Interactive Fiction: A picaresque tale

Project Status: Complete

For my Interactive Fiction class with Janet Murray, we were tasked with creating a genre substitution game that would generate responses based off of tropes in the genre itself.

Image Credit: Saloon by Rafael Kowalski

As a Spanish literature major in undergrad, I decided to do a picaresque story, where the protagonist of the story is often an anti-hero or rogue of a person.

In my game, you play as a pícaro or pícara who wakes up in the middle of downtown Seville in the 1500s.

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Following the tradition of the Spanish picaresque novels, my game is a day in the life of a 1500s Spanish rogueish character, a pícaro (male) or a pícara (female).

According to the traditional view of Thrall and Hibbard (first published in 1936), seven qualities distinguish the picaresque novel or narrative form, all or some of which an author may employ for effect:

  1. A picaresque narrative is usually written in first person as an autobiographical account.
  2. The main character is often of low character or social class. He or she gets by with wit and rarely deigns to hold a job.
  3. There is no plot. The story is told in a series of loosely connected adventures or episodes.
  4. There is little if any character development in the main character. Once a picaro, always a picaro. His or her circumstances may change but they rarely result in a change of heart.
  5. The picaro’s story is told with a plainness of language or realism.
  6. Satire might sometimes be a prominent element.
  7. The behavior of a picaresque hero or heroine stops just short of criminality. Carefree or immoral rascality positions the picaresque hero as a sympathetic outsider, untouched by the false rules of society.

(copied from Wikipedia)

Since there are no plots in picaresque stories, I determined variables that would change based on your choices. The first choice in the game determines the situation: gender, injuries, charisma, and funds the character has at the start of the game. The variables that the interactor can change are charisma, funds, and injuries.

Each variable affects which part of the story that the interactor opens up. Therefore, each time the interactor plays the story, there are slight variants (some larger than others). There are sections of the story that cannot be opened unless the interactor has made certain choices.

Game Structure

I developed this game in Twine. I came up with a general outline of the game and then structured the game based off of the choices that the interactor can make and also created some looping choices.

This first screenshot of my Twine file shows some of the JQuery, CSS, and JavaScript that I used as well as the Twine language. Then I “physically” organized each passage to display the logical progression of the story.

The blue boxes represent the story passages. It’s fairly simple, but because of the loops and the incorporated code, there are multiple ways to experience the story.

If you haven’t already, try out the game! It won’t take long.

Featured Image Credit: Medieval Market by Minnhagen