What IS Interactive Fiction? (in short?)

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Jim Newland

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Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
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>It's a question that has been bugging me for a few days ever since I
>discovered the news group.
>
>What exactly is Int Fiction?

Oh, geez. Here we go again. Well, I'll sum up what we've learned so far: it is
fiction and it's interactive and it may be art, but then again it may not be. Or,
more accurately, it can be art but it doesn't have to be because it can still be
a game, although it doesn't have to be a game since there's nothing to prevent it
having a serious purpose or even just being a book. Well, not a book really,
since it's not on paper, but you could print it out and then it would be a
book--but it wouldn't be interactive then, would it? On the other hand, it
could be both a game and serious and still fall short of being art, but not
necessarily, just as not every artful book is a game and likewise the other way
around.

Hope this helps.

Jim Newland
76461...@compuserve.com

Thomas Nilsson

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Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
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In article <46l7vs$fra$1...@mhade.production.compuserve.com>, Jim Newland <76461...@CompuServe.COM> writes:
> >What exactly is Int Fiction?
>
> Oh, geez. Here we go again. Well, I'll sum up what we've learned so far: it is
>fiction and it's interactive and it may be art, but then again it may not be. Or,
>more accurately, it can be art but it doesn't have to be because it can still be
>a game, although it doesn't have to be a game since there's nothing to prevent it
>having a serious purpose or even just being a book. Well, not a book really,
>since it's not on paper, but you could print it out and then it would be a
>book--but it wouldn't be interactive then, would it? On the other hand, it
>could be both a game and serious and still fall short of being art, but not
>necessarily, just as not every artful book is a game and likewise the other way
>around.
>

I'll print this out and make it into a large poster over my bed. I hope
this classic-to-be definition goes into the FAQ ;-)

By the way, the discussion on IF as art (the real discussion, I mean)
has been most interesting and intriguing, thanks all who have
contributed. And thanks to whizzard who started it all with the
Competition.


/Thomas


--
"Little languages go a long way..."
(ThoNi of ThoNi&GorFo Adventure Factories in 1985)
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Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
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In article <46m6d6$r...@erinews.ericsson.se>,

Thomas Nilsson <th...@softlab.se> wrote:
>
>I'll print this out and make it into a large poster over my bed. I hope
>this classic-to-be definition goes into the FAQ ;-)

Geez, that's what he thought my argument boiled down to? Bummer. Still,
I guess I am rather longwinded on the topic. Ah well. :)

>By the way, the discussion on IF as art (the real discussion, I mean)
>has been most interesting and intriguing, thanks all who have
>contributed. And thanks to whizzard who started it all with the
>Competition.


Hey, don't go pinning the blame on me for that competition. That's
slander, that is. :P

On a more serious note, your welcome's all around to those people who
sent me thank you notes. Next year's will be better. Or at least, a bit
more organized.
--
<~~~~~~~S~W~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~AVALON~~~~~~~DUE~XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< ERT O A In the midst of the Vietnam War, one man dies, and is | ~~\ >
< V IGO F R charged with a quest from King Arthur. Live the quest! | /~\ | >
<_______T_E_____________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Julian Arnold

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Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
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Jim Newland <76461...@CompuServe.COM> wrote:
> >What exactly is Int Fiction?
>
> Oh, geez. Here we go again. Well, I'll sum up what we've learned so far: it
> is fiction and it's interactive and it may be art, but then again it may
> not be. Or, more accurately, it can be art but it doesn't have to be
> because it can still be a game, although it doesn't have to be a game since
> there's nothing to prevent it having a serious purpose or even just being a
> book. Well, not a book really, since it's not on paper, but you could print
> it out and then it would be a book--but it wouldn't be interactive then,
> would it? On the other hand, it could be both a game and serious and still
> fall short of being art, but not necessarily, just as not every artful book
> is a game and likewise the other way around.

Ignore this person, he's silly. 8)

Thomas Nilsson (th...@softlab.se) wrote:
> I'll print this out and make it into a large poster over my bed. I hope
> this classic-to-be definition goes into the FAQ ;-)

Doh! Maybe then (if Jim doesn't mind). Actually I've been thinking of
rewriting the "what is IF?" section of the FAQ on account of the recent
discussions. This is not easy! As Jim has amusingly pointed out either (a)
no-one really knows or (b) everyone knows, but no-one agrees. I hope to
steer away from the confusing and ill-defined term "art", excepting the fact
that IF authorship is surely an artistic pursuit, and concetrate on the
potential of IF as pure entertainment and/or a viable medium for the
expression/communication of "serious" ideas and concepts (and yes, this is
probably as ambiguous as "Is IF art?", but there you go). I would also
emphasise that while, as someone pointed out a while ago, the passive,
non-interactive nature of, say, traditional fiction may allow the author more
direct, personal, and undiluted expression, the interactivity of IF should
allow, theoretically at least, for a more rewarding and personalized
experience for the player, due to the (limited) communication possible
between player and author. IMO IF is not inherently limited as either a
serious or apurely entertainment medium; the major obstacle is the technology
which we currently have. For instance, realistic characters, who act in an
intelligent manner to any give situation, are of course a snip in static F,
as the author knows exactly what is going to happen, or be said to, or asked
of any character at any time -- the author has 100% planned and written the
story, what he says goes, and there is no technological difference between
writing about a blob of ice-cream and Captain Ahab; if you have a pencil and
a reasonable combination of knowledge and imagination you can do either. IF
authors, however, don't know the exact course of events that will take place
every time their game is played, they cannot be absolutely sure of what the
player will input, but rather must try to guess every possibility, or at
least the most likely ones, and then try to paint over the cracks (with lame
cop-outs, such as the blanket statement "Ahab doesn't know anything about
that." or "Ahab doesn't seem interested."); the writing of a work of IF is
more of a collaboration between author and player, but the two parties never
actually need have any direct contact with each other. So, while we can code
Ahab to, say, give a decent response to the input "AHAB, TELL ME ABOUT MOBY
DICK" a truly interactive two-way conversation (which is simple in passive F)
is out of the question; current parsers can't do it.

And here I'm going to stop. I seem to have blithered a bit, and I'm probably
becoming irrelevant/indecipherable/wrong. I promise I'll think before I
write for the FAQ. I must just be bored tonight.
--
Jools Arnold jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk


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