It's quite a happy accident that Frankenstein fits so well with the philiosophy behind Inkle's own projects, as they had no input into the design or writing. But it is the interesting way forward for interactive stories right now, as games like The Walking Dead are proving. As Jon Ingold explains in a thought-provoking piece on The Literary Platform this week:
"Our stories tend not be about choosing what happens. Instead, the idea is to place readers in a conversation with the narrative."Not literally as a conversation, of course. Though in the case of Frankenstein that is exactly what I did (most of the book consists of Victor Frankenstein's conversation with you, the reader) Jon is referring to the more general concept of interacting with the narrative to create a kind of back-and-forth. Doing something that causes other characters to distrust you, for example, alters the story in a profound, reactive way that picking the left-hand door doesn't.
This "conversation with the narrative" is a design ethic we may see creeping into Steve Jackson's Sorcery series, the second of which is due for release shortly. Meanwhile, Frankenstein is still available for iOS and Android. Here's a little bit from Victor's pursuit of his creature into the frozen north:
The stuffy, noxious air of the cabin affects me badly after the dry chill outside. My head sinks onto my arms and waves of feverish weakness shake my body. I have pushed myself beyond endurance these last weeks – but I cannot falter now, not when I am so close to my quarry.
The old woman shakes me and leads the way to a box room with a cot where I can lie down. Young goats peer in through beams that separate this from the next room. A thin icy draft makes its way in under the rafters, reviving me slightly. Thanking the old woman, I pull the furs around me and wait for sleep to come.
How hateful life has become to me. To endure each day I have to force the bitter memories away, and build a wall that stops me thinking of those I have lost. It’s only in sleep that I can recall what it is to be happy. Oh, why can’t I banish this turmoil of thoughts? Let me sink into sleep. Where are the dreams I need that will give me a respite from the darkness?
I can hear my father’s voice. William is with him, and – yes – there are Elizabeth’s silver tones. Henri too. All of my friends, gather me to your arms, give me strength for what is to come.
They emerge out of a fog. The fog of reality is lifting as dreams come roiling up, and the light that hangs around them is dazzling. I am familiar with that light. It is the celestial exhalation of the spirits that guide me.
But why is Elizabeth’s face so contorted with anguish? Come closer, dear cousin. Speak to me.
‘Destroy the monster, Victor. You must sunder him in pieces. Burn him. Cut out his eyes, torture him, make him pay for the suffering he inflicted on us.’
‘Pour acid in his veins,’ says my father.
‘Let his screams echo across the plain,’ says Henri. ‘Smash in his skull. Let him feel what it is to have life brutally taken away.’
‘Give him a slow death,’ says little William. ‘Let him crawl in agony all the way to the gates of hell.’
And all of them, as they urge me thus, are smiling like cherubs before the throne of God.