Article on IF from _The Hindu_, a Newspaper Based in India

Hi, All,

Below, you’ll find excerpts from an article on interactive fiction in education. It features some overly kind remarks about yours truly, but it may be of interest, anyway :wink:


Brendan Desilets

When a story ‘writes’ its author
Abinaya Damodaran
The Hindu (Newspaper)
OCTOBER 26, 2018 00:00 IST

Here, a practitioner of interactive fiction deconstructs it for you; there is also an explanatory session about the genre on Oct. 27.

On October 27, a session on interactive fiction will be conducted at Dimensions Health Club in Alwarpet. Interactive fiction is a literary form that combines elements of a book and a computer game, and is growing popular among book-lovers and gamers. A dynamic form of storytellimg, it enables the player and the story to “interact.” In each story, the main character does a raft of exciting things: solving puzzles, finding your way through mazes, and avoiding danger. Imagine navigating your way through unknown locations, interacting with characters, and being led into an increasingly interesting adventure.

The beginning

My journey with interactive fiction began when I was eleven years old. My neighbourhood library in the United States had started an interactive fiction club for school students. On attending the first session, my first reaction was that of surprise. I always thought of reading to be a solitary exercise, but here, reading was a social activity. The room was vibrant with ideas being thrown back and forth as we tried to collectively decide what our character should do. Over the course of a few months, we solved murder mysteries, went into the future to resolve an alien invasion, and went back in time to ascend the throne as King Arthur.

All of us soon become seasoned players of interactive fiction, and our facilitator suggested that we write a story ourselves. Writing such a story involves constructing a plot and coding an adaptive version of the story. We wrote a story with a simple programming language, and effortlessly imbibed coding principles along the way. This exposure to “social reading,” writing and programming set the precedent for my later involvement in public speaking, creative writing and computer programming.

Critical thinking

As a kid, interactive fiction was just a fun activity for me. From a teacher’s perspective, interactive fiction is remarkable for that very reason — it is both fun and educational. It promotes critical thinking, problem solving, and advanced literacy skills.

Brendan Desilets, a professor at UMass Lowell, used interactive fiction in his career as a middle school teacher and college professor. He says that it is a powerful technique in enhancing fluency and creative thinking. He adds, “This is a form that has unique advantages that are different from every other form of literature. This is the only form of literature that has in-built, aesthetically-designed pauses in the process of reading. That is perfect from a teacher’s point of view.”

This form of literature was brought into classroom by a few pioneers like Brendan himself. Although Interactive Fiction is a great tool in classrooms, interactive fiction is definitely not just for kids. Till date, a number of interactive fiction clubs in the United States and the United Kingdom consist of members from all age groups.
Inspired by the possibilities that interactive fiction opened up to the eleven-year-old me, I hope that introducing this in India would serve to fill the literacy gap in our education systems and to inspire creative minds like my own!

The event will take place on Saturday, October 27 (4-5:30 PM) at Dimensions Health Club, Alwarpet. It is a free event, and open to all young people, ages 12-18. For more details on the programme and to book an event in your locality, contact: +91 80724 74482.