Word Play

By: Terry

On: October 19th, 2007

Veteran game reviewer Kieron Gillen (who’s previously written for PC Gamer, EDGE and Eurogamer, among others) has reposted an old EDGE article to his collaborative games blog, Rock Paper Shotgun. The article is entitled “”http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/?p=440">Word Play", and it’s about the use of text in videogames.

The first half of the article is compelling enough, I suppose, but it’s the second part that’s really interesting to me. Kieron moves on to discuss “one corner of the modern games scene [where text] is dominant… the Interactive Fiction or IF Community. Or, as they were known in the eighties, text adventures.”

Photopia Intro

This section includes interviews with IF notables Emily Short and Adam Cadre (the authors of Galatea and Photopia, respectively), and talks about their influences, their approach to game design, and their view of how things are going to pan out for IF in the future.

I remember reading it in EDGE a few years ago, and at the time, I’d only played Photopia and some older well known text adventures like Zork and Colossal Cave. This article is what finally got me to explore Interactive Fiction in more depth, and I’m quite glad I did! There seemed to be something missing from this republished version though, so I dusted off my collection of old copies of EDGE and had a look for the original article (it’s November 2004, E142). Huzzah! The original had a little separate boxed off section titled “A short IF reading list”, which listed a number of introductory titles that I recommend checking out as soon as you possibly can, if you haven’t already.

I don’t know why this wasn’t included in this version of the article, but it’s well worth reading, so I’ve copied it from the original and reproduced it here. Hit the extended to read it!

A short IF reading list [from EDGE 142, November 2004]

With hundreds of games available, it’s difficult to know where to start with IF. In an attempt to avoid such difficulties, these are a handful of relatively accessible base camps to start your explorations.

A fractured narrative piece that takes its time to unwind, juxtaposing real-world encounters with a dreamy fantasy story. When it hits its emotional target, it takes off the top of your head.

Kitchen-sink realism transforms into unresolved, lingering and disturbing psychodrama. Also consider the longer, puzzle-based Spider and Web, based around flashbacks from an interrogation.

A conversation between an art critic (the player) and a living statue (the single, highly developed NPC). With dozens of endings, this is unique and literate. Consider also Short’s later, relatively short romances Pytho’s Mask and Best of Three.

More of a fragment, in every definition of the word, than a fully developed piece, this is still a memorable and brutally powerful work.

Minimal in terms of player action, this uses forced inaction as a metaphor for teenage depression.

All games are available from the IF Archive. Links and reviews are available from Baf’s IF Guide. Most games will require a Z-Code interpreter to play, also available from the above. We recommend WinFrotz for Windows, but MacOS, Linux and PocketPC versions, among others, are also available.

  • http://www.rockpapershotgun.com Kieron Gillen

    Box-outs don’t really work as well with stand-alone online pieces, I think. Also, since the list was a few years old, I didn’t want to date the feature even more. Glad for someone else to lob it out there anyway


  • Shih Tzu

    It’s a good list! I’ve played all of those and second the recommendations.

  • Derek

    Wow, great post, Terry! Thanks for reposting that list.

    And I thoroughly enjoy RPS. :)

  • Nikica

    Thanks Kieron and Terry, gonna try out Zork !!!

  • Nikica

    The WinFrotz download links are not working, please help !!!

  • http://www.distractionware.com Terry

    Ah, right you are – I found a mirror, it should be fixed now.

  • Nikica

    Thanks again Terry !!!

  • BreadCultist

    That article also prompted me to check out a few IFs when I first read it. I’ve started a good few games, enjoyed them up to a point, then just got stuck. I’m just not very good. I wonder if there’s a z-code interpreter for the DS.

    oh ho, Frotz has been ported
    (google it, not posting link because things might happen)

  • Hmmm…