pluck out one or two and ignore the rest.
Not so for novels and other narrative forms. Choice is a gimmick. The phrase “reader choice” conjures images of hokey Choose Your Own Adventure books, text adventures played at the command line on early personal computers, or, at best, the experimental works of the hypertext fiction movement of the 1980 and ’90s born of Hypercard and Eastgate Systems. To a mainstream audience, such artifacts, whatever we may think of as their artistic or historical significance, essentially scan as “weird stuff for computer nerds” or “games for children.” I think we can change this impression with a new approach to designing for reader choice in digital narrative.