Electronic Literature

Published by Rachel on

Electronic literature is a genre of projects created exclusively for digital devices. It involves the use of codes and links that would not be possible if physically printed, making electronics and digital medias essential for this type of literature. This genre ranges from blogs, to interactive stories, to chatter-bots and VI’s such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. While this form of electronics is not necessarily needed in the modern world, it’s use and people’s dependency on it is becoming increasingly obvious.


It could be argued that it was the 19th century, and not the twenty-first, that originally came up ‘electronic literature’. The first phonograph, for example, invented in the late 1800’s, was a revolutionary device. It was the first time in history that people were able to record and reproduce sound. Following the phonograph, cassette tapes became popular during the 1970’s. These were the original ‘audio books’. This was the first piece of electronic literature invented, and showed the human race the possibilities that lay before them.

The first commercially-available computer game, released in 1973, was the most-loved Pong. While this simple concept didn’t have much in the way of literature, it certainly laid down the stepping stones for video games that followed. Space Invaders, a classical action game soon followed, as well as Doom, the first multiplayer game, and Adventure, the first text adventure game. It was these games that redefined the electronic literature genre.


Interactive fiction, or ‘text adventures’ are a type of literacy narrative, usually in the form of a video game. They are written using a programming language such as ZIL or Inform. This converts the game’s text into interactive text, allowing the user to click on specific words which then trigger instructions for the game. These games can be serious or sarcastic, with a variety of settings and characters. All of this combines makes them attractive for players of all ages and backgrounds. One of these games that I found enjoyable in particular, is Quing’s Quest VII: The Death of Videogames.

This piece interests me greatly as it combines both electronic literature and “old-fashioned” CD computer games. It is an over-the-top narrative that takes you on an adventure on the spacecraft ‘Social Justice Warrior’. The purpose of the game us to prove that video games are not ruined by modern-day society, a goal which is assuredly meets. The narrative includes many up-to-date references and social issues, despite it’s design referencing that of a 90’s computer game.

It’s an interactive narrative that tells the player the story they want to hear. Users can choose what to wear, where to go, what to say to other characters, and so on and so forth. It includes realistic sound effects and a glittery background, both of which keep the player entertained. It’s simple to navigate as the font changes colour and size when the user has an opportunity to change the story. The game’s satirical dialogue throughout makes it enjoyable to read. This piece of electronic literature held my attention from start to finish. Quing’s Quest effectively portrays how traditional literature can be adapted and used online.

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