open question: Why do you play IF?

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Mar 10, 2007, 12:57:39 PM3/10/07

Boys and girls, I'd like to know why you play IF, and I'm not looking
for essays or explainations:

I'd like anyone who'd like to, to post three brief stories about you
and IF. So, for example:

(Mine are maybe longer than they need to be):

I remember one of my early experiences with IF was when I was a young
kid over at a relative's house -- probably between '80 and '82. The
parents and the kid were all stuck on some infocom thing, which they
handed me the box for while they got to the part where they were

To solve the puzzle, they had to type in a sequence of colors taken
from a (circular cardboard "computer") chart in the box. It just
hadn't occurred to them that the stuff in the box would be part of the
game world; so, despite being very young, I solved this hurdle for
them almost immediately. Made me feel smart; then I had to pretend to
be modest so as to prevent them from getting pissed.

I remember in Zork II, a few years later, I solved the hot-air ballon
puzzle by using the newspaper as fuel; and I'd argued with an older
kid about whether this would work. When it did, she was impressed and
said I was smart, but the satisfaction in that one was there, but in
having figured it out without help (in fact, against help): since I'd
gotten the game from this girl and she had been explaining most of the
puzzles for me, offhand.

These days I'm more into emotional logic of games than the puzzley
stuff; so for a while I was hopeful that the games being made with the
Ren Py engine [] would have a
little more substance to them; but from what I saw, there wasn't much
to them: you'd have otherwise very freeform CYOA-style games (often
involving dating ghosts--what's with that?) with only one "right"
ending, and so forth; which ultimately is, to me, not real

Looking forward to reading yours.



Mar 11, 2007, 8:25:27 AM3/11/07
On 10 Mrz., 18:57, "Conrad" <> wrote:
> Boys and girls, I'd like to know why you play IF, and I'm not looking
> for essays or explainations:

Well, mine is neither an essay nor a story. I like playing games for
recreation, the same way I like reading for recreation. When playing
alone, I don't have so much fun playing jump'n'runs and my computer is
too weak for modern ego-shooters (although I sometimes like playing
older ones - espacially Unreal II by Legend Entertainment. That
reminds me: I recently bought Wheel of Time but haven't got around
playing it yet).

So I mostly play adventure games. IF has the advantage to run on even
my pda (although I7 games don't) and on my laptop, so I can play in
the living room. And of course I like the genre, I like reading and I
like the satisfaction that comes with solving puzzles.

I like text adventures. But don't we all?



Mar 11, 2007, 3:27:44 PM3/11/07
My first was a little number called Mindshadow, which I played on the
Amiga. It was a parser-driven graphical game published by Activision:
the classic amnesia story, people out to kill you before you discover
the truth, a journey around the world...I had a nasty habit of
inadvertently destroying my rare game software, unfortunately, so when
I finally played it to completion (I was literally just inches away
from finishing it the first time!), it was the CGA PC version.

Second was Zork: The Undiscovered Underground, and then the Zork
Trilogy, which I needed a walkthrough to even comprehend. It was ZTUU
that introduced me to Inform, though it was many years before I 1.
learned to use Baf's Archive and 2. obtained a real appreciation of
well-written interactive fiction. I've been trying for years to write
such a thing myself, but all my attempts have either failed, or been
unmitigated crap. To be truthful, it wasn't until IFComp '06 that I
played anything other than Z-Machine games or used a Frotz
interpreter...despite a few odd bugs on certain games, these days I
find I play literally *everything* via Gargoyle.

I find that my one real impediment to enjoying the more difficult
works is that I have had a long-standing inclination to cut Gordian
Knots wherever I encounter them. I once solved a 4x4 Rubik's Cube
given to me by removing all the colored labels and replacing them in
their proper order. I have this evil habit of relying on help
functions and walkthroughs, and I wish I could break myself of them
long enough to sit back, relax, and enjoy slowly going insane as I try
to unravel the fiendish tangles Andrew Plotkin and his contemporaries
have woven in the fashion of the great Infocom titans of yore.


Mar 12, 2007, 2:18:57 PM3/12/07
I found Zork in a Sears (IIRC) in upstate New York in '84 while learning to
run reactors for the Navy. I had never heard of such a thing and became so
intrigued that I wound up buying a disk drive for my Commodore 64 in order
to try it out. I spent hours that summer working my way through the Great
underground Empire (they had Witness too, but I never got to it.) Most of my
classmates had only alcohol to help them survive that training program
(still the most unpleasant experience of my life), but I had IF too! As a
wannabe computer geek (my college offered some classes but no CS major) I
was more fascinated by the technology than the story, but the story was fun

I acquired an Apple IIC the following year and with it, Infidel. That was
the first game I played all the way to the end. By then I desperately wanted
to create my own, but that technology didn't exist and I didn't have the
time to invent it. In the case of Infidel, I was most interested in the
concept of the antihero, which later led to several (unpublished) attempts
to achieve the same effect. The same thing happened later with Suspended,
which also has an unconventional "hero." I theorize that I wasn't finding
normal human protagonists satisfying, so I started looking for something
else that better fit into an IF world.

Many years went by and I found the Internet and then the modern IF community
(late 90's, I think.) I hadn't played much in years and my free time is very
limited, but I quickly became enthused and started playing IF Comp games and
fantasizing about writing some. I was a fulltime programmer by then, so TADS
was more familiar than Inform 6 but I got more interested in I7: while
annoyingly verbose, the process aesthetically "fits" the desired result
more. I still have the same problems I always did: the frustration of
hunting the exact word or viewpoint that will solve a problem; the
cumbersome interface (IF takes a lot of repetitious but abbreviated typing
that breaks the spell badly, like Myst was beautiful but a royal pain to
navigate); the necessary simplification of a story that makes it difficult
to engage (I've never been able to suspend disbelief with Harry Potter
either: too much cute but extraneous silliness.) I maintain my hopes of
solving some of those.

Cassy Palop

Mar 12, 2007, 12:48:00 PM3/12/07
Just to put it simply: I read (experience/play) interactive fiction,
because of Emily Short's "Galatea". And thus began it all...

Jeff Nyman

Mar 12, 2007, 1:26:48 PM3/12/07
The first real experience I had with text-based interactive fiction was "The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." I didn't even know about the books at
that time. I just saw the cover of the game, thought it sounded cool (from
the blurb on the back), and begged my parents to buy it. I even remember
they had to scrounge up the thirty or so dollars to get it because we didn't
really have much on us at the time; it was supposed to be one of those
"quick trips" to the store, where you kept eyes averted to avoid impulse
buys. Anyway, playing it, I loved the quirky situations and puzzles. Enough
so that I bought the books of the series and became a fan of that kind of
humor, so much so that I think much of my own style of humor (if such it can
be called) was influenced.

Another text-based game that stuck with me was "A Mind Forever Voyaging." I
liked the (perceived) depth of the plot and the idea of using a simulated
version of the future to find out the results of plans you might take now.
(This was pre-Matrix so simulated worlds like this weren't quite as common
in gaming.) I liked this general navigation of a world that seemed so
expansive at the time but that was clearly changing in subtle (and then not
so subtle ways). This game interested me in the idea of artificial
intelligence as well and that started me on a pursuit of that area of study.

Another such game that impacted me was "Trinity." I liked the melding of a
fantasy world "right next door" to the so-called real world and how
everything was linked up in certain ways, such as via various atomic and
nuclear blasts. I also liked the time travel aspect to it and, in fact, this
game was one of those that got me interested in studying the idea of time
travel more and the idea of causality violation.

In a nutshell, I liked "Hitchhiker's" for its puzzles; I liked "AMFV" for
its expansive world and central idea; I liked "Trinity" for its story and
narrative. Eventually I came to realize that text-based games can be very
effective (and fun!) depending on which element of this triumvirate they
focused on.

So, as to why I play text-based interactive fiction: mainly because it was
something I grew up with and thus is familiar to me in a positive way. Plus,
I've always been an avid reader and a game medium that concentrates largely
on reading is something of a no-brainer for me.

Further, exploring these make-believe worlds not only (I believe) helped my
own imagination but introduced me to various ways of thinking and to
subjects of study I might not otherwise have approached as readily. I still
find that, like a good book, it's nice to exercise the cerebral muscle, as
it were, not only with puzzles of various types, but with the idea of
building up, solely in your imagination (i.e., pretty much without any
graphics or sounds at all), what a given game world must be like. The genre
of text-based games changed a lot of aspects about me and, for that reason,
they've always had a special joy for me.

- Jeff

Hector Rodriguez

Mar 13, 2007, 1:56:32 AM3/13/07
Some personal reasons (some may be self-contradictory, but who cares?)
for enjoying IF:
I enjoy very short descriptions (of the "you are in a deep forest"
type), and the passage from one location to another. In particular, I
enjoy the ability of writers to write very economically and
evocatively, without long passages. (My first IF game was AMNESIA,
which is not a good example, although the game is great in other
I enjoy lingering in the text, going from one location to another to
discover what lies next. (I am an explorer, not really that interested
in puzzles). Eco wrote something about lingering in the woods as a
metaphor for fiction, and much of what he says applies more to IF than
to regular fiction.
I enjoy it when I type something and realize that the author-designer
had already thought about that possibility (Perec has some beautiful
things to say about jigsaw puzzles as the art of anticipating what the
user will do, which also apply here, in his book LIFE--A USER'S
MANUAL). I guess this is the main challenge of good design: to
anticipate the user's response.
In general, anything that helps me to see the system as a sort of
black box that I must explore to understand its operation is good.
(playing IF can be a metaphor for empirical research).
For some reason, conversation-based games -- or anything that involves
OBVIOUSLY matching what the player writes against a list of topics--
puts me off, especially when I have to look for the right keyword in
order to keep going. Keyword matching is OK, so long as it is not
obvious... (I am not passing judgment, just giving a personal
I enjoy it when the author has found a clever interaction mechanism. I
remember one Spanish game where the system actually gives commands to
the user, thus inverting the normal mechanism. It is a tad too
confusing, but clever.

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