Behind the Scenes of Electronic Literature and Media

As a kid, I always loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books because I was constantly amazed at the seemingly endless possibilities. I often wondered how long it took the authors to compile these stories and more so, how they were able to keep track of everything. Sam Ashwell’s article “Standard Patterns in Choice-Based Games” and Marie-Laure Ryan’s book Narrative as Virtual Reality 2 help uncover the behind-the-scenes intricacies of Choose Your Own Adventure books and other electronic media. 

Ryan defines interactivity as “a dimension of face-to-face interaction that was shut off by manuscript and print writing and introduced into written messages by the electronic medium” (Ryan 160). She focuses on ergodic literature and its relationship with interactivity. Throughout this chapter, Ryan explains the types of interactivity, the various interactive structures and even the levels of interactivity. Reading this chapter definitely made me more aware of the affordances that electronic media has over printed media. The way that creators choose to utilize interactivity in their electronic media impacts users in a way that print media often fails to do. For example, The Braided Plot, or the House of Many Windows, was my favorite structure because of how complex it can be. Usually, when reading a printed book, it is told from one point of view and I am often left wondering how the story would differ if it was told from another character’s point of view. This structure allows multiple perspectives in one story and to me, that is fascinating. 

After reading both Ashwell’s and Ryan’s pieces, I am in awe of the work and thought that goes behind games that I thought were “simple.” I am looking forward to learning more about the intricacies behind electronic literature.

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