The Treasure of Born-Digital Literature, and why Digital Humanities is so vital in studying it

Born-digital literature, media, and storytelling is an inevitable and exciting expansion of storytelling into the digital space. It utilizes as its tools aspects of the digital that contribute to its audiences' experiences in a way that only the Born-digital can. There are communal storytelling hubs, in which various writers and artists gather and share a story world, canon, and characters, and contribute to and build that world both through digital art and digital storytelling contributions. There are "tine games" which are methods of digital story telling in which the reader clicks through various dialogue options or choices, influencing the story or choosing what information they want to read, and how deeply they want to know the backstory of the characters. There are online literary/game/visual experiences such as Homestuck by Andrew Hussie, which was one of the most popular born-digital literary and artistic achievements of its time and continues to be one of the most famous, and first "classic" born-digital media creations to this day. Then there is the epic, slowly unveiled story of Mother9Horse9Eyes, told in a collection of strange, surrealist, yet connected responses across many different reddit threads that were collected, assembled, ordered, and theorized on by an entire base of loyal readers. Then, of course, there are hte video games, some of which are primarily vessels with which to tell stories, such as the "visual novel" games which allow the gamer/reader to embody a character and act out anything from a romantic comedy, to deeply complex stories, as well as combinations of both to horrifying results, such as the horror game masked within a romantic comedy, Doki Doki Literature Club, many of which are bafflingly studied within the humanities despite their literary achievements and affects on culture. 

Each of these types of born-digital stories and literary creations tell stories in a unique way, and utilize the medium of the digital in surprising ways that makes the experience completely different for readers and audience members from piece to piece. Some position their audiences more traditionally, such as with Mother9Horse9Eyes, which encourages reading, interpretation, and analysis, and where the writer themselves sometimes interacted with and responded cryptically to the community, yet the readership were still reading the works of a single writer and analyzing those works for their literary merit and the story that was being told. Other born-digital experiences are even more deeply hinged upon the user's input, not just inviting it, but requiring it, such as in games and in community driven worlds and collaborative worldbuilding games. These kinds of creations make the audience members not just readers, but creators in and of themselves, and readers cannot participate in these works without being active creators of their own right who then build communities of readers around themselves and their own works within the shared world as well.

It is all these aspects, and too many more to name, which make the born-digital such an exciting expanse of the literary. It is a front of creation that illustrates that literature and stories will always be at the forefront of human inventiveness and experimentation, and one day, I firmly believe that some of these early born-digital works will be what are studied, read, and analyzed within dissertations and college classrooms. For writers, expanding into and experimenting with the medium of the digital is about as irresistible as it would be for an artist to experiment with a newly discovered color that no humans had ever seen before previously. Through trial and error, through much experimenting and practice, more and more artworks would be created using this new color, and experimenting with the experience that it gives to its viewers. 

Of all the areas in the humanities, perhaps the Digital Humanities is the best positioned to recognize and begin to analyze these born-digital literary creations. It was the Digital Humanities that first began asking the questions and defining what the digital humanities would be, and why such a field was necessary and should not be confined to the realm of computer science and engineering. Digital Humanities was used to study early video games and the consoles that humans interfaced with in order to play those games. It is therefore the most equipped, and appropriate field, to begin to study the works of art that are sometimes games, but are often things that have not been named yet, have not been categorized, and, though they are beloved and treasured by their wide and diverse communities, have yet to be studied by almost anyone for the unique treasures that they bring to the study of literature.