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Interactive Fiction

by Deborah Gray

"You drove west from London all day in your new little British sports car. Now at last you've arrived in the storied land of Cornwall.

Dusk has fallen as you pull up in front of Tresyllian Castle. A ghostly full moon is rising, and a tall iron gate between two pillars bars the way into the courtyard.

What would you like to do?"

- Opening paragraph of Moonmist

Before computers had the capability to display pictures, computer games utilized text to stimulate the player's imagination. These games are known as both text adventures and interactive fiction (IF). Although graphics have been a part of computer games since the 1980s, a small community of enthusiasts has kept the interactive fiction flame alive. Interactive fiction is still being created, and several programs have even been written to allow a player to play the games on her Palm Pilot. Due to the element of discovery that is inherent in a game, the mystery, science fiction and fantasy genres are the most popular in interactive fiction.

Most interactive games are produced in one of two formats: TAD or Inform, and need to be played through an "interpreter" for your computer to understand the game. To play a TAD game, you use a TAD interpreter and to play an Inform game you need an Inform interpreter. How to Play Interactive Fiction and Text Adventure Games has the programs you need for download and information on installation.

You can also play them directly off the Internet, from Infocom Games Playable Online. This is a great resource. Infocom was the biggest producer of IF in its heyday. Here you can play a number of their games using telnet, a program that should be already installed on your computer. Simply click on the telnet link on the very top of the page. Note that although they provide the login needed, they don't note that a password isn't necessary, although the program asks for one. All you do is to hit Enter.

Suggestions for starter IF games are:

  • Plundered Hearts - a tongue in cheek bodice-ripper
  • Moonmist - a mystery set in a fog-shrouded castle
  • The Lurking Horror - a horror story set at a snowbound university
  • Curses - a puzzle hunt through a huge, cluttered attic
  • Anchorhead - a Lovecraftian horror story set in New England


©2002 Deborah Gray for SeniorWomenWeb


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