Individual Work
Whom the Telling Changed

This short, interactive fiction piece is by Aaron A. Reed. You have to download splatterlight and to play (on Mac.) There are a lot of directions, but you interact by typing commands into a prompt.

You have a character that tromps around a village in the early 21st century. The game saves your actions, and the story changes based on your history. There are basic commands like look, touch, talk, etc., but there are also hypertexts you can click on, and occasionally you can get other characters to change their ideas or behaviors. For example, without giving any spoilers away, a prompt will come up that gives you the option of calling out in response to the Telling to try to sway other villager's opinions. This is something I have not experienced in the field of electronic literature yet.

The story is framed around “the Telling,” (a tradition on New Moon nights when your village gathers around the fire to hear stories of ancestors and future predictions.) Your character is a respected tribe member, and on the night of the Telling, your character determines the future of your people. There is a new, neighboring people who are behaving in an odd way, and you have to decide whether to approach them in a peaceful or violent way. Opinions on this matter are split in your tribe, understandably so, because your decision determines whether many of your people live or die.

This reminds me a lot of “Galatea” by Emily Short. Both are puzzle games that are controlled by a series of prompts. However, “Galatea” did not have nearly as many options. “Whom the Telling Changed” gives you more prompt options and more possible outcomes, where as “Galatea” is limited and players can possibly never reach the end unless a specific route is taken. I found “Whom the Telling Changed” less frustrating and more entertaining because of these reasons.

The amount of technology used in this game is interesting. The plot is intricate and there are copious options. The coding behind this story is therefore very detailed. However, all the player gets is text. There are no pictures or sounds. Some people may not like this. However, I think it poses a stimulating position. Rather than the author giving the characters, settings, objects, etc. their appearance, it is left up to the player- similar to how the outcome of the game is left up to the player. In this sense, the majority of the text is determined by the individual player’s imagination.

Literature has many purposes. It can entertain, it can educate, it can be an escape, it can act as a mirror or a window, it can enact literary history, etc. “Whom the Telling Changed” allows players to find the “warrior,” “leader,” “healer,” etc. in themselves. It allows players to view situations from different perspectives. It has strong connections to the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest written epics in recorded history, because "the Telling" is part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and also because your character reflects Gilgamesh's character because they are both strong, smart, and respected warriors. So, it has a strong literary history value, too.

Most of all, though, it is fun. It's fun to live a life other than your own- to be someone you're not. Particularly, it is fun to live an exciting life, like that of a warrior, and it is even more fun that you are the one in charge. You get to make the decisions in the tribe. You get to decide your own and others' fate. However, there are no consequences in your real life. So, it is strictly for enjoyment.