If you’ve stumbled upon this blog, you may or may not know that people are still writing and playing interactive fiction: those all-text games that were the state of the art back in the eighties.
For some purposes they still are. As Infocom‘s ads used to point out, literate text combined with human imagination has better graphics capabilities than any computer. The main strength of IF is the creation of environments, simulated spaces to explore. I think of my favorite IF games as virtual, interactive sculptures as much as stories. Andrew Plotkin’s The Dreamhold and So Far and Emily Short’s Savoir-Faire are good examples.
Graphical games create environments, too; the best are vivid, cinematic and evocative. The Myst games still insinuate themselves into my dreams, sometimes. But it’s sometimes frustrating when your interactions with them are limited to “point here and click.” This is where IF picks up the slack: any well-programmed game will have at least a couple of dozen verbs… which from the writer’s perspective is as much a curse as a blessing. The player can use any of those verbs on anything, and everything has to react. (I tried writing IF years ago, and didn’t get far. Admittedly this has as much to do with the intense difficulty I have motivating myself to do anything, including get up in the morning, as anything else. I may try again sometime; Inform, the premiere IF development software, has come out with a new version that looks intriguing.)
Anyway: the point. Every year the IF community holds a competition. This is where most IF games these days get released. The quality tends to vary; in any competition you’ll find a few brilliant entries, a few childishly bad ones, and one or two wastes of everybody’s time. Anyone can download the games and vote. In the past the competition runners have discouraged public discussion of the games during the voting period, but apparently that’s no longer the case. So I’m planning to post some reviews; expect the first one within the next couple of days. In the meantime, you might want to take a look at the games yourself.
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