Modern interactive fiction, much more than its technically limited earlier counterparts, displays an incredible range of literary influences, tributes and styles. For Sherwin’s part, science fiction is an inspiration, but the greater part of his text adventures’ efficacy comes from the unique and anarchic style of his characters’ dialogue. “I have been greatly influenced by the late George Alec Effinger,” he says. “He was the first guy I read that was able to write science fiction chock-full of characters that I not only deeply cared about, but characters that drove the plot due to their strong wills and personalities.” In text adventures, literary influences are naturally more evident; text game writers are free to attempt to emulate the same literary devices as the authors who perhaps inspired them, whether in their dialogue styles, plot development or written motifs.
Gamers in search of an edifying read could hope for nothing more than the surreal eloquence of Adam Cadre’s Photopia, or the superbly idiosyncratic dialogue of Sherwin’s own Fallacy Of Dawn. Sherwin cites Stephen Bond’s Rameses as “the best character study in the history of videogames” — outside the world of the text game, one would be hard pressed to find characters and situations as lovingly and artfully developed and described as they often are in interactive fiction.
However, text games enjoy a luxury not afforded to videogames in any other form; they communicate exclusively through the written word. Without needing to integrate visuals, sound or 3D gameplay, they are free to concentrate wholly upon their writing, and thus are able to achieve a focus that is usually beyond the reach of a medium as multi-disciplinary as videogames. Pacotti relates this coherence to that of books. “The novel, typically created by one person working exclusively in language, strives for a coherence only occasionally seen in film and almost never in games,” he explains. “This coherence — the integration of the smallest details into a single vision — is the basis of good art.” –PLAY-PEN: Games Due for a Lit Course (Next Generation)
This article gives the literary qualities of text adventure games some welcome attention, integrating canonical recent IF works with a discussion of good writing in recent mainstream PRGs, but I fear that it tips too far over onto the narratological side, with a good bit of cinema 101 thrown in for good measure.
Just because text games use prose instead of polygons doesn’t erase the fact that, as a game, a text adventure requires coding.
Last night I found myself digging out a text-adventure work-in-progress, and I managed to squash a few bugs after I put my daughter to bed, but before my son was finished with his bath. And then after putting my son to bed, I fell asleep on the floor of his room, so I didn’t get much done last night.