Stories and Infinite Choice

“What about games that use a novel-world and its characters? The reduction of a novel to a game seems to me a basic error, a sterile attempt to crossbreed species. Games are wonderful things in their own right, and ought to be invented in their own right. Stories aren’t games, and the more they resemble them the weaker they are as stories.

The complex role games that are played jointly, and played to play, not to win, are excellent entertainment, but still, I don’t think they result in story — not without changing the rules from game rules to story options. Any game, to be a game, must limit the possible moves. Story is the product of a universe in which the choices, though they may not seem so, are infinite.

What about interactive fiction? Well, if you like it, fine. It seems to me essentially a social activity. Like game-playing, it can’t result in a work of art. Writers need readers, they collaborate in a sense with their readers; but to let readers control the story is to cease to be a writer in order to be a group facilitator or member. Fine, if that’s what you want to be.

If, however, you’re a writer, and have a story you want to write, the job is your responsibility. You’re not dealing with information which can be shared and passed around; you’re dealing with a vision — your vision. It’s up to you to capture that vision in words. Nobody else can do it.

Changing a story around at the readers’ whim is at best a game. (Making major changes in a story because an agent or editor wants it to be different is not a game, but the loss of the author’s authority — or authenticity, if you will; but that’s a separate issue.) The trajectory of a story, once found, can’t be fiddled with arbitrarily; if it is, it’s lost. A story is its own truth — a subjective truth. The story as work of art can exist only on and in its own terms.”