Games for the Non-Illiterate
Draw up your monitor and listen to a story...
O nce upon a time, a long, long time ago 1 , a troupe of bright young men 2 formed a court 3 to create whimsical but challenging all-text adventure games. They christened it, "Infocom," and the legendary era during which it reined is now known as, "The Golden Age of IF."
1 1979; 2 recent MIT graduates; 3 software company
At first they crafted just one game
, but it was so monumental it towered over
the rocky competition. Impressed by this artful monolith,
folk eagerly flocked to the Land of IF
to settle in its
bountiful valleys. Since the field of computer entertainment was relatively
unmined, the Infocom court soon brought forth more games. With their next
they also tried their hands at even fancier sculpting
(creating/adding plots). The new iffy
citizens were properly and playfully grateful, loving the intelligent games
that were stories (or the
were games). Well, except when they got hung up on a tricky puzzle that could
keep them trapped for hours, even days. But the Infocom court jesters, while
mischievous, were also merciful and offered hints books so players
could get unstuck if they really, really needed to. So Infocom prospered,
the Kingdom of IF flourished, and everyone lived
happily ever after. Well, until...
3 Zork; 4 Interactive-Fiction; 5 "Witness," "Planetfall," "Enchanter," "Infidel"
A disturbing change swept over the land...
Its fiery breath scorched the Kingdom of IF's gently rolling hills and softly
dipping valleys, although the
games themselves were fireproof
and remained standing unharmed (and are still
playable today). But most iffy
citizens were mesmerized by the gargantuan's motion and
vivid (but burning) color and so trailed after it in a stupor. They regained
some of their senses in the now greener pastures of graphic games. Its flashy,
trashy structures required little or no reading (most didn't even require much
thought), but the many peasants among them rejoiced since they had found
much trouble anyway. Unfortunately, they were also full of
violence, although few noticed at first, because it was cunningly renamed,
"action". When more finally did, it was too late, the players were
thoroughly entranced by how easy the new games were to play. Thus enthralled,
passively choosing the simple use of a
little rodent (masquerading as a dragon) over their own more taxing brain
power, the dazed folk stayed.
Back in the Kingdom of IF, the abandoned Infocom court frantically tried to lure the defectors back by hastily constructing computer comics; graphic short stories for short attention spans. But, of course, they didn't have enough "action," so the captivated mouse-clickers didn't even bother to look up from their frenzied playing.
Downcast, the Infocom troupe decided to seek their fortunes 7 elsewhere and set out on a perilous journey to another land 8 . But the way proved thornier than they had anticipated and they got lost among the many brambles 9 . Spying their misfortune, another court 10 lurking in the bushes, swarmed out and conquered them 11 . No blood was shed, but rather than meekly swear fealty, the bright (but no longer young) men and women (who had joined the troupe) of Infocom disbanded 12 . Although, for awhile, the victors tried to pretend that the famous imps 13 had become their faithful vassals.
7 Cornerstone (Infocom's database program); 8 the personal computer database market; 9 other database programs (Dbase, Q&A, etc.); 10 another game company -- Activision; 11 bought them out; 12 1987; 13 implementors
Despair struck the few loyal IF players left behind. Although they had watched these events unfold safely from a distance, they were still distrait. "Oh, woe is us, disaster!" they cried. "This means there will be no new intelligent games to look forward to! Surely, we are doomed!" The hills of IF echoed with their grief, as they rent their garments and wailed to the heavens. Inconsolable, they then retreated to huddle in isolated caves 14 and ponder their fate. They didn't want to play mindless and/or violent games. They wanted to THINK and have fun!
14 local BBS's (computer bulletin board systems)
S o the Kingdom of IF disappeared and the land became a less joyful (but,
paradoxically, more colorful), place. Then, lo, out of thin air a hollow
voice seemed to whisper, "Write your own games." The still dedicated
IF players struck themselves on their foreheads and exclaimed, "Why didn't we
that? Wait a minute, we did!" Then they grinned
. Thus inspired, more
bright (age undetermined)
game authoring systems
and they and others started writing new games. But these
treasures were tucked away in twisty caverns all over the land and it took an
to unearth them. So a German knight, Volker Blasius,
announced, "I will gather everything together in one place so the
players and new authors can find it." True-blue, he faithfully kept his
pledge and created the if-archive
to the immense relief of all the iffy
15 <g>; 16 AGT & TADS; 17 finding the right BBS's and, after the advent of Internet, using archie & other methods; 17 1992
Oops, I left something out.
Something wonderful happened before this that made the creation of the
if-archive even possible. The formation of that magical place we call the
Internet. Well, it really
occurred earlier, but only wizards
knew the complicated
that allowed one to materialize there.
Then town markets
started offering simple potions
to plain folk. They did
this in exchange for gold and silver coins
, but it didn't matter (Infocom
had been mercantile too), people benefitted anyway and more and more
started popping in and
of the Net.
18 computer variety; 19 urls and commands; 20 ISPs (Internet service providers); 21 easy access; 22 credit card & direct debit; 23 surfing
NOW FOR THE HAPPY ENDING...
Due to the dedication of countless IF players and programmers (who are also players), the Kingdom of IF lives again, floating safely in the mystical land of the Net. But us current iffy citizens now try to protect it from uncaring, non-reading, mouse&graphic-obsessed people. So we want to know you first BELIEVE in the magic of IF before you cast the spell that will transport you to its new enchanted court.
That is why I told you this story. Only if you believe... click your heels three times and say, "ftp.gmd.de."
(Now the spell is: "http://www.ifarchive.org.")
Table of Contents
What is Interactive-Fiction? Interactive-Fiction is all-text adventure games. Well, that isn't totally accurate anymore. Basically IF is a story in which you play the protagonist and can affect the progression of the plot and its ending. Most have some sort of "puzzles" that need to be solved to move the story along. Not puzzles in the crossword puzzles sense, but puzzles like: "How do you open this locked door? Where is the key?" Although simple locked door puzzles are becoming increasingly rare. There is also a minority of "puzzleless" IF.
Interactive-Fiction games have: locations (mansion rooms, outdoor fields, underground caves) that the player can move around; objects (flashlight, magic amulet, futuristic device) that the player can pick up and use; and other characters (people, animals, robots) in the story the player can socialize with. It also comes in all genres: mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, etc. Thus, Interactive-Fiction is fiction that you, the player, can interact with.
IF Art Gallery
Doe's Main Interactive Fiction Page
This story was told by Doe.