Of all the Narrative and Technology reading assignments this semester, Shannon Gilligan’s Cup of Death is certainly one of the most compelling. Enthusiasm for this book, however, is garnered by the reader not because the work contains academically dense, prophetic passages, but because it delivers something the majority of books lack: choice. Choice that is, by the reader. As Cup of Death is a “choose your own adventure” story, the reader is forced to make choices throughout its entirety. Different choices lead to different endings to the story, and as one experiences multiple endings to the same story, it’s plot as a whole is slowly woven together like a web. This particular attribute of Shannon Gilligan’s Cup of Death immediately brings the concept of modern online gaming to mind. As players of online games such as, “Call of Duty” know, most game-play is spent battling characters controlled by other players like yourself. This style of entertainment, online-gaming, allows people from around the world to be able to “choose their own adventure” by giving them the ability to choose who they “interact” against. Cup of Death allows people from around the world to “choose their own adventure” by choosing who they “interact” with in its story.
Merely a few pages in, Shannon Gilligan’s Cup of Death demands that the reader choose who to interact with in its story. By asking who they would, “like to talk first to”, Gilligan’s book gives its readers an experience very similar to online-gaming (13 Gilligan). By adding this element of choice, she also adds a type of “interaction” unique to books. No longer is it a book that can be only intangibly interpreted, within the mind. It becomes instead, capable of immediate, tangible manipulation. In the same way that online-gamers are given the ability to tangibly “interact” with the game by choosing who to battle against, the readers of Cup of Death are given the ability to tangibly interact with the story by having the option of choosing which characters to “interact” with. Should this interaction feel fake to us? In reading Cup of Death, the reader is interacting not only with its characters, but also indirectly with Shannon Gilligan, the author herself. In playing online games such as “Call of Duty”, one is interacting not only with its characters, but also, indirectly, the players themselves. By deciding to, “get onto the bus”, or, “make a dash for the train”, the reader is indirectly interacting with Shannon Gilligan in that they are listening to her through a communication medium other than conversation (86 Gilligan). By choosing which character to battle against, the online-gamer is indirectly interacting with the person controlling said character.
However indirect, the interaction between the reader and Shannon Gilligan through Cup of Death is more real than that between readers and authors of others books in that its inclusion of “choice” creates deeper interaction between reader and author. This is achieved by the introduction tangibility caused by the aforementioned choice. In doing this, Cup of Death is illustrative of the “interaction” seen in online-gaming.