There’s a fairly new development in video games that I would consider to be electronic literature. These games work almost like an interactive movie, wherein the Player Character (PC) is given a story-like situation with choices on how to respond. Often the style of these games is like that of comic books and graphic novels with blocked color shading and dark contour lines. There are some world exploring opportunities (often to solve puzzles), but these chances are more limited than that of the free world (such as skyrim or minecraft) that are the vogue now. I have not played enough of these games to be able to speak to a broader whole, so here I will be specifically talking about the game The Wolf Among Us unless I note otherwise. The PC (Bigby Wolf) can choose to explore (or not, sometimes) a scene that looks like it might be a panel out of a comic book and gather information. I would argue that this game is a form of elit for a couple of reasons. The first is because elit does not need text. As we saw in Passages and other games a story being told digitally is considered elit. This game does use text to move the story along and there are often 3 or 4 choices of how to respond written in text near the bottom of the screen. The player is given a limited amount of time to respond until the computer decides for you. These options vary greatly in tone from violence to a … indicating silence as a valid option. There is even one point in a tense situation where the player can opt to smoke and end the chapter rather than make a move. The game also uses posters and books in game as plot devices. So we find that this game fits into our broad definition of elit. It even develops into a comic book, with the game serving as a prequel.
The Wolf Among Us starts with some text for background. We are told that story book/fable characters are somehow moved to New York City and have formed a community there. Our PC is the sheriff and the big bad wolf of several tales. The game then begins with Bigby responding to a home invasion. The first character one interacts with is Mr Toad. He has called the sheriff about a fight that is happening upstairs from him, but Bigby notices the problem that Toad has no glamor on, and so looks like an actual toad. The player can choose to tell Toad to get glamor no matter the price tag (they will be forced to live on The Farm [no one seems to want to go there] if he and his son do not buy glamor) or that the sheriff will let it slide. Later, one has to choose again if one of the three little pigs will be allowed to keep crashing on Bigby’s couch with no glamor or be forced to return to the farm. The interaction with Toad is also important because it is the very first chance to develop your own character. After some responses, you are told that toad will remember your words. This is where I made my first enemy, with the second not far behind. The thing is though that they don’t seem to have a terribly long memory for slights. By the end of the game, they both seemed to trust me enough to decide the fate of the villain .
Another decision that has to be made near the beginning is whether or not to give a woman names Faith money. You had just saved her from an assailant (which is what Toad had called you about) and she is short on a payment to another character. Shortly after, her head turns up on your doorstep. At first, I had regretted not giving her the money, thinking that I had been the cause of her death through my own stinginess. Her death is a fixed point though and nothing I had done could have prevented it. In this way The Wolf Among Us is like a choose your own adventure book, where there are many possibilities for the adventure but some events are locked. At the end of each “chapter” the player can compare their own choices with what others had made.
This game was particularly fun because of the sheer ability to choose. The PC has super strength and a healing factor so fights are great fun (I only dies once, at the very beginning during the first fight mostly because I didn’t understand the fight mechanics yet). At one point I pulled of an enemy’s arm mostly just because I could. So the game is fun but the only complaint I would really have is that it was so short. I played through the whole thing in only two sittings and maybe 5 hours (though I will confess that I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to the time). I also wanted to note another game in this style. The Walking Dead is available to play by the same company. I only mention this because the game is based on a comic book turned tv show turned video game that looks a whole lot like a comic. The transition is interesting and maybe the subject of another blog post, but not today.