A fertile ground for discovering new ways of telling a story within a computer mediated environment is through examining the many professional and amateur Web fictions. The thrill of such easy access to an audience, and tools which make creating hypermedia simple and cheap, has made this an area of extensive exploration and swift development.
Hypertext Hotel [CMea94] organised by Robert Coover and maintained by Tom Meyer, and WaxWeb [Bea94] created by David Blair were two of the earliest Web stories available. Interestingly their Web presence was merely an extension of previously created MUDs. This left the Hypertext Hotel Web site a potential space with little in the way of characters or plot. WaxWeb began as Blair's 1991 documentary film, Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees. The MUD, was created around links to pieces of the original film, which allowed people to elaborate upon sections of the documentary. Therefore, the resulting Web version did not seem like the hollow shell of a world waiting to be populated. Although, the site did have the difficulty of being so interconnected, and the resulting narrative flow so stilted, as to make the story impenetrable. Sensemedia's The Sprawl [Ea94] was the first example of a proper combined Web/MUD where an audience can actually see the character interactions on the Web, as well as within the MUD.
Others soon broke away from the connection with MUDs to develop fully Web based stories. Cochran Communications took an early step in the field in 1994 when they developed an interactive branching story based on Theodore Tugboat [RC94], a children's television show. This is a particularly well put together work which can be travelled through in many ways, and still end with a satisfying and complete story. Children's computer mediated stories tend to be of a higher quality than any other genre, and the techniques developed for this genre can be readily applied to adult storytelling as well. I suspect that people who create for children are more connected with the quality of play and the fluid nature of make-believe games. This connection may be useful when turned to the creation of computer mediated stories.
Copyright © 1999 Katherine Phelps