Continuing on with Playing the Text, Performing the Future: Future Narratives in Print and Digiture.
Meifert-Menhard, Felicitas. Playing the Text, Performing the Future: Future Narratives in Print and Digiture. De Gruyter, 2013, pp. 29 – 167. EBSCOhost, NO DOI.
- 3.6: The Necessity of Possibility: Do We Have to Play?
- This sections explores active and passive usage of nodes. IF, done digitally, requires some active form of choice on the end of reader/players. IF handled on the page, by the nature of being on a page, can be broken and aspects of choice can be negated.
- 3.7: A Typology of Textual Nodal Situations
- This section develops a listing of contextual nodes in IF, reflecting the diversity of implementation of choice in IF. In print there is an emphasis on verbal representations of nodes. I’ll be moving past this, however, as I am focused on the digital. Regarding digiture, nodes are offered graphically. Hyperlinks and cursors are a primary graphical node. Hyperlinks, of course, can be verbal as well, consider the simple “next” hyperlink. I did want to note the idea of performative texts, here, such as a pen & paper RPG which probably represents the most open IF there is.
- 3.8.1-5: Transitions Between Nodal Situations
- This section is comprised of smaller sections, but valuable ones, as the focus is entirely on movement between nodal sections in IF.
- 3.8.1: Internal Page Transitions: A node that keeps a reader on the same page. Footnotes are good examples of this. Also, a continual unfolding of text, such as in a dialogue sequence. The text also references the famous “split” screen in film and television.
- 3.8.2: Page-to-Page Transitions: A fairly standard node, such as used in the CYOA genre of IF. Page transitions offer a real sense of progression and movement between nodes. In IF this can be powerful because a reader/player may not be able to go “back” for a more optimal choice, essentially committing them to their choices. This is, of course, a more fluid form of transition for print literature.
- 3.8.3: Shuffling: Usually used by narratives that are not inherently locked into a form of pre-determination. The transition shuffling evokes is just like shuffling a deck of cards because of the randomness. While interesting, issues with readability can occur as there is no logic to them. Shuffling is best used with a sense of playfulness.
- 3.8.4: Link-to-Link Transitions: Specific to digital narratives, this simply refers to clicking from link to link to arrive at a new screen. This is the digital version of the page-to-page transition.
- 3.8.5: Dynamic Input: In more developed artificial worlds, this is a node that results in reader/player interaction being reacted to. One does not simply click the node and move on, rather the node may be interacted with in any numbers of ways, based on the context of that node in the game world.
- 3.9: The Visibility of Nodes: Indication
- How does a node draw the attention of a reader/player? A node’s “indication” determines a great deal about how the node is used and how the reading plays out. You can have overt and covert nodes, and nodes may also be visible as such, or hide their status. Print IF requires nodes being expressed clearly as the structure of page turning necessitates this sort of forecast. Not so, however, for digital IF. Nodes can be expressed any number of ways and can even be hidden, or bound to sequences.
- 3.10: How to Choose? Information
- It is generally not enough to simply present a choice, but IF also must also establish potential consequences for making a choice. In CYOA, for example; if you want Billy to fight the werewolf, turn to page 3. However, on this choice, we may not understand Billy gets mauled by the werewolf. This underlying tension of having enough information to make a choice, but not knowing some of the consequences is vital to IF nodes. That being said, complete obfuscation may not be inherently bad, as given in some textual examples in the section. What is consistent is the agency of making a choice based on information the reader/player has, on hand.
- 3.11: Narrative Negotiation of Possibility: Mediation
- Indication reflects the visibility of nodes, however, mediation reflects the narrative presentation of these nodes. In digital IF, this mediation is usually explained before the text begins, proper. This is usually drafted in a user-guide.
- 3.12: Nodal Power
- Specifically referencing digital IF, the authors emphasize that nodal impact may be less apparent as complex, link-driven narratives present an idea for what I call “a slow burn” where a choice may have an effect that may not play out immediately.
- 3.13.1-3: Nodal Structures in Textual Future Narratives
- This section is hugely helpful, but is comprised on charts. 3.13.1 is “Directedness: The Arborescent Structure,” which evokes the structure of a tree – a traditional branching path, if you will. 3.13.2 is “Circulation: The Network Structure” which is reflecting the recursive, interlinked structure of a network where linearity is not implied. 3.13.3 is “Exploring and Returning: The Axial Structure” which is a linear path, but each node is essentially a self-contained area that must be handled before moving on. I view this as moving from room to room, solving puzzles to exist one room and answer the next.
- 3.14.1-2: Issues of Navigation and Space
- Structure of nodes ultimately factors into how the narrative is read. One thing that must be taken into account is that nodal structure impacts the ability of a reader/player in memorizing alternatives and moments of choice. The more complex the structure is, the more difficult it becomes for a reader/player to mentally catalogue choices and paths. Some structures necessitate the need for backtracking to allow readers to second-guess an outcome if they are engaged in a single-run exploration. Essentially, in any sort of IF, reader/players end up placing potential options for another run on the backburner. This creates a sense of space that the authors of this text explore.
- 3.14.1: The Spatial Topology of Future Narratives: IF uses temporal categorization of data with the “not yet” nodes, however there is an implied spatial relationship, as implied the the narrative structures discussed earlier. An IF author lays down the paths, and the reader/player carves through them.
- 3.14.2: Spatiality in Textual FNs: This section explores the metaphor in more depth.
- 4.3.1: Non-linearity vs. Multi-linearity:
- Multi-linearity is the potential for multiple outcomes to a single situation.
- 4.3.2 Problematical Presence: Multiple Endings
- The irony in prescribing multiple, set endings, is that you are limiting the number of potential endings. Essentially, you are putting a cap on the endings. Largely, this section focuses on the conundrum of multiple endings to a narrative explicitly expressed.
- 4.3.3: Crucial Junctures: Forking Paths
- This section explores the nature of the forked path in interactive narratives which are the most basic of nodes of choice. The nature of a forked path is not an either-or scenario, as one might think, but rather creates and “and” as the unchosen path creates another possibility. A possibility to be explored on another run-through.
- 4.3.4: Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Stories
- This is a lengthy section about the humble CYOA genre. There is a lot cover here, but mostly it is an exploration of the highs and lows of the CYOA format for IF.
- 4.4: Text as Play: Games, Combinatorics, Multimodality
- This introduces the following sections exploring how IF mimics and utilizes game structures. It is a brief, introductory segment.
- 4.4.1: Game Novels and Combinatorics: This section explores the usage of game elements in printed narrative. One example is the usage of Tarot cards in The Castle of Crossed Destinies. As an author, this mixed-media approach of using Tarot cards fascinates me. On another note, the term aleatoric performance is used, which associates with aleatoric music, aka, chance music. Lastly, I want to draw attention to the term combinatorial literature. This section is a little complex, but interesting, however it is mostly spent exploring printed media. However practical applications for digital IF are found. For example, the text Icon Poet, uses combinatorial dice rolling to generate elements of a story.
- 4.4.2: The Multimodal Novel: The previous sections focused on play within the confines of a novel, or narrative, the multimodal novel is more exploratory as it utilizes different semiotic modes. For example, images, charts, photographs, maps, and the like. This can even include elements such as font and color choices. These elements create moments for the reader to approach these elements and critically explore them in relation to the narrative.
- 4.5: Moving Into the Electronic Medium: Digital Multiplicity
- A great deal of this book has dealt with print and digital media, with an emphasis on print as many of these IF techniques have originated within the printed page. This section, however, introduces a focus on hypertext in particular.
- 4.5.1: Interactive Fiction: I’ve covered this a great deal in other readings, but this section of the book will make for a nice root-source for my proposal and thesis as a whole.
- 4.5.2: Hypertext Fiction: I’ve covered this quite a bit as well. This is another long section that serves as a great overview. I am moving on, however.
- 4.5.3: The Visual Novel: I am beginning to wish I had encounter this book first, in my research. It lays out a lot of what I want to talk about and approach in my thesis.
- 4.6: Approaching the Boundaries of Textuality: Narrative as Collaborative Performance
- Roleplaying and live action roleplay. Interesting, but not particularly useful to my needs at first blush. However, I will explore these further as elements of roleplaying could prove useful for my project. The section of alternate reality gaming, ARGs, seems a little more useful to me as I am envisioning a multimodal ARG narrative within my own project. A character has a blog? Why not let the reader view the blog? The section on forecasting games, while cool, does not quite add much to my potential project as my project is not predictive.
And that book is done. I glossed over some stuff toward the end, mostly in a desire to speed on to what is next, but also because a lot of the readings I have done already have informed me on a lot of what these later sections covered.
With all this to reflect on, I very much feel like this book is going to be my largest source of theory for my overall project. It is full of interesting,practical knowledge of narratology, particularly when it comes to non-linear and multi-path literature. Additionally, it also surveys the forms of IF that I am exploring. Lastly, it is full of textual references to other authors and writings on these same subjects.
Even though this text is incredibly useful… I don’t want to look at it again for a while.