WK> 9 Mar 27th. 2012
CAP Presentation & Discussion
Kamal Salem > Interactive Fiction (IF) by (Nick Monfort).
VIII New Readings {FP}.
Interactive Fiction as “Story,” “Game,” “Storygame,” “Novel,” “World,” “Literature,” “Puzzle,” “Problem,” “Riddle,” and “Machine”
Nick Montfort

Summary Overview
The essay basically deals with the controversy regarding the question: should we consider the new media artifact as a story or as a game? The author concludes that “IF is neither a “story” or a “game” but ….. a “world” combined with a parser and instructions for generating text based on events in the world.” (316).That is why he argues that analysis of new media artifact should not be limited to these two features. Instead, it is time to examine other features of the artifact that help understand it more, including “Storygame,” “Novel,” “World,” “Literature,” “Puzzle,” “Problem,” “Riddle,” and “Machine”
Nick Montfort argues that the new media artifact is a blend of both a story and a game. He contends that these two features of the artifact are not mutually exclusive and so an artifact should not be viewed as containing one or another, but the two together. He argues that those who reject considering computer games as stories since they do not want the literary field to “colonize” the digital world.
The author focuses on interactive fiction (IF) and examines some figures to understand the form. He examines the story and the game as features of interactive fiction. He agrees that “many computer games contain narrative elements” and that the user’s action in the game becomes part of the narrative. That is why he views that referring to IF as merely games is not accurate. The author prefers to call it storygame, which suggests that both are essential components of the artifact rather than one being embedded in the other.
The author provides a view that gives a new perspective to examine broader issues regarding new media artifact other than “story” and “game”. Even in his approach to this controversy, he maintains a balance between two extreme perspectives in considering the new media artifact as a game and story. He builds up a systematic argument to reach his conclusion that IF is a blend of both “story” and game.” His concept of “storygame” is telling and convincing.

On the other hand, Montfort brings awareness to other features of the digital media artifact such as (novel, world, puzzle, riddle…etc). In this regard, his reference to Aristotle’s poetics is telling in explaining the significance of the “world” as a feature. For Montfort, the world is as the plot for Aristotle. No play is without plot, and no artifact without a world.
In the same vein, the author’s explanation of some of these features is very vivid and makes these features easily grasped even for the beginner, such as his definition of the game as an contest played against one or more players, and his concept of the “puzzle” as a “problem” to be solved. In this regard, the author pays particular attention to the “riddle” defining it as “the connection of a puzzle or problem in the world of the sort that literature engages.” (315). He locates its significance in the fact that it allows for the user’s engagement with the artifact through creating a “provocative system of thought.” (315). That is why the riddle for him is the central form of the artifact.

Discussion Questions:
1- Is the author’s argument regarding the controversy of “story” and “game” convincing? Do you personally see the new media artifact as more of a “story” or “game” or a blend of both?
2- Is the definition of the “puzzle” as “problem” convincing?
3- The author sets three basic features that define interactive fiction:
- Simulation of a world
- Natural-language understanding
- Natural language generation
Do you think that these features define IF appropriately? What would you add to or delete from the list??