Interactive Fiction and what it is/is not


I am a bit confused here. Interactive fiction (which most of these stories are) means you get to interact with a story.
And yet people want a blank slate all the time, to tell THEIR story within the authors world.
As soon as someone makes an interactive story-game where characters are predetermined and they have a personality, people flock to it and complain that there are not enough choices, the person doesn’t feel like “them”.
Some IFs are not blank slate! You are playing a person and deciding their fate. Like the Witcher for example.

It bothers me because we could have way more IFs if the authors could do what they wanted.
Am I alone in this?


I think people often just wish that they have more ability to control a story, as one is to do in an interactive fiction. This is something that is all YMMV, though. Someone will think a story lacks the interactive element, while others think it will be enough. I mean, there’s people out there who thought Dragon Age Origins wasn’t interactive enough, and that’s got countless variables going on.

But there’s a difference between an interactive fiction with a pre-determined MC and a story with a pre-determined MC and interactive elements. The former would include stuff like Fallen Hero, The Witcher, Until Dawn, things with a defined protagonist who you control. The latter I would consider stuff like Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto, old CYOA books from the 80s, etc.

Absolutely! There’s a place for both of those “genres”! I’m just sad to see that people aren’t giving authors a chance and instead try to improve or influence the story. It has happened before, if you look at all the abandoned stories.

One is not more legit than the other, and if you’re playing a character imagine what could happen!

(also I suffer from extreme anxiety so if my posts disappear, you know why)


It’s more nuanced to me… :thinking:
I love when IF has MCs with personality where you basically determine only the subtleties of said personality. But very few games do that. Most create MCs the players shape fully, or almost fully.
If the MC has to be shaped entirely by me - keeping in mind I do NOT identify with the MC or self insert - then I may be frustrated if some options are not possible, because if I AM supposed to shape them, then I like to be actually able to do it.

Basically, I don’t like that middle ground where the MC has to be almost entirely shaped by the player, in theory, but then the options are not varied enough to properly do so.

If I am offered the choice though, I’ll certainly prefer a game with a MC that has an actual personality. Or maybe a couple of variants to the personality, but still mostly shaped by the author. That’s why I love Samurai of Hyuga, where the MC has a few “templates” due to the personality system, but in the end, he’s his own person.
The Northern Passage is a cool WIP that also works in a similar way.


I agree with you, but I also think there is an important nunance in the complaints. For example, Fallen Hero is pretty much fixed personality/fixed background with some variants, and I haven’t had many complaints about that. Because people still have many choices (looks, sex, how villainous to be, how daring and so on).

Where I think the real complaints come from is when people run into things they don’t feel that needs to be locked.

For example, in Samurai of Huyga, you can pick your hairstyle but not your ethnicity, which makes a lot of sense for the story and setting. In the WIP Guinevere you can’t pick your gender, because you play Guinevere, and the gender is important to the story. But, in many stories it doesn’t really matter if the main character is a man, woman, non-binary or anything else. The same might go for ethnicity or other variations. This is when people starts to complain about genderlock.

To go back to your example about the Witcher. Yes, you do play a fixed character from a book, but if it hadn’t been from a book, I bet there would have been a character creation system just like in Dragon Age, because there’s no reason that the character needed to be male. The way tumblr overflowed with witchersonas after release it proof of that.

It really bothers me too that some authors seems to be scared of writing a distinct main character, and putting words in their mouth, and having spirited dialog and fun antics because it is impossible to have the player choose every single interaction. Please, have characters that are alive, I am so tired of the blank slate.

But I am also very bothered by the notion that you need an entirely new character or lots of additional content if you let the reader change the sex of the main character. Men are not from mars and women from venus, just have variable pronouns and some adjusted scenes and it’s fine. It’s not a massive/scary undertaking.


And I don’t think people truly want ‘blank slates’. They want to have more control over who their character is within the boundaries of a story. But a demand for complete blank slates I can’t really think of.

So yeah, people are taken aback when a story doesn’t make use of what CS offers, be it in terms of who the MC is beyond a certain point and/or how the story plays out (imagine if e.g. Fallen Hero had picked the MCs motivation and approach to undertakings like the museum job)


There’s also IFs that essentially railroad you towards the route/path the author wants, and at a lower level, even the RO. cough Heroes Rise cough


I must say, this way of framing things are starting to really bother me.

It’s probably always been happening, but I have been noticing it a lot in the last year or so.
(So this is not just about your post, @mireo, I’m definitely not trying to admonish you or anything, just taking a change to air some thoughts and frustrations that have been rummaging around my mind for a long time.)

A specific thing not being popular, does not mean that people are forced not to write it!
I keep seeing it, the framing that the community is keeping authors from writing the game they want to write, by not being interested in something about it.
And that is really strange to me.
Readers do not owe showing interest in anything, and of course they have preferences!
I am constantly doing things in my own WIPs that I am fully aware will turn some of the potential audience off from my game. But I do it anyway, because that’s the game I want to make, and it’s important to me.

Sure, I understand that people want to get as many potential buyers as possible, especially if writing is their sole income, but then they are the ones prioritizing popularity over their ‘vision’.
And yes, CS games come with an already established audience, who is used to certain things, and have preferences shaped by years of reading these games. But that doesn’t mean an author can’t write a very different HG, and then put in the work to bring in different readers, who will appreciate their work.

I don’t like this framing, as I feel it makes writers out to be victims, suffering in the mean hands of the cruel community. And that’s a bit silly.
If I was trying to sell my fantasy paintings, I wouldn’t bring them to a gallery that usually sell modern abstracts. (EDIT: And then complain about them not selling. Sorry, forget that part.)

I’m not sure if I get my point across properly, or if this makes sense at all? As I said, it’s just starting to really bother me, every time I see this framing used on the forum.
I understand where that way of thinking comes from, and the frustration it shows, but I really don’t think it’s a helpful way to look at things.


I’ve never seen someone demanding a blank slate. There are many gradations between a blank slate and fully determined character that we, as player, have almost no control of. As for interactive fiction, main point is “interactive”. The more player feels in control, the more game reacts and give consequences to player’s choices, the better.
I personally really like games where your stats can change how the MC behaves in between choices, but I understand that it is no trivial matter.
I can totally understand playing as fully determined character, though, it can also be a really good experience, if the author is competent. Even if that doesn’t really works for me in person, I am sure you can write a good story and have a big and loyal audience.


Yes, people are not “forced” to write anything, but when fans start to take control people lose their idea.

I am absolutely not trying to paint authors as victims, they have their own will and fans and other people should always have a voice. But when that voice becomes too loud it’s difficult to hear the music.

“If I was trying to sell my fantasy paintings, I wouldn’t bring them to a gallery that usually sell modern abstracts.” - ofc not but IFs are not a genre, but a medium where you get to interact with the story. Been following this site for 5 years and seen so many people get discouraged because ‘not enough ROs’, ‘not enough choices’, ‘I want something completely different from the story’ etc.
Like I would have loved to been able to interact with Alice from Alice in Wonderland.

I am just saying that Interactive fiction is not a “one come, all go”, there are spaces for different things


Here’s a useful link that touches on some related issues, in case this is useful in the discussion:


But still people want their own background, their own relationships, THEIR OWN character etc. is that not a blank slate?

Also I just saw that 200+ people have seen this thread.and now I am having a small panic-attack! xD

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I would guess when people see “blank slate” people think of different levels of blankness.

When you say

I think “no, not really”–if this character is a person of prophecy destined to carry the Ring to the fire, they can have their own background and relationships and stuff and not wholly be empty, for example. Perhaps you have a curse, or a wicked relation, or an important signet ring, or a fateful scar, or a hereditary enemy, or are an empress-ninja. Within those parameters matters are set, because that’s what the story’s about. But I’d guess you agree with me there. Maybe I’m missing the real point.


Oh I agree with you, there are spaces for both and more! Give me a blank slate that I can mold, give me a person that I can influence.

(Oh and I’m not even going to touch the female/male/nonbinary/trans with a 10 foot pole. as a NB person just… ugh)

But say the character has a family back then, or a friend. Still people say no!

If we’re going to get into the “some people dislike this” angle, we’re going to be here all day.


Fair. But you have to admit that this happens loads of times when people try to share their stories

No doubt. I may have lost the thread of the point (or the point of the thread)–I don’t think you started by wanting to argue that no matter what you write, some people are going to say “why isn’t this story about the Bloody Revenge of the Goose King about the deliciousness of Bosc pears instead?” Is your thesis “authors should write what they want to write”?


No I did not! I want to see more variety! I want Alice games, I want Viking games, I want random fantasy game! Just being discouraged is all!

If a game has a predetermined person it’s all ‘what gender though’, ‘what sexuality though’ etc. Is that really so important? As a NB panromantic person I love to see representation but not if it’s just being inclusive… It just feels bitter. But I may be way off, this is only my own feelings.

Ha, I don’t think anyone disagrees that variety is a nice thing to have in a medium. Sure, I’ll play your fantasy Vikings in Wonderland game. That’s pretty different from What Is/Is Not Interactive Fiction! The title suggests fearful distinctions being drawn.

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