My experience with eLit is extremely limited, especially when the terms is referring to the sorts of interactive fiction games that we have been playing with as ENGL 376. Personally, I haven’t actually connected to any of the stories that we’ve interacted with as of yet, the worlds feel clunky and hard to manage or there’s really not that much interaction at all. My lack of excitement quite likely stems from the fact that I’ve been spoiled with clean-cut digital RPGs that have come quite close to fabricating a fully functional, self-contained reality, complete with various user-action-dictated storylines and outcomes.
My personal disconnect to what we’ve been studying has made exploring it rather tricky, as each attempt I’ve made to investigate a work as an Explorer, my personal opinions on how ‘good’ it is keep interrupting my analysis of what the work is actually doing. So instead of trying to make it through a entire eLit work without commentating from my own intense bias, I decided to study what exactly there is to study about eLit, and why a lot of people are so excited about it. I started out thinking that the Heuristic Appeal, the experience-based draw, of eLit was that it was new, that the coding-type statement-response ‘interactivity’ was simply finding a use for the newfangled computer.
In many ways, I still think that. However, an essay by Serge Bouchardon that presented various other explanations for the draw of rather unwieldy interactive fiction, taught me about the almost anthropological voyeurism of many eLit works and how in the process of reading, one is actually studying the culture that creates the media while also studying the culture presented by it. Rather than being put off by the fact that the narrative is held at arm’s length from the reader, the reader might be able to relish in the almost out-of-body experience presented by the narrative. The Heuristic Value of eLit is not just in the process of how on experiences the work of fiction, but also in how that experience is perceived by the reader and communicated through the narrative.
Bouchardon points out the difference between interactive ‘guidance’ through a narrative and active control over it. The idea of being controlled by the narrative as much, or more so, than controlling it offers and interesting introspective window on the effects of media. When reading a book that’s a real ‘page-turner’, for example, the reader is being manipulated quite explicitly, but the manipulation is never noticed by the reader; in fact the loss of notice of the line between the reader’s world and the story’s world is an integral part of the manipulation. In regards to interactive fiction, the limited choices present a continual reminder that the fiction is crafted as an entirely distinct entity.
That awareness of being the outsider can create ‘semantic depth’ and mandate a redoubling of meaning according to Bouchardon. In class we’ve spoken of the various ways to analyze eLit, whether by recording a given take of it or peering into the depths of the static source code, but the heuristic value can be assessed in the actual process of moving through a narrative: is the reader supposed to input directives, and if so what are they? Is the reader meant to click links that show up as hypertext in paragraphs or as links attached to images or pathways embedded in videos? Analyzing the actual motions one makes to move through the narrative can give insights on to how and why the reader is willing to make the attempt to collect fragments in order to understand the narrative as something more wholistic.