Monday, March 18, 2013

Framing Devices With an Interactive Twist

You may recall that I recommended inklewriter as one tool for testing story ideas.  I recently found an interesting piece of interactive fiction made with it and I found it rather interesting.  It's called First Draft of a Revolution, and its format is quite different from anything I've seen before (though, to be perfectly honest, I'm not well versed in the realm of non-game interactive fiction pieces!).

The story is presented as a series of letters written between the main characters.  This isn't anything new; framing devices have been used for ages.  But here's the twist: through a series of clicks you get into the letter writers' heads, seeing their thought process as they write and rewrite their letter until you decide it's ready to send.

For example, in the image above, Juliette has made a list of the things she wants to say in her letter.  You click on each item and see a note pop up that ponders what to do next.  The notes seem to offer choices at first, but really there is only one option you can pick to continue.

I thought this was rather effective.  It would pretty boring reading about each character changing their mind and rewriting.  I don't need the explanation of what they're doing when it's the same thing over and over.

So what makes the story interactive? You can sometimes send letters without clicking on everything, though ultimately this doesn't actually change the story.  You can also choose what order you reveal the information to yourself.  As the inkle blog says about the piece:
But do the choices affect the story? Yes. Of course they do. Partly because the choices are being remembered by the other data-collecting system in action during the game, which is the one that sits between your ears. And partly because you’re performing the act of choosing.  The indecision of the characters, expressed through your choices and changes, changes everything. It’s a little like the way an actor’s reading of a line in a play changes the way the scene is experienced. Each performance is different even though each telling is the same. A gripping play isn’t about control, but it isn’t passive either – it’s electrifying, because every second is alive with possibility. Drama arises from the space between one second and the next, quite regardless of whether we’re in a screwball comedy where anything can happen, or a tragedy where a bleak fate was prophesied in Scene One.
The story doesn't take too long to get through, and while I would have liked it to go a bit further into the results of the risky move our heroine Juliette made, I also would have found doing much more clicking to reveal the letter to get a little tedious.  Overall, I recommend checking it out.


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