My friends: IF Comp 2016 is now open.
If you’re new to interactive fiction, you may not be familiar with the IF community calendar, so let me quickly explain why you’ve arrived at the best time of year.
RPS Feature Biggest festival of the IF year
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
The phone rings.
Oh, no — how long have you been asleep? Sure, it was a tough night, but… This is bad. This is very bad.
The phone rings.
9:05 [official site] is a text adventure about being late for work. When you finish playing it, you’ll almost definitely tell the next person you meet to play it immediately, even if that person is a stranger at a bus stop.
RPS Feature Restoration Comedy
I’m so glad I don’t review books for a living. When discussing a game, you have to be careful to avoid both narrative and mechanical spoilers as best you can, but generally there’s a great deal to talk about around these. But I’m not sure the editors of the Times Literary Supplement would take kindly to my describing how easy it is to turn a book’s pages, as I desperately find ways to avoid ruining the story for anyone who might want to read it. I often feel in a similar situation when reviewing adventure games, and never more so than when talking about interactive fiction. Yes, there are mechanics to discuss, of course. But really, with text on a screen, it’s tougher. And when that game has a crucial twist in the opening hour, er, you’re screwed. So it’s with this in mind that I suggest you go play Adam Cadre‘s Endless, Nameless before you read beyond the point I’ll clearly mark below. I’ll not ruin the entire game, of course. But, well, play it first.
RPS Feature Interactive Fanfiction
I had a sweet time making the last Choose Your Own Interview, so this time I collaborated with long time Interactive Fiction heroes Adam Cadre, Emily Short and Andrew Plotkin to make you something special. The following is a heady mix of RPS fanfic, Interactive Fiction love letter, and slight autobiographical tendencies. Your secret content this time comes courtesy of a guest appearance by someone we all know and love. Enjoy, and keep me updated on your own adventures in text. Now let’s get really drunk. There must be a bar around here somewhere?
I’ve been taking a look at some of the games in the 17th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition and though I’m not going to refer to these as “the cream of the crop”, having not harvested the entire crop yet, they should fulfill a variety of your text-based needs. With storytelling in games high on the agenda today, it’s a particularly interesting moment to look at the different ways narrative can be explored through interactive prose. Far from fetch quests and attempts to second-guess a limited vocabulary, interactive fiction at its best can allow a reader-player to discover stories in all kinds of interesting ways. This way to words about words.
[A version of this feature was originally printed in UK videogames bible Edge. It’s about the use of Text in videogames, both in the mainstream and over in the world of Interactive fiction. It features material from Chris Avellone (Planescape Torment), Sheldon Pacotti (Deus Ex), Adam Cadre (Photopia, Shrapnel) and Emily Short (Galatea, Floatpoint). I’ve expanded it to fit in in some of the quotes I couldn’t fit in Edge’s word-count. Which were many. If you’ve read my Planescape Retrospective, you’ll recognise some key riffs. This feature very much grew from that one. And enough waffle. Let’s do this thing.]
In the beginning was the word. And the word begat a phrase. And the phrase was “Avoid Missing Ball For High Score”. Gaming’s public relationship with words started here, and continues to this day. It’s these first furtive fumblings which produced the most lasting signifiers which define games in the public eye, and will continue to do so as long as the form continues to exist in its current state. Icons like “Extra Life” and “High Score” are as much a signifier of gaming as any of the corporate mascots.
But this isn’t about that.