Is In Media Res Needed?


#1

Most of the official choice games start in the middle of the action. I know that it can be a compelling hook, but I’m wondering if people think that it is actually necessary?


#2

It’s a good shortcut, especially using the second person, easily drawing you in without requiring too much thought. But I think it entirely depends on the kind of story you want to tell.
I actually sometime get frustrated by that method of storytelling. As soon as I get into the ‘present’ action, I get thrust into flashbacks, and just when I get invested in the ‘past’, it’s back to the action. So it has it’s pros and cons.

I do like that the official games all share certain pattern, though. Consistency means familiar environments, which helps with immersion. There are other way to create pattern, though, even if you want to do time skips.


#3

I don’t think it’s needed


#4

I think a story can start from anyway as long as its good

It depends on your writing style


#5

I’ll admit that I think it’s used effectively in some of the Choice of games and rather poorly in others.

I like it in Vampire and Dragon, and I think it’s used well and effectively. I like that Vampire starts you in the middle of a war. I like that Dragon starts with a knight charging at you.

I didn’t like it in Choice of Romance, where you start with a fire and potentially saving your sibling, only for that sibling, and your supposedly huge family never to really be mentioned again. If it had been the sibling that sticks by you through thick and thin, then I would have preferred it since it would have explained why they are quite so devoted to you.

In Heroes Rise I severely disliked it. It felt like a cheap trick, starting with us being a tester of a game, which comes up at no point in the future. It has no impact on anything. When we end up with no money can we even go back to being a tester? I dislike the start of the second one even more since you’re not even you. In that case I feel like the game is shackled to the In Media Res beginning.

I am the sort of person that does tend to skip prologues if they start with lots of exposition, or some sort of historical thing I have no interest in. I want to get straight to the characters.


#6

I preffer a slow paced starting that putting me in story , instead a action with zero context and normaly is a fake choice . i even dont know where i am and i have to fight something? not certain a style i like but i normaly dont care or even skip enterely read the fake action choice until replay i preffer know what hell is going on before.


#7

No, I don’t think it is. In fact in a lot of cases, as you pointed out yourself, it can probably do more harm than good.

What’s more important I think is giving the reader a (meaningful) choice right away.


#8

I don’t see anything wrong with easing a reader into a story slowly. Actually, I prefer that method, although I can see how others might want something attention-grabbing first.

Also, I believe it’s better for the game to develop organically, rather than the author trying to cram in things that shouldn’t be there. A lot of these In Media Res beginnings seem forced, with the standard choice-that-doesn’t-do-anything-and-is-never-again-mentioned flagging it as extraneous subplot.

Now, if that just happens to be where the story starts off, it’s usually for a reason (like an important choice right up front, or the specific details of the backstory not mattering). That, I don’t mind.


#9

It may be a COG trademark but it depends a lot on the story the author wants to tell and the way they want to tell it as to wether it’s actually preferable or even makes sense within the context of their story.


#10

Personally, I think it depends on what the author actually has to describe and explain in those first few pages. If the story requires a great deal of exposition, then the author, especially an author of interactive fiction, should start slowly and ease the player into their setting and let the player get a feel for this brave new world.

On the other hand, if the story is a genre with conventions which are well known and need little explanation, in medias res works pretty well.


#11

@CJW

I agree that meaningful choices are ideal and should be presented as early as possible, but how can you open with such a choice without first giving appropriate context?

Like others, I want to get to the choices as soon as I can, but it seems to me the gamebook needs to open with some exposition – at least enough exposition to justify a decision.


#12

I think it mostly depends on the narrative style of the story. Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Personally, I think “teaser” openings work best when the scene in question actually matters and I really want to know how the character got there. It’s why I liked the opening of CotV. The scene matters to the story, and I really am curious how the PC ended up in that shack. I don’t think it works at all with throw-away scenes like the opening of Heroes Rise though. Then it just seems gimmicky.


#13

CoG does nudge authors to make their openings “grabby,” with some kind of exciting action on the first page. My draft of Rebels originally opened with what is now the last bit of the prologue (“when the legends are one day told of your rebellion” etc), followed by the Ch 1 lead up to the Harrowing. One of the CoGsters encouraged me to start with more action, and the Plektoi prologue came into being. I guess I’ve drifted away from the action-packed opener with the two new prologues; haven’t heard yet what they think about that. :slight_smile:

I agree that I find both Heroes Rise openers manipulative, and wouldn’t want to go that way myself. But as the HRs are CoG’s bestselling games, their use of in medias res is at the very least not hurting sales, and might be part of their successful recipe.


#14

We are rather atypical here in the forums of the majority of people who purchase choice games. Which is something I do need to take into consideration. Heroes Rise is hugely popular.

I asked the above question since I’ve been debating the start of my game.

I’d wanted to start my game not with action but with a teaser, only reading the start I actually have uploaded I hate it. It’s disjointed, not fun and an In Media Res start would be more enjoyable, I think.

I suppose there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting my game at the point where The Prince rides off with your fiancé. That would at least be action-packed and throw you into the middle of things as opposed to asking questions.

Thanks everyone, you’ve given me a lot to think about.