Interactive Fiction Competition

The latest IF competition is underway. Emily Short reports on the works she’s played so far this year here. As a historian or humanist, you should really take a look at what is being accomplished in this particular medium. A decent work of IF is as immersive as any whiz-bang 3d online world, but far more intimate in that it is your own experience generating the fireworks (like the old Infocom add had it, the brain is the fastest graphics card there is…). Note the different approaches of the various works. I’ve tried my hand here or there writing IF that seeks to immerse the student in the process of doing history – sifting through, evaluating, etc, various real documents – in order to progress through the game. Reading Emily’s review, I’m inspired to take it up again, to learn from these works to try different approaches.

For instance, the work below might suggest a great way to incorporate scanned historical materials into a work:

Everybody Dies. A short story with good writing, easy but effective puzzles, and quality illustrations. Speaking of those illustrations, I found them to be a fantastic solution to the question of how to present subjective material in the context of IF: these weren’t a mere add-on or embellishment but an absolutely essential part of the story. This was, by a nose, my favorite game of the comp. But it had strong competition.

And one that suggests a way to use historical biographical materials to resurrect the dead -

Violet. Polished and bursting with personality; though in form it’s a one-room puzzle game, in content it’s a romance with a memorable NPC. Other games have played with divisions between the parser and viewpoint character, or the player and the protagonist, but most often they’ve used those divisions to subvert expectations or produce unexpected surprises. Violet goes another direction, by making the whole content of the game into an effective conversation with the narrator, on the subject of your relationship and its prospects. It’s a fabulous idea and it worked very well.

I know I’ve said it time and again, but if time/money/energy allows, I’d love to enter a piece in the competition that had educational/historical aims. Could writing effective IF be considered an academic publication? (It’d certainly be all postmoderny)

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