Mapping the Tale: Scene Description in IF

If your IF game has a story, your scene descriptions should serve the story. If you want to give your game atmosphere, broaden your use of sense details within your scene descriptions to include sounds, smells, and even textures, instead of just sights. If you want your game to have a strong narrative voice, scene descriptions are a good place to establish it. If you are using a well-defined PC, the scene descriptions can be used to reinforce your protagonist’s point of view of each location. If your game has a complicated back-story, scene descriptions can provide expositional as well as locational detail. If the pace of the game quickens, scene descriptions should keep pace, becoming briefer, more active, even changing from turn to turn to sustain the player’s feeling of urgency.–J. Robinson Wheeler

Mapping the Tale: Scene Description in IF (

Wheeler writes for an audience already very familiar with interactive fiction, using static quotes pulled from several well-known games and categorizing them.

My own essay on exposition in interactive fiction is intended for a broader audience (including faculty colleagues who don’t know what the heck I’m talking about when I talk about interactive fiction.) My essay doesn’t focus specifically on scene description, but I grappled with some of the same issues that Wheeler explores here. I also created the stub of a sample game, “Crack of Noon,” to illustrate the difference between in-game text that simply announces goals, and gameplay that permits the player to piece together details that point towards a goal.