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Interactive fiction

Interactive fiction, often abbreviated as IF, refers to a simulated environment in which players use text commands to control characters. Works in this form can be understood as literary and as computer games. They include text adventures, which are a particular type of adventure game. (Some people use the term IF to refer generically to all adventure games.)

Stephen van Egmond [1] (http://bang.dhs.org/) is one of many who relate the way IF author, developer, and critic Graham Nelson characterized interactive fiction: a narrative at war with a crossword puzzle.

Many IF works are quite difficult, and include a large amount of descriptive text. A transcript of the very ending of one of these games might read:

 > look
 You are in a big room with tall pillars, to your north 
 resides the large doors into the Wikipedia.
 > go north
 The doors are locked. Wait, that makes no sense, Wikipedia 
 is for everyone! Something must be done...
 > inventory
 You are carrying a soda, an umbrella, The Key to All The 
 Information in the Universe, and a little plastic bottle 
 cap.
 > unlock door
 Unlock door with what?
 > key
 The door opens easily and noiselessly, and before you can 
 walk through, there's a mad rush of people to enter the 
 library and begin improving it. Your mission is complete!
 Would you like to restore a saved game, restart, or quit?
 > quit

The first text adventure game, Adventure (also called ADVENT, or Colossal Cave), was written in Fortran for the PDP-10, and has since been ported to many other operating systems. It was created by Will Crowther and augmented by Don Woods, with the canonical version being released in 1976.

The popularity of Adventure lead to the wide success of interactive fiction during the late 1970s and the 1980s, when home computers had little, if any, graphics capability.

In the United States, the most well-known company producing these games was Infocom, which created the Zork series and many other titles still fondly remembered by countless fans. Another company which published a series of interactive fiction was Adventure International founded by Scott Adams (not the creator of Dilbert).

In the UK the leading companies were Magnetic Scrolls[?] and Level 9[?]. Worth to mention is also Delta 4[?] and the homebrew company Zenobi.

Today, interactive fiction no longer appears to be commercially viable, but a constant stream of new text adventures is produced by the interactive fiction community using freely available text adventure writing systems, particularly Inform and TADS.

Most of these games can be downloaded for free from the Interactive Fiction Archive (see link at end).

Since 1995 there has been an annual Interactive Fiction Competition for relatively short games. There are also annual XYZZY Awards[?] in various categories, modelled on the Academy Awards.

Two free online newsletters exist: XYZZYnews and SPAG.

See also: Choose Your Own Adventure[?], gamebook[?], hypertext

External links



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