Interactive Media

 I like this, I really do.

I am a fan of the interactive media formats supplied by Twine 2 and Inform 7, and I am fluent with them. I have not authored any games, but I am hesitant to call them games more than they are textual experiences.

Inform is the more traditional "puzzly" option, where you are figuring out the maze of options and actions provided by the author. It requires a great deal of experience in the language, and at times it is a puzzle to figure out how you want to do something versus a more programatic option. You have to develop the linguistics of your problem and feature set, then develop your game. Getting your ideas into something that works is a challenge for me, yet it is part of the fun of figuring things out as the writer rather than the reader.

Twine is far more accessible, but in ways I feel more limited than Inform. It is a sort of "choose your own adventure" authoring system, where you are linking passage after passage in a maze of nodes and inserting little bits of code to macro in special things, like recording variables, expanding text, or a lot of other interesting functions hidden underneath the simple interface.

TADS is also an option, but the last release of that for the Mac was a long time ago, and I am now writing on a Mac so if I do IF, the tools will be here and I would like them modern and kept up to date for my computer. RePy is also an option, but that is more visual novel oriented, but they are both worthy of mention. Squiffy works on a Mac, and is sort of like Twine but with fewer features in the language and a simpler editor.

I like the experiences these create, and I have to keep quiet that part of me that repeats, "Just write the book." These are much more work than a book, since you are creating an interactive narrative that branches and has a set of rules and structure to it all the player of the story must build in their head. Twine is a bit more choice-based, and does not require the hefty mental investment of a classic Inform story.

I like the mental investment, since it allows a deeper connection between author and reader. If a reader understands your world and structure, they are inside your mind. You bring them into your internal logic, and that is a special thing to share. You see a key in a glass case. How do you get it out? The simple answer is of course, find something heavy and break the glass.

Now how do you get it out without breaking the glass?

Is it important you don't break the glass? Are the consequences to doing that?

Now I have to study the case, figure out how it works, recall what I saw in the environment up to this point, and go dive further into other objects and locations to figure this little puzzle out. I would still let a reader break the glass, freedom is freedom after all; but I would smile and make the hard way of doing it a special treat for those with a curious enough mind.

I could do this in Twine, but I like the starkness of the text in Inform that does not tell you this or that based on a link you can click or an obvious choice you make. If you can use an ID badge to slip into the case's edge and trip the latch, or a credit card in your wallet, or perhaps something else you find around the room or area then more power to you.

Of course, if you didn't know there was an alarm on that case you can try to deactivate it on the next play through. Again, another hidden thing in plain sight. Perhaps you read the sign about the alarms, or saw clues on it being present, and that was in your mind. Perhaps not.

And the author needed to put those clues in there, hence tipping the curious off, but completing the contract to never totally blindside someone exploring this piece of your creative mind.

There is the problem as well of these creations being software, and you need to test, develop, and bug-fix your stories. You also have a delivery issue. You also have an audience issue.

If I could write erotic interactive fiction and make a living I would. I don't think the market is there, and the investment would be a hefty on in time and marketing. Still, this is one of those "crazy ideas" that bounces around in my mind that I would love to try.

And quiet you part of my mind that is saying, "Just write the book."