Monday, September 29, 2008

A Writer's Take On Narrative. (Option #1)

Narrative is something that I deal with on a daily basis, and I don’t just mean in writing it, but in practically living it. Here, I’ll explain first by not defining interactivity yet, but focusing on narrative itself. You see, narrative is basically the telling of an event, or series of events, so you have to figure that even as you live…a tale is being told. In your case, it’s probably from the first-person perspective. In my case, you’re in the third-person. Congratulations, you’re one of my many dubious tales. But getting back to interactivity, I find that there’s a problem in using it here. You see, interactivity deals in being able to interact with a computer program…but it does not specify whether that can involve narrative per se, or books at all. This allows it to refer to Zork, under the clause of “Special Circumstances” but can you see it attached to Cup of Death?

You see the problem here. The term “Interactive Narrative” hasn’t fully-sifted into the official mainstream bin inasmuch as it should be. We can accept that interactive narrative can pertain to a kind of story that you mess around with, but the terminology has failed to go along with it. So, are the people responsible for it just lazy or are we all misquoting what merely sounds right? (There’s a story in there somewhere, about the laziness of the industry, but that’s a narrative for another time.) Truth be told, I can’t actually see too much wrong with the idea of interactive narrative. It seems fairly straightforward, given my first sentence. You interact with the world – the real and actual breathing world – every moment of your life. This, in turn, is a tale about you. Even if you don’t think of it that way, somebody else does, and there’s about six billion of us to take up that position regardless of how you feel on the matter.

But then…this isn’t about the tale of us and the world. This is about us and playing Zork, or reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. Actually…no, that’s not true. Introducing…fictional worlds that exist because someone said so. Tales and narratives were made up originally to tell things that have happened, or might’ve happened, or even NEVER happened…but sound interesting. So, cue in now the real interactive fiction, the book that lets you decide how things will turn out, for better or for worse. Cup of Death is one such work, acting as sort of its own evidence. You can’t deny it after you make it exist, just as you can’t deny that Zork is a computer-based fiction that allows you to do (within reason) anything in order to get by. Granted, you have to do things a certain way in order to proceed in the game, but so what? It’s still being interacted with. The fact that you DO have to make things happen sort of presses the point of the matter, that it HAS TO be an interactive narrative because you have to THINK to make it go. And not every time will your action turn out the same. The game is varied like that, making it more versatile than the book, just like how characters you develop in a story might act differently than you intended because they tell you (in your head) that that’s not in their nature and they don’t want to be forced that way all the time. And that…is when you really get into the interaction.


KaraG said...

I liked your paper but it seems very broad to me. I feel like you didn’t really dig into the subject or try to connect it very hard. Maybe if you added some specific details or examples about the interactive fiction? I’m not sure but I feel like you only have 3 paragraphs and you used the first paragraph to describe what a narrative and the second one to define what interactive means (which is fine because that’s what the prompt tells you to do of course). Maybe you could just define those things in the first paragraph and then go into the rest of the prompt to the rest of the paper. The first two paragraphs kind of have tangents also about things that aren’t really about the prompt. It would be better if you could cut some of it when you read over it again.
Back to the example thing… I really like examples in a paper that I read I like that it gives me clarity to what you are thinking because sometimes I don’t think what you write onto paper is exactly what I am going to get from your paper. If you could go back to where you thought of your last paragraph and grab an example from the Cup of Death or Zork I think it would really help your paper. At the line “Cup of Death is one such work, acting as sort of its own evidence.” What exactly is that evidence? Or even with Zork how is it varied and interactive in your eyes?

Adam Johns said...

Kara - another good analysis

Jake - Your introduction is genuinely funny, but also ends up being vague - I don't understand how you're defining interactivity, really.

So are you arguing that consciousness itself involves a narrative? I'm getting that impression, but you aren't stating it directly.

To summarize my reaction, I'll fall back on Kara's comments. I'm interested in this piece, and I'd even go so far as to say that I enjoy it, or at least parts of it, but I don't have even a vague idea of what you're trying to accomplish here. Kara is right that examples would help; I would also add that beginning with a more conventionally placed argument would help. Even if this is intended as more of a series of speculation than as an essay (not necessarily a good idea...), you should have done one or the other. This just isn't grounded enough, ultimately.