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Games: Interactive Fiction
[Games: Interactive Fiction] A while ago I briefly mentioned a neat little game called 9:05, and swore that I would "write more about interactive fiction later this week." And did I? Did i write more about later that week? No I did not. And while that may make me a filthy stinkin' liar, I am at least a filthy stinkin' liar so racked with guilt at this oversight that I'm going to make good on my promise now.
"Interactive Fiction" is the new-fangled term for a genre of games that once lacked a name and was simply described as "like Zork." "I'm totally addicted to this new game I bought called Planetfall! it's one of those game, you know, like Zork?" Later this category of time-killers was referred to as "text adventures": games without graphics, in which everything is described in words and you, as the protagonist, interact with the environment by entering a series of written command.
Ahhhhhh yes, it's all coming back to you now, isn't it? I'm sure many of you, like I, wasted hours and day and weeks back in the 80's as you sat in front of your computer, subsisting solely on beef jerky and RC Cola, trying to solve each and every puzzle in Enchanter. Well, a few years back someone clued me in to the fact that, while the legendary Infocom is more or less defunct, there is still an active community of Text Adventures out there, walking around with brass lamps and stashing treasures into their trophy cases. Better yet, there's quite a few folks who continue to write (free!) text adventures -- so many that there's even an annual competition to reward the authors for their efforts.
These games are now called "Interactive Fiction" (IF), because many contemporary offerings break the traditional "solve puzzles, save princess" mold. While the classic puzzle romps are still prominent, many IF authors now use the medium to explore literary and philosophical ground. (Try the groundbreaking Phototopia to a prime example.)
I go on an IF bender about once a year, during which I typically download and play half a dozen games over the course of a month. I'm on one now, which is why I'm writing about it here. If trying out such games interests you, there's no shortages of resources available to you on the web. Check out Stephen Grande's Brass Lantern, the Interactive Fiction Archive (along with this nice guide to the archive) and the two largest IF societies, XYZZY and the Society for the Preservation of Adventure Games.
Me, I've played maybe 20 modern IF games and enjoyed quite a few. Here are my favorites