Most non-arcade games that retain a rabid fan base years after they’ve become
technically obsolote fall into one of two categories. They have a obsessively
complex world that’s been built up around them (Nethack,
say, or tabletop roleplaying games), or they have a simple rule set with much
greater depth in the gameplay and strategy than you’d expect on first glance
(games like M.U.L.E.,
or the boardgames that many of my
friends adore). Text adventure games don’t really fit either of these
categories, quite. As a classic piece of criticism and theory puts it, their
goal is to avoid crimes against
mimesis. They are telling a story (with puzzles, most likely), and it is the
goal of the author to never once induce the player to think about the artifice
and contraints of the system used to tell it.
A new type of game has sprung
up in the past few years. Call it unfiction or alternative reality gaming — the idea is that a
narrative is strung together on the Internet (and possibly even to a limited
extent in the physical world) which participants can unpack using exactly the
same research tools and conspiracy-minded obsession over detail that they would
for a real-life mystery.
A usefully-linked summary of the history of interactive fiction, including the current IF revival.
BTW, the winners of the 2003 XYZZY Awards have been announced.