No Time To Play
newsletter archive

Weekly Links #42: Interactive Fiction edition

With the Interactive Fiction Competition in full swing, it's no surprise that people talk about IF more than usual. Enough that even jaded ol' me can find a bunch of news worth mentioning.

I'll start with a signal boost: Jimmy Maher, a.k.a. The Digital Antiquarian has launched a Patreon to help fund his efforts of documenting the history of narrative computer games. His isn't just any blog either: you'll seldom find better documented, more balanced write-ups on any popular topic like that. There's something to be said about having an academic background, it seems.

So if you can, give Jimmy a hand. He more than deserves it.

In other news, Emily Short has started a Pinterest board collecting interactive fiction interfaces -- for a generous definition of IF -- and it's awesome. Definitely browse through it if you need ideas, because there are countless ways to present even a text-based game, and the differences can matter.

And because it's the twentieth anniversary of the aforementioned IFComp, The Guardian is running a feature on it. Sadly, it still manages to hit all the cliches about tough-as-nails 1980es text adventures (because, isn't it, nothing happened in the field between then and now... durrr). But hey, interactive fiction is mainstream again, and commercially viable to boot! No seriously, you should see the amount of Twines and whatnot on alone, it's heart-warming.

Last but not least, over on the Gamefic blog there's a post about an experimental system to give traditional parser-based adventures a point-and-click interface, without human intervention. You don't need to rewrite your game, in other words; just include the right libraries and recompile. A most welcome experiment, seeing how much virtual ink has been spilled over the merits of parsers and how clicking links just isn't the same.

I'll conclude with an unrelated link. Just one day after a friend complained to me that Magic: the Gathering's focus on competitive play robs the game's fictional world of its charm, I ran across an article about Tarot cards, narratives, games, and what it means to win. Which points out the exact same problem: namely, our obsession with the win/lose duality compromising the very point of playing games: namely to relax, have fun, socialize and learn. And don't even get me started about playing a game versus simply playing. Even interactive fiction, which is ostensibly about storytelling, still relies on the assumption -- encoded in most authoring tools -- that the player is progressing steadily towards an ending out of three: win, lose or die.

Ample food for thought right there. Until next time.