Adventures in Letter Writing

If you like historical dramas, you’ll enjoy this sweet treat of a text adventure rich and coated with French history and a scandalous marriage. The First Draft of the Revolution was created in 2012 by the masterminds Emily Short and Liza Daly. Short is best known for her award-winning interactive fiction game Galata. This game is an interactive epistolary story between a handful of testy characters.

The story takes place before the French Revolution in an alternate, magical universe. The main character Juliette, a pious young woman, is banished to a deserted society by her controlling husband Henri but discovers through letters between him and other close acquaintances “a secret that questions her deepest loyalties.” It’s an intriguing tale brought to life by the interactivity, which asks the reader to revise the letters sent between the characters, not to mention encrypting secret code.

This game is available for free on InkleWriter. As the player, you want to click on the text that is in bold. You are given a choice, sometimes two. When all of the words on the letter are grayed out you are able to send the letter and redraft the next letter of the character. The game lets you meet many. Beyond Juliette and Henri there is Henri’s sister, Alise, and Mother Superior from the convent. Within the letters, there is also a mentioning of the cruel Aunt Josephine, a relation to Henri and Alise, who very well dislikes Juliette. Some letters also mention a boy called Francois, a son of Henri from another woman named Bernadette. There is also the friar. The choices allow you to revise each letter, every last one of them having a certain uniqueness of its own.

At first, I wanted to defy my husband for banishing me, but I realized I could not move forward with the words that were already written. The game made me choose from the choices that I wanted to leave alone, then I realized I was trying to change the identity of my characters, who they were on the inside. I could not corrupt them. This statement from Short explained why: “By helping to revise their letters, the reader exposes who the characters are. She doesn’t define or change them. Juliette, Henri, and the others are meant to have consistent personalities, and there’s nothing the reader can do to alter this fact.”

 However, it seemed when I wanted to make Juliette go against her husband by making him jealous with intimate time with the friar, I noticed that Henri grew soft in his letters, and though he was meant to be controlling, he didn’t wish to offend his wife and the reason for her banishment was for her own good, but who really knows if that’s true.

First Draft of the Revolution also won the award for Best Use of Innovation in the 2013 XYZZY Awards.

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