We talk to Naomi Alderman, presenter of SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK about the Archive on 4 programme and the interactive documentary that accompanies it.
Tell us about this project: why did you want to make it?
I was a massive fan of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks when I was a child – I really credit them with getting me into game design. (I’m a novelist now, but I also make video games, including being co-creator of the fitness game Zombies, Run!). I spent ages making maps of books that I loved – I think I learned loads from them about game design. But they were also an introduction to the idea of ‘alternate worlds’ that you could walk into – something which seems geeky but actually has links to hippy utopianism. So I wanted to have a think about why Fighting Fantasy was so important to me and what it represents.
Once the producer Alex Mansfield and I started talking about Fighting Fantasy and interactive fiction, it started to seem like it connected a lot of different ideas and cultural movements – but not necessarily in a linear way! So we started talking about the idea of making an interactive documentary to go alongside the radio one – somewhere that we could express the strange connections between different parts of the field. It’s been a bit of a labour of love: I think we could both happily do it as a PhD and dedicate three years to the subject!
How was the interactive documentary made?
This was mostly down to Alex Mansfield the producer, who taught himself Twine, a coding platform for interactive fiction, in order to produce it in record time. My major contribution was saying “hmmm, maybe we should do this in Twine” and then leaving a meaningful pause for someone else to volunteer.
We made a huge mind-map of all the things we wanted to cover in the documentary but realised that there was no way to fit them into the Archive on 4 format. But we could see that there’d be ways to put many of those elements into an interactive documentary. But not all of them – I still regret the loss of Darwin’s “I think…” diagram!
What’s the importance of Twine?
It’s a newish way to write interactive fiction – it’s very accessible which means that a lot of people who might have been put off by more ‘coding-like’ ways of making text adventures can easily create their own work. As one of the contributors to our programme, Emily Short, says, it’s really been responsible for a new flowering of interactive fiction, and particularly allowing people from more marginalised groups a tool to use to create work.
But Twine’s not the only platform out there worth exploring! If you’re interested in interactive storytelling, you can also check out:
· INFORM 7, a classic parser-based coding language
· ChoiceScript, a multiple-choice platform for storytelling
· Inklewriter, which also has very useful ‘map’ views of the text
And many other platforms are available, many with their own tutorial systems online! There’s never been a better time to start writing interactive stories – and we hope that this documentary might inspire some people who’ve never tried before to give it a go.