Multimodal Storytelling

In addition to the reading that I’ve asked you to do about multimodal texts, I’d like you to experience some that make use of the mode of interactivity or the gestural mode. These texts are often classified broadly under the category of “interactive fiction” and have a long history that parallels computers and video games. Most of these can be enjoyed within your web browser (although some are available as separate apps). I’d like you to experience at least two of these texts, and to spend at least 10-15 minutes with each of them (some are short enough that they can be experienced completely within that time frame).

Two sites that you can visit and browse to choose texts based on your preferences include textadventures.co.uk, a site that features hundreds of interactive story-games to choose from. The games tagged Literature (see the choices available on the main screen in the Categories sidebar) will be very appropriate for this assignment, but you can really choose from any of the categories. A second site that hosts a number of stories is the Sub-Q Interactive Magazine which features mostly shorter texts that rely more on clicking links in the text rather than inputting text into a parser (see the note below).

Some stories to try out

All the possibilities may be overwhelming, so here are some stories I’ve enjoyed:

  • Zork (read/play it here): This is a classic story/game from the 1970s that features an engaging fantasy setting and emphasize puzzles-solving. In this story, you enter commands to control your in-story character. If it’s a little confusing at first or you’re feeling lost, check out the guide posted here (you can skim the introductory parts and the real action begins in section five). This is a full-length game, so you won’t complete the entire story, but you should get a taste for some classic interactive fiction.
  • My Father’s Long, Long, Legs (read it here): In this very creepy story, you revisit your childhood home to check on the father you abandoned long ago because of his odd behavior. No commands to enter here, just links to follow as you experience the story. Some sound effects and some interesting light effects later into the story, but this is a quick one that shouldn’t take you longer than 10-15 minutes to experience.
  • Invasion (read it here): Another creepy story, this one has you take on the role of a young girl being chased by a mysterious creature. It’s also short and features links rather than inputting text.
  • Photopia (read it here): This one’s hard to describe, but it’s one of the more interesting pieces of interactive fiction I’ve experienced. When it first loads, you’ll be asked if you want instructions; I’d suggest answering “yes” and the resulting introduction will give you the background you need. You may not be able to finish the whole story in 10-15 minutes, but it’s well worth the ending to finish it. You enter text commands in this story to move it along.
  • Creatures Such as We (read it here): Described as a philosophical romance, this story focuses in part on a game you’re playing (very meta, kind of like a game-within-a-game). It’s labeled as a “philosophical romance” and uses the “choose your own adventure” format of offering you a series of choices after each piece of the story. Also an app for Android and iOS.

A note about “reading” these texts

Most of these texts fall into two categories: those that ask you to input text as a way of directing your avatar/personality in the text and those that ask you to click on linked text to make choices and move to story forward. In the first category, you’ll usually see some kind of prompt (a carat “>” followed by a blinking or solid underline) or a text-entry box where you can type simple commands (such as “go north” or “take the suitcase”) to direct the actions of your character in the story. In the second category, the words/links you can follow will be highlighted in some way (often bolded or in a larger font); clicking those words will move the action of the story along. For stories in the first category, here is a handy PDF reference to give you some tips on how to play/experience these texts.