The Problems with Interactice Storytelling as the Writer

The view in Thessaloniki from the Seven Towers

I remember hearing about choose your own adventure books that were for kids where you would go from on page to another depending on the choices you decided to take in the narrative. It sounds really cool but in the traditional model of books it’s clunky and doesn’t create a great reading experience for the person.

Videogames have been doing these types of stories for decades, specifically role-playing games (RPGs) where the gamer is an active participant in the experience instead of I’m books or movies where the reader is experiencing the story through certain characters.

I am a gamer that has loved a good RPG since the old school Bioware days from Baldur’s Gate to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to Skyrim and The Mass Effect Trilogy. All of the games I just mentioned had elements of choice to some extent and in the last few years with the advancent of graphics and evolution of gaming from the rise in tje popularity of shooters of all kinds we have been able to get further immersed in these worlds.

What does this have to do with traditional fiction be it television, movies or novels? The technical capabilities of today means that the level of choice with a story has begun to move from videogames into traditional visual formats through shows like Bandersnatch which make the user an active participant in the character’s story.

Before I started writing this I was talking to a gentleman and he wanted to know what I did for a living. I told him I didn’t have a job but that if I considered myself anything it was a writer and that I wanted to do fiction. He asked me didn’t I want a real skill, he thought most people who were writing were doing it for self-gratification.

I’m not a professional writer and I couldn’t help but resist that charge because I know it isn’t the only reason you write it is just one of many potential answers. Sometimes you want to inform, educate or entertain. Maybe you want to project your vision of the world or help others who have gone through the same thing.

I know that most people can string words together into sentences but at its best writing, no communication is how we make sense of the world around us and connect with each other. I can’t agree with the suggestion that you are doing it for the simple gratification even if that is part of the reason I will never belief that it isn’t worthwhile.

That even in an age where computers will be able to write stories that having some person work and struggle to convey idea doesn’t have value. In no way am I saying that I can convey a story like that. I’m more on the “I can barely string words together into sentences” but I also recognize what it can mean, all you have to do is listen to speeches or read any of the great classics to realize what is possible even if it isn’t likely for most writers to achieve.

So I sit here and look at the blank page unable to release myself from my fear but knowing there is many stories that I want to write, not just for an audience but more for me because I can’t not. I know it will probably not be good and that has been my curse but I can’t evolve as a writer without living in the struggle and going through the fire to see if that mass of potential can be manifested into this reality.

The issue with Interactice stories is their dynamics lead to so much unread material and an underlying complexity in their creation that doesn’t work in traditional publishing. I don’t want to create something with dead ends but I also want the reader to have some level of involvement in the narrative even if it is as an observer and not a participant in which is what Bandersnatch did.

I want the story to be relatively consistent but where the reader can direct who they follow through a multiple choice questions at the end of each chapter. I don’t know if this would work or would-be interesting to a reader but I haven’t been able to put it down since I first thought about it and I guess that means if it isn’t out there in the market yet or hasn’t found traction I have to give it a go and see if I can make it work even if only for a few people.