Mark Bruno offers his version of the “Remember text adventure games? People are not only still playing them, they’re writing new ones!” essay. I thought his discussion of the relationship between IF and electronic literature showed some insight.
I also discovered that while text adventure
games where born into the family of computer games, they had since
“grown up” and began “hanging out” with the literature crowd (though it
still regularly writes home) — which is to say that in much latter-day
interactive fiction, particularly things produced since 1996,
storytelling had been increasingly emphasized and the puzzles
deemphasized. Not that puzzles were gone, but more and more authors of
IF were trying to integrate puzzles into a coherent and compelling
plot, rather than (as was often the case in earlier years) letting the
story serve as an ostensible premise, but populating the thing with
puzzles that had nothing to do with the plot. Now, some interactive
fiction goes whole hog and abolishes puzzles altogether!
So, why continue to try to tell a story
through this medium? Because making the player/reader drive the course
of the story allows for some interesting effects; a skillful author can
get the player/reader to identify with the protagonist in ways that
simply aren’t possible in static fiction (because the player/reader has
a sense of complicity, to use a favorite word, in the plot that the
static fiction reader lacks). Plus there are all sorts of neat things
that can be done with narrative when you have a computer on your side.
While there are plenty of puzzle-centric games that also happen to be well-written (Lock and Key comes to mind), it’s true that the more literary IF works have attracted more attention from critics and reviewers.