“Inanimate Alice Episode 4: Hometown” is the fourth installation in an ongoing digital novel series featuring Alice Field, an intelligent young girl with a complicated life. The series features six chapters. Episode one was released in 2005 and episode six was released in 2016. The franchise includes other “sub-chapters” in between some episodes and also features a virtual reality experience called “Inanimate Alice: Perpetual Nomads” released in 2018. The series has been used in many elementary and secondary education classrooms to teach computer skills and the elements of storytelling and, as gauged from the release dates, has been around for fifteen years. In “Episode 4: Hometown,” the reader is introduced to Alice’s neighborhood and social circle when she is fourteen and navigates her life through text, images, and sound. “Inanimate Alice” runs on a flash player but does not suffer from being “too old school.” The images, language, and music and sound effects that are used could pass as modern installations even though the episode is aged more than a decade. All of these elements are instrumental to the reader’s interpretation of the hypertext and make the experience immersive and entertaining.
The hypertext is ambiguously placed among genres of electronic literature. It appears as a hybrid of hypertext and interactive fiction at times, such as during scenes which instruct the reader to make choices that progress the plot along, but even then, the choices are fixed as there is only one possible path that leads to success and no other options but to be successful. In other words, the reader will continue to navigate the hypertext until they find a solution without any consequences. Unlike a choose-your-own-adventure game, “Inanimate Alice” only has one path that the reader can follow, however, there are multiple ways to follow that path, and so the story becomes a grey area between hypertext and interactive fiction. This is the case with many forms of hypermedia since categories and labels are limiting to a work of art. As a whole, “Inanimate Alice” can be regarded as both a piece of hypertext fiction and interactive fiction, a “hybrid hypermedia,” if you will. “Inanimate Alice” is not simply a game played for distracted bliss. There seems to be a deeper meaning in the interactive fiction: “These literary games demonstrate the blurring of games and movement of conventions and the ideas between genres common to many types of electronic literature” (Rettberg 116-117). Interactive fiction is a type of literature, and like all stories, it has a plot and a purpose. “Inanimate Alice” is an ongoing series, but “Episode 4: Hometown” in particular is a metaphor for adapting to change. As Alice faces death and both physical and emotional change in her life from moving across the world, the reader faces change in the moving text and images that appear on their screen. Both Alice and reader must navigate their environments in order to find some continuity and, hopefully, a peaceful end. “Inanimate Alice” is a visually appealing and entertaining work of art, but it is also a story about redemption and coming of age, making it much more meaningful than a 30-minute pastime for the reader.
“Inanimate Alice.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Jan. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inanimate_Alice.
Pullinger, Kate. “Inanimate Alice Episode 4: Hometown.” Developed by Chris Joseph. The BradField Company, 2008. Date of access: 2 Mar 2020. http://www.inanimatealice.com/episode4/
Rettberg, Scott. “Electronic Literature.” Polity Press. 2019.