The joy of text – the fall and rise of interactive fiction

IMG_3692.PNGAlthough the IF community first formed around Inform, a tool for creating parser-based games of the popular sort released by Infocom (Zork, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game, and A Mind Forever Voyaging), tools today are numerous, and many of them bypass the compelling but fricative parser language entirely.

For example, in recent years, a free text tool called Twine has exploded onto the creative scene, offering entry-level designers the chance to create their first text and hyperlink-based games with no coding required. Some of these games are as accessible as choose-your-own-adventure books, and others can be more sophisticated, implementing mappable space, objects that can change states, or graphics, sound and visual effects.

And Twine’s just one popular new tool – there are many other ways to build readable, touchable experiences for the wide, wide world. Most modern text games, whether parser-based or hyperlink-driven, can now be played in a browser tab, which means these competition entries can welcome any sort of player.

This degree of accessibility means that in many ways, text-based games lead among other kinds of computer games in terms of creative democracy, sophisticated subject matter, and even political themes – while plenty of the competition games are traditional or humorous, modern text games bring new perspectives to bear from creators who might have been restricted from access to the traditional, privileged computer-education background, whose tone still dominates mainstream gaming.