Burning Down the House
INTELLIGENT AGENT, SEPTEMBER 1996
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
The Challenges of Building Interactive Narratives (Part 2)
From Adrianne Wortzel’s “Electronic Chronicles”: reconstitution of the “Twin Lions Building,” located at the epicenter of the bedrock island known as Man-Hat-10.
Sites reviewed in this article:
Interactive narratives are composed of segments, which are linked electronically by multiple paths and allow manifold combinations. The author creates a “map” of the story with alternate paths and various options; the reader chooses routes and thus creates an individual version of the narrative. Since the reading process is nonsequential, authors cannot accurately predict which path readers will follow (or if they can follow at all). Readers change the story not only through their individual interpretive biases, but choose links, and thus actively influence the sequence of text segments or even words. They may return to a segment of the story they have read before and follow a link leading to an entirely different narrative strand than the one they have encountered during their previous reading. Reading a printed text for a second time, readers may arrive at a different interpretation without the text changing at all, but readers of interactive narratives probably won’t even read the same story twice. Due to the changing order of narrative elements, interactive narratives challenge readers to reconsider their expectations and interpretations in a more radical way than the linearity of the print medium does. Readers are aware that they may encounter the same segment in entirely different contexts and that they are reading only one of many possible versions of the story.