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Interactive Fiction: An Acquired Taste

It’s true that Interactive Fiction is somewhat of an acquired taste. There is a level of engagement that is not overly intuitive to many people–learning how to communicate with the IF game parser can be a challenge, and it can take some practice getting your precise meaning across to the program so that it responds in a meaningful way.

But once a person has mastered three basic skills (how to move through the environment, how to manipulate objects within the environment, and how to interact with characters in the environment), the playability of the games really open up, and the player can start to have a lot of fun. Well-written IF games not only deal with actions that the player should make, but they also deal with actions that might make absolutely no sense from the standpoint of the situational logic within the game–yet are quite entertaining to the player nonetheless. (Seasoned IF players love to try different actions and commands just to see how the game will respond, even if those actions or commands do nothing to advance the actual game story.)

Below is a website that provides links to several IF games that you can play online. I recommend that you give them a try, especially if you’ve never played before. The IF experience is quite unlike the modern graphic computer games. If you enjoy reading, solving mental puzzles, and feeling like you have control over a game’s narrative experience, Interactive Fiction may just be your cup of tea.

5 Great Interactive Fiction Games You Can Play Online Right Now

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A Big Thanks to our “Enterprise” Backer

Tony Guzman gets the recognition for being our Enterprise Backer, and we’d like to extend our appreciation here. What is the Enterprise Backer, you ask? Star Trek fans should get the reference: with Tony’s funding contribution, we have hit the $1701 mark. That’s 1701, as in the number of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

We also want to thank all of our backers for being so generous. Without your help, we wouldn’t have exceeded our funding goal!

Setting the Stretch Goal

Even though the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative has reached its funding goal, there are 16 days left in the funding period, and we want to put that time to good use. To that end, we are setting a stretch goal of an additional $500 in funding (for a total of $2000 altogether). These additional funds would go toward increased research resources and even some money to market the finished product to the target audience (educators, historians, and IF gamers).

Unlike the initial funding goal, the stretch goal does not have to be hit for us to make use of the additional funds. So at this point, every backer contribution helps us move the needle. Please spread the word and help us to continue to raise funds for the project.

To go to the Kickstarter project page, click here.

For Novices: The Top 5 Interactive Fiction Games

Getting into Interactive Fiction isn’t the easiest thing to do, as far as playing a “new” computer game genre goes. In the early 1980s when IF was popular–and the distractions of graphic computer games was non-existent–people spent significant time in the games, reading the stories and situations, thinking about how to respond, and considering the possible (or probable) action choices to take. In the days of playing Colossal Cave and Scott Adams text adventure games, the simplicity of the parser forced people to think in terms of two-word commands. That had the effect of narrowing action choices to some degree, which was probably a good thing as the genre gained its following. As Infocom released its games with more sophisticated language parsing capabilities, the potential for action and conversation was greatly multiplied. But most Infocom players likely had an introduction to the genre that helped to educate them in the conventions of IF communications.

Today, learning IF games can be difficult for several reasons. Finding a local IF community can be difficult (okay, impossible in most cases), which means that players need to rely on online resources–if they can successfully find those. The computer gaming paradigm has shifted greatly over the past few decades, and as a result, people’s expectations for game experiences is quite different.

Fortunately, there are freely available resources that help ease a new IF gamer into the genre. Instructions, primers, and how-to guides can be found by searching the Internet. And there are many good games suitable for novice IF gamers. This article on the gamer site 1up has listed what could be considered the top 5 games for Interactive Fiction beginners to try first. Try your hand!

While the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative isn’t being developed strictly with novices in mind, if it will be used in the teaching and learning environment it will need to be something that students can easily pick up on. To find out more about the Kickstarter project, please click here.