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Something about Interactive Fiction

Apology and Introduction

by Terrence Bosky

In my review of Once and Future, I made the erroneous statement “Just like video killed the radio star, graphics killed the parser,” and embarrassingly called interactive fiction a “dead genre.” I was wrong. Five years after I typed those lines, interactive fiction games continue to be produced, even commercially. My apologies to G. Kevin Wilson and Michael J. Roberts.

Interactive fiction is not a gaming genre, it is a format. Although “text adventure” is commonly used to describe this type of game, interactive fiction has grown from its Adventure roots to incorporate a variety of game types, and some interactive fiction cannot possibly be described as a game at all. What all interactive fiction shares in common is the use of text to describe characters and objects within a setting, and the use of a parser to interpret text typed by the player, allowing the player to interact with the characters and objects within the setting.

The following article looks a little closer at interactive fiction, its origin, and its future. Along the way, we’ll look at specific games and companies, and talk with some of the creators. Being a general overview, this article will not focus heavily on the technology behind the games, neither in terms of hardware nor software. I was fortunate to have some guides on this journey, and they are acknowledged in the acknowledgement section. Any errata is my fault, not theirs.
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