“Changed” is a short piece of interactive fiction by an assortment of authors. Lynda Williams wrote the original script for the project, Matthew Wright worked on the soundtrack, and Andy Campbell assisted with the soundtrack as well as wrote the html code for the project as a whole. The story that the authors have come up with is a fairly linear one…at least pretty linear in regards to other interactive fictions that I have seen. It can be found here: http://labs.dreamingmethods.com/changed/beta/index.html#
When the reader starts the narrative, the only information that is given to them are the directions for how to navigate through the story. To advance the story, the reader must click on the white floating sentences which, as the reader discovers, are fragments of the narrator’s memory and to move the screen forward you click and pull the screen over. The reader does not actually need to click on the words to move the screen forward, but by not clicking the words the rest of the screen will be completely dark and blank. The reader has to take an interactive role and work with the text to proceed or they will literally be left in the dark.
“Changed” is told solely through memory fragments of the narrator, a young girl who has seemingly run away from home and who, it seems, has started to solicit sex from men to survive. It is equal parts a story and a psychological study of the young girl whose memories describe, in vague detail, her surviving a sexual assault. Like real memories, the memories on screen appear abruptly and fade away slowly to a point where you don’t even notice that they have disappeared. You can only read memories once they have been unlocked by other memories. In effect, you are creating a chain of memories as you read through the narrator’s account of her assault, reliving with her the experience. The account is very much a recovery story, the memories start off as very brash and defensive but the fade into a feeling of helplessness and need. As the reader, it is up to you to help the girl face her memories in order for her to accept what has happened and realize that she needs help. If you choose to ignore the memories, as some sexual assault victims choose to suppress the memories of the event, both the reader and the narrator will stay in the dark (literally) and a recovery will never happen for the narrator.
I feel like this piece is trying to mimic the mindset of a victim of sexual assault. The memories are very scattered and fragmented and they do not always align very well with one another. The memories jump around not only in linear terms of the story but also on the page as well, signifying the scattered thoughts of a psychologically injured person. That being said, the memories appear (usually) in front of the previous memory and you can only progress through the story by scrolling to the right in a forward motion. At the same time you are moving deeper into the cave-like setting of the narrative, deeper into her memories and mind, but also forward in a hopeful move to recovery. Sometimes, there are memories that appear that are too fuzzy to read, ones that are possibly too painful or to deep for the narrator to be able to remember.
There is a deep sense of pain and hurt in the memories and it is obvious that the holder of the memories has been through a lot. The sounds that accompany the text are dark and brooding and they set a very discomforting tone to an already deeply unsettling story. These sounds stay this way throughout the text and continue enhancing the tone. There is never a sense of ease that occurs and even when the ending comes, very little is resolved and her future is never confirmed.
All in all, I really enjoyed this piece. It made excellent use of reader interaction and that interaction really solidified an emotional bond between reader and narrator. We experienced her memories with her, her pain and her relief and it painted a deeply troubling portrait of the mind of a sexual assault survivor. Like the title suggests, this experience has obviously changed the narrator and I think it changes to reader a bit as well.