Walking Simulators and Interactive Fiction in the Composition Classroom

Reading, Writing, and Making

  • Daniel Frank Writing Program, University of California, Santa Barbara


In answer to calls for a 21st century reconsideration of traditional procedures of classroom writing, I offer student-created interactive fiction (IF) as a classroom exercise that blends digital literacy, games-based pedagogy, and writing practice. I find walking simulators like Firewatchand The Stanley Parable serveas effective models of IF games. The walking simulator genre shows that by promoting a sense of immersion, exploration, and letting players take their time, a game can reveal advanced narrativity and literariness, as well as a range of rhetorical possibilities. By workshopping IF platforms such as Twine or InkScript, students can learn to create their own textual walking simulators. In this way,they can engage in an accessible, text-based form of worldbuilding and learn to craft explorable, unfolding narratives that represent their research, point of view, or argument. This article explores the pedagogical potential of interactive fiction, discusses some of the literary possibilities found within walking simulators, offers some ideas about leading a composition classroom in reading and analyzing these games, and provides a brief overview of getting started with worldbuilding in Twine or Ink.

August 26, 2019