Chapter 11: The State of IF Today

Efforts are afoot to not only make IF more accessible, but to make it more modern and attractive in appearance. Along with all of the other innovations of Inform 7, for instance, a facility has now been added by which the author can easily include a “book cover” of sorts for her work, which is automatically displayed when the player begins the game. Thumbnail versions of this art could also be displayed in another application that has aroused considerable discussion in the community, even if it is a project still far from fruition: the creation of a sort of IF “I-Tunes” application that would allow the player to browse the Archive’s immense database of games, and to open any one of them on her computer with just a couple of clicks. A meta-data standard for IF is under discussion which could make this dream a reality by providing a standard format for storing basic information — copyright date, author name, brief description, etc. — about every game to facilitate easy searching and browsing. These projects have a long way to go, but the community seems increasingly committed to shedding the retro-gaming label once and for all and embracing the future. I believe a larger audience for IF is out there, and I believe an improved presentation for the genre as a whole is the best way to reach it.

Some see IF as suffering something of a directional crisis in the last few years. The wild experimentation with form that marked the late nineties has now largely subsided. One could argue that we have a pretty good sense of what the genre is capable of now, at least unless and until we see some quantum leap in artificial intelligence technology, or until something else occurs that shifts the paradigm of IF development. This is does not mean that the exciting phase of IF’s history is over, however. It may in fact be just beginning. Authors are now free to use the techniques that the experimentalists pioneered not as formal exercises but in the service of the stories they are attempting to tell. Some recent games, such as Jason Devlin’s Vespers and Chris Klimas’ Blue Chairs, have displayed just this ascendancy of substance over form that is the mark of a mature artform. There are many, many stories still to tell, and I believe that a substantial upswing in IF’s popularity could be just around the corner if the community stays the course with current efforts, even as increasing academic interest brings the genre a respectability it could never have dreamed of in the days of Infocom. Interactive narrative will be the literary form of the twenty-first century, and IF has every chance of continuing to be an important part of that movement for years to come. —Jimmy MaherChapter 11: The State of IF Today (Let’s Tell a Story Together (A History of Interactive Fiction))

In the US, “Chapter 11” is the section of legal code dealing with bankruptcy, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Especially notworthy is the “Suggested Works of Modern IF” page, which includes a brief essay on canon.