How Interactive is Interactive Fiction?

How interactive is interactive fiction really? As we discussed in class not too long ago, engaging in interactive fiction is more like driving around in a car in that world rather than actually walking about and smelling the fresh air. We can explore, but we cannot really touch.

Another thing to consider is the fact that the narrative has already been written out for us and our actions have been anticipated, if not already decided. In an excerpt from J. Patrick Williams and Jonas Heide Smith’s book The Player’s Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming, they say: “While the player is free to type whatever she wants, her level of interaction is limited by the author’s design; i.e.,  player can only perform a possible range of actions that have been anticipated by the game’s author. If the author does not want the player to be able to complete a certain action (e.g., “kill the king with axe”), he/she will create a response that blocks such an action (e.g., “You decide not to when you see the ten hulking guards in the room”)” (Smith and Williams, 278).

A player’s ability to really interact with the game is limited by an author’s need for narrative and rules to the game. I cannot kill the king not only because there are ten hulking guards standing nearby, but also because the game requires me not to. Maybe at a later time when it is more appropriate or acceptable, I will be able to kill the king, but not now.

This is one of the issues with interactive fiction that frustrates me at times. I hate it when I’m playing a game and I’m unable to do something I would normally have no problem doing in real life, like enter a room, simply because the author doesn’t want me to do it.  These games give us the idea that we are in control, but really it is the author of the game who is controlling our movements and decisions.

Without authorial control, however, it’s hard to say whether or not there would be much of a game. If there was an interactive fiction where a player could do whatever they wanted, it’s hard to say what would happen. Perhaps each gaming experience would be different, unique experiences driven solely by the player’s decisions. More likely, though, it would be boring without a plot and rules to make things difficult for us.


Smith, Heide Jonas, and Williams, Patrick J. The Player’s Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming. Jefferson: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2007. Web.

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