CYOA Books and Shade as Complex Interactive Fiction

As I interacted with Shade, I kept thinking back to the CYOA books we had discussed and mapped for our recent project. In class, we learned about four characteristics that encompassed complex interactive fiction. They were shifting perspectives, narrative enigmas, reconfiguring story time and reframing. I would argue that Shade and CYOA books could be characterized as complex interactive fiction. In  “Enlightening Interactive Fiction: Andrew Plotkin’s Shade, Douglass argues that “although the interface and description of Shade are rigorously contractured from the second point of view, from the outset there is another perspective present in the room, a kind of IF play-within a play” (135).  He mentions the foreshadowing that occurs towards the end of the game. In class, we define shifting perspectives as changing narrative points of view. I wonder if foreshadowing counts as a shifting perspective. In terms of CYOA books, the shifting perspectives can happen depending on the story that’s being told. In Marie-Laure Ryan’s “The Many Forms of Interactivity”, she describes different structures that dictate the narrative thats told during CYOA books. The Braided Plot structure allows readers to explore different character perspectives, which fits into the shifting perspective characteristic as a complex interactive fiction. 

Narrative enigmas defined as uncertainty as to whats happening or just happened is a key feature in both Shade and CYOA. Playing Shade, it is easy to get frustrated – especially because not all commands work. In many of the blog posts that talked about Shade, it was clear that many people gave up because they didn’t understand what to do. This speaks to the learning curve that IF has. Unlike CYOA books, one must understand the various commands that are offered and understand the importance of details. In CYOA books, the task is straight forward – you must follow the path that is given based on the choices you make. In both IF and CYOA books, uncertainty is key to telling the story. The thrill that you get from making a decision is similar to the thrill that you get when a command finally works. 

Reconfiguring story time is also present in Shade and CYOA. From what I understand about Shade, according to Dogulass there are “two worlds.” Death is imminent and this fits into the humbled chronologies characteristic in reconfiguring story time. I think that this is what makes Shade confusing. If I hadn’t read Dogulass piece, I wouldn’t have known that death was going to happen. In CYOA books, repetition is common. In my book, “The Magician’s House” the setting of the book was often repeated in order to get readers familiar to the odd characteristics of the setting. I know from my own experience reading CYOA books that flashbacks are also common and that different flashbacks are used in order for readers to understand the plot more. 

Lastly, reframing – forcing the reader to interpret past story events based on new information is something that is very present in Shade. For me. I found myself continuously scrolling up to the top to reread the background information in order to get a sense of what I was supposed to do. It’s also clear that after every command that works, the reader has to interpret whats given and try to continue on with the story. In terms of CYOA books, I know that mapping out each possible ending helped some of my classmates come up with the hidden lessons in their book. Some choices were more “privileged” and led to better endings. Because CYOA books fit the four characteristics of Complex IF, I would argue that CYOA books are a type of complex IF. 


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