July 30, 2005

The Daughters of Freya

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 7:12 pm

Starting Monday (August 1) the Alternate Reality Gaming Network will host a group read of The Daughters of Freya. You can sign up on the site for The Daughters of Freya, at a price of $4 USD.

I read a “review copy” of The Daughters of Freya and found it an interesting experience. DoF isn’t usually performed for its readers simultaneously, as are email narratives such as Blue Company. Instead, usually any individual who signs up starts getting messages shortly after registering, which might make it seem more like Online Caroline in its approach. But — unlike Online Caroline in which you seem to be getting normal email messages from Caroline, with normal headers, today’s date, etc. — DoF doesn’t actually create a correspondence between the messages you receive and the messages characters send. A single message you receive might contain several messages from different characters, and the dates of the messages are driven by the story (which, in my reading, took place during a different time of year than my reading).

The result made me realize that there were more types of email narratives than I’d considered. DoF wasn’t trying to create the feeling of corresponding via email with a fictional character, nor of voyeuristically listening in on the email correspondence of others. Instead, it was using email to (a) change the context of reading and (b) build suspense. The writing in DoF is generally very email-like. This is a lot of what we read and write each day, but to me it just doesn’t make sense in the same way on the page. DoF tells a story using email language, and it delivers that story to your email reader — which is the right place for that language. And while the timing of the messages doesn’t exactly match the timing of email writing by the characters, it does work successfully to build suspense. One can’t flip forward, or keep reading, to find out what happens next. One has to wait, that experience I’ve become increasingly unaccustomed to (especially now that I only seem to watch TV shows on DVD). And, as it turns out, I wasn’t able to wait. I’d wanted to not use the special powers granted to me as a reviewer, but at a certain point I went into the DoF website and read straight through the rest of the story. I didn’t want to wait — I wanted to get to the end of the story. And to me that indicates that something in the design of DoF was working, and overcame my surprise that this wasn’t the sort of “email narrative” I’d come to expect.

A few more thoughts on DoF can be found over at Jill’s.