As several members of our class already know, my main area of interest regarding the future of interactive fiction is in alternate reality games (ARGs). While Hayles’ Electronic Literature does not address this genre in particular and focuses primarily on other, less social forms of fiction, I found that most of her overall message related closely to ARGs and their importance in the future of digital storytelling.

In chapter four, Hayles explains that E-Lit “extends the traditional functions of print literature in creating recursive feedback loops between explicit articulation, conscious thought, and embodied sensorimotor knowledge” (135). The intermediation that comes from interacting with the machine gives audiences a more immersive experience. The immersion comes from working with the machine through translated languages of codes, using movements of the body to execute commands, and calling upon prior knowledge to understand the information on the screen.

Alternate reality games take this to a new level, using multimodal methods of reaching audiences, including video, computer codes, puzzles, narrative, telephone calls, live events, postal mail, hyperlinks, and more. This genre of storytelling also takes fiction away from the solitary experience and provides another layer: social networking.

Hayles’ emphasis on the recursive feedback loop of information points to the importance of communication in the future of fiction. In this case, Hayles refers to the communication between human and computer that creates a relationship between the two as they are entwined together, instead of one coming to the other (88). This relationship creates an engaging experience for the reader, who is frequently reminded of the process, the code, and the interaction itself.

The increased level of interaction, for some readers, appears to enhance the enjoyment of the literature because there is a sense of control and learning that is not present in passive reading. For other readers interaction may actually hinder the experience, serving as a distraction for those who prefer a more lineal, traditional storyline through which they can relax.

In ARGs, audiences interact with the computer, with the real world, and with each other. This high level of interaction will thrill participants who enjoy the experience of recursive feedback and alienate others who are distracted by it. Is the distracted portion of the audience destined to die out eventually as digital media evolve, or will there always be a divide?

I consistently refer to ARGs as a genre, though that is not necessarily a term that all creators and players will accept. However, I see it as a form of storytelling that represents a personal taste, much as I prefer fantasy or speculative fiction, and my mother prefers mystery. Some audiences may prefer ARGs. Some may prefer the electronic literature that Hayles describes.

As Hayles points out, almost all literature today is “digital born,” but not all falls into the electronic categories that she lists (and those examples that come on the disc). Also, there are many other examples of fiction that have made use of interactive, digital storytelling in a variety of ways. These are, in my opinion, more samples of what Hayles is talking about when she predicts that digital literature will become a significant part of the 21st century.

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