[Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction

21 views
Skip to first unread message

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
to
Over a year in development! Thousands of words and tons of quotes! (Well,
thankfully, only a few quotes.) Original, ground-breaking, common sensical,
obvious, humdrum, boring.

You decide.

The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction: Why We Like What We Like
(Version 2.20)

This theory, although the basis of the IF Art Show, only mentions it once.
Because the focus of this "paper" is computer interactivity, specifically, IF's
interactivity.

It is too long, approx. 40 "pages", to publish here, so I have put it on my web
page. I certainly don't expect anyone who reads it to agree with all of it, or
even with just parts, but I think almost every IF author/player can get
SOMETHING out of it. So I now offer it for your perusal.

Reader comments:

"I think it should be required reading for nearly everyone writing IF."
Stephen Granade

"A very thoughtful and thought-provoking study."
Den of Iniquity (Dennis Smith)

"Congratulations, Doe; this is a fine piece of theory -- even if I don't agree
with all of it, it's still thought-provoking and worth
discussing/debating/otherwise chewing over."
Michael Gentry

"Read Doe's essay and think about it. Agree with her or not, this essay gives
us all a common theoretical footing and a vocabulary with which to begin
discussion of IF as theory."
Adam J. Thornton

If you have any reactions to this theory, please don't email me but post your
comments to this same thread in raif (rec.arts.int-fiction) so we can keep any
discussion in that newsgroup.

Thank you, Doe

http://members.aol.com/doepage/theory.html

Note: With the newsreader I have I was unable to make this a simultaneous post
to both newsgroups, ergo, posting to this thread will only post to rgif. Also
theories are more appropriate to raif anyway. Thanks.

doea...@aol.com ------------------------------------------------------
Inform Tips - http://members.aol.com/doepage/infotips.htm
IF Art Gallery - http://members.aol.com/iffyart/
IF Review Conspiracy - http://www.textfire.com/conspiracy/


Second April

unread,
Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
to
Well.

I have no trouble with the argument that different people like different
things because they process things differently, but I'm not sure where
that gets us. I don't think there's any good evidence out there about what
category most people fall into, so it doesn't seem like an author can
consciously choose to broaden his/her audience. And to the limited extent
works of IF fit into this 'category' or that, I'm willing to bet that
there have been popular games for every single category.

"Infocom sold well because it covered all the bases": maybe. Or maybe it
sold well because it did what it did really well, and people recognized
that, whatever their mode of information processing. At any rate, again,
I'm not sure what that does for us today. If there's anything that's
absolutely 100% crystal clear right now, it's that current authors who
model their games on Infocom's aren't any more likely to be popular than
those who don't--and to the extent they stay within the bounds of fantasy
and science fiction (which, may I remind you, were Infocom's most popular
products), I'd venture to say they're _not_ likely to be popular.

I mean, it's odd to hear this coming from you, Doe, because you're behind
the IF Art Show, which attempts to drum up IF that's consciously off the
beaten track. Now you're slamming "modern IF" for producing experimental
IF, games which may not have the broad appeal of Infocom's but are
considerably more thoughtful and subversive. Like, why?

My other reaction to this is that the whole "it's all relative" notion can
be abused. I'm sorry, but it's simply inaccurate to say that Cask is
really just as good as Photopia, it just appeals to a different audience,
and I say that as a non-fan of Photopia. You say that Cask didn't go over
well because it's all puzzles, but I suggest that it didn't go over well
because it was shot through with bugs, the writing was so poor that it
wasn't clear what was going on, and the puzzles were wildly illogical.
It's true, of course, that games that are pure puzzle-fests aren't as
popular now as they once were--but there are *good reasons for that* that
have nothing to do with the structure of people's brains. (Unless you're
positing that people's brains have changed fundamentally since the '80s,
when a certain all-puzzle, no-plot game called Zork I sold a copy or two.
If you're saying they have, and that the Internet's responsible, then tell
me what the Internet has to do with people wanting more plot in IF.) The
good reasons are that modern IF has shown that it's possible to have
_both_ a plot and puzzles--in fact, puzzles that are integrated into and
serve the purples of the plot. When we get soup cans now, we get
impatient--and, to my mind, rightly so.

I find it odd that you consider Infocom's games more like real life than
"modern IF." If I had to pick out the game/work that came the closest to
approximating real life, I'd probably pick Common Ground, or possibly The
Wedding. Photopia wouldn't be too far behind, I guess. Infocom's games
would be way, way down on the list, simply because most of them largely
disregarded relationships and made plot subordinate to the puzzles, and
there's nothing real life about that.

I think you have a useful point about the way different people react to
_certain_ games, and Photopia is a case in point because it depends so
much on the player's subjective reaction. You're either emotionally
affected or you're not, and if you're not, you're not likely to care much
for it. But it's the rare game that depends that much on subjectivity, I
submit, and it's possible for people to evaluate most IF based on
objective categories.

Duncan Stevens
dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu

But buy me a singer to sing one song--
Song about nothing--song about sheep--
Over and over, all day long;
Patch me again my thread-bare sleep.

--Edna St. Vincent Millay


Second April

unread,
Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
to
On 16 Mar 2000, Marnie Parker wrote:

> All I can suggest is you might reread the section on interactive categories /
> information processing modes more. I suggested authors, even when
> experimenting, could still include all the information processing modes so as
> not to alienate parts of their audience. Information processing modes -- the
> various ways we can/may find a piece of IF interactive IS the underlying basis
> of the IF Art Show -- in an experimential forum. Playing around with
> interactivity and seeing what emerges.

Yes, but the art-show pieces I've seen do _not_ include all the
information processing modes--that would seem to be beyond the scope of
_any_ IF--and in that a requirements for the art show is "no puzzles," the
problem-solving mode seems to be excluded by definition. That's good, I
think. Puzzleless IF needs more exploration. But I don't understand why
you're complaining about IF that narrows its focus.

> And I never said anywhere at anytime that I didn't like "dungeon crawls" or
> "puzzle games". Though people like Jon Ingold should be horse whipped -- for
> being so nastily clever.

I didn't suggest that you did. In fact, in that you seem to be praising
Infocom's games, which are a lot more like dungeon crawls or puzzle games
than most of what's produced today, qutie the contrary.

> I like IF *I* can interact with or IF that interacts with *me*, daringly
> experiential or more "Infocom-like" or somewhere in-between.

Terrific. Me too.

But I defy you to quantify what characterizes IF that I like, or that most
people like. As I said over in the raif thread (when I singled out my
favorites), I, and most people, like different things for different
reasons; if my mode of information processing is dictating my likes and
dislikes, it's hard to see how.

For the record, my short list of IF that I enjoyed would have to include
Varicella, Trinity, Spellbreaker, Little Blue Men, Babel, Sunset Over
Savannah, Losing Your Grip, Change in the Weather, and Worlds Apart. (Oh,
and Spider and Web, and Anchorhead too.) It would not include Photopia or
Planetfall.

There's nothing wrong with identifying different ways that readers/players
interact with IF; it's a valuable point. But let's not exaggerate the
implications for the popularity/enjoyability of any given game.

David Glasser

unread,
Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
to
Second April <dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:

> If I had to pick out the game/work that came the closest to
> approximating real life, I'd probably pick Common Ground, or possibly The
> Wedding.

The Wedding?

*boggle*

I so don't want to meet your family.

--
David Glasser | gla...@iname.com | http://www.davidglasser.net/
rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ: http://www.davidglasser.net/raiffaq/
"So, is that superior artistry, or the easy way out?"
--TenthStone on white canvases as art, on rec.arts.int-fiction

Not that The Wedding was a bad game; I loved it.

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: Second April dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu
>Date: 3/15/00 3:15 PM Pacific Standard Time

>I mean, it's odd to hear this coming from you, Doe, because you're behind
>the IF Art Show, which attempts to drum up IF that's consciously off the
>beaten track. Now you're slamming "modern IF" for producing experimental
>IF, games which may not have the broad appeal of Infocom's but are
>considerably more thoughtful and subversive. Like, why?

Hmmm, you got something quite different out of that paper than what I thought I
put into it.

All I can suggest is you might reread the section on interactive categories /
information processing modes more. I suggested authors, even when
experimenting, could still include all the information processing modes so as
not to alienate parts of their audience. Information processing modes -- the
various ways we can/may find a piece of IF interactive IS the underlying basis
of the IF Art Show -- in an experimential forum. Playing around with
interactivity and seeing what emerges.

And I never said anywhere at anytime that I didn't like "dungeon crawls" or


"puzzle games". Though people like Jon Ingold should be horse whipped -- for
being so nastily clever.

I like IF *I* can interact with or IF that interacts with *me*, daringly


experiential or more "Infocom-like" or somewhere in-between.

Doe

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: Second April dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu
>Date: 3/15/00 5:12 PM Pacific Standard Time

>Yes, but the art-show pieces I've seen do _not_ include all the
>information processing modes--that would seem to be beyond the scope of
>_any_ IF--and in that a requirements for the art show is "no puzzles," the
>problem-solving mode seems to be excluded by definition. That's good, I
>think. Puzzleless IF needs more exploration. But I don't understand why
>you're complaining about IF that narrows its focus.

I don't believe I did object.

>> I like IF *I* can interact with or IF that interacts with *me*, daringly
>> experiential or more "Infocom-like" or somewhere in-between.
>

>Terrific. Me too.

I believe THAT was the thrust of my paper. And trying to explain why *you* may
like one thing and *I* may like another and Joe on the corner may like
something else. However, no one in the world has to agree with my perception /
explanation of WHY we like what we like.

I used the Infocom standard to coorelate with information processing modes,
because that is what practically all of us are somewhat familiar with.

But I can conceive of a day when someone does interactivity differently. Or
some form of interactivity we are already familiar with, quite differently.

For Example, For A Change.

BTW - The IF Art Show no longer bans puzzles. I had a reason for originally
doing that, but once it was established the ban could be removed. The main
reason I had for doing it was trying to describe interactivity in relations to
things OTHER THAN puzzles -- but the language wasn't there and I had a hard
time getting the concept across, so for the beginning I banned puzzles.
However, I think this paper gets across the idea that interactivity does not
correlate to JUST puzzles, fairly well.

Won't elucidate on my theory anymore because it took me two and a half months
to write it and I don't see the point in resaying what I already said. And I
can't say it any clearer than I already did.

But like, interactivity, like IF, like reading, like painting, like all art --
you partly get what you see. So whatever you want to see in my paper is up to
you.

Later, Doe

Second April

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
On Wed, 15 Mar 2000, David Glasser wrote:

> Second April <dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:
>
> > If I had to pick out the game/work that came the closest to
> > approximating real life, I'd probably pick Common Ground, or possibly The
> > Wedding.
>
> The Wedding?
>
> *boggle*
>
> I so don't want to meet your family.

Ha ha.

It involved people who actually interact with each other, and the
relationships were related to the plot. Yes, the plot was over-the-top,
but less so than in most IF (there's no IF I can think of that has an
actual mundane storyline).

Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve the
supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture. Fear, maybe. Muse. On the
Farm. I think you'll find the list is very, very short.

Adam Cadre

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
Duncan Stevens wrote:
> Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
> characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve
> the supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture.

Bloodline!

(I can hear you rolling your eyes, but hey, 's true)

-----
Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
http://adamcadre.ac

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
In article <38D095...@adamcadre.ac>,

Adam Cadre <re...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
>Duncan Stevens wrote:
>> Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
>> characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve
>> the supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture.
>
>Bloodline!

What about Common Ground or I-0?
--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------

Second April

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
On 16 Mar 2000, Magnus Olsson wrote:

> What about Common Ground or I-0?

Common Ground I mentioned in the first place, along with The Wedding and
Photopia. But I-0 qualifies too--and, hmmm, She's Got a Thing is another.

I guess what I'm driving at with this is that "simulationist" IF (a)
should involve characters who respond in believable ways to the PC, and
events that are generally credible without major suspensions of disbelief.
That I'd call "realistic." Very few of Infocom's efforts even tried in
this regard--the mysteries were the main exception.

Okay--I'll be away for the next week and a half, so if I don't respond,
that's why.

Joe Mason

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
Second April <dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:
>Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
>characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve the
>supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture. Fear, maybe. Muse. On the
>Farm. I think you'll find the list is very, very short.

A Moment of Hope. I-0. Photopia. The Space Under the Window. Aisle.
She's Got a Thing For a Spring. I need to study, so I'll stop there.

Joe

Richard Fairweather

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
> Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
> characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve the
> supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture. Fear, maybe. Muse. On the
> Farm. I think you'll find the list is very, very short.

"Corruption", by Magnetic Scrolls. And, er...

Jason Compton

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
Second April <dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:

: Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable


: characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve the
: supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture. Fear, maybe. Muse. On the
: Farm. I think you'll find the list is very, very short.

Witness. They may be detective-novel stereotypes, but I do believe they
fit the criteria.

--
Jason Compton jcom...@xnet.com

IF

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to

Second April wrote:
>
>
> Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
> characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve the
> supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture. Fear, maybe. Muse. On the
> Farm. I think you'll find the list is very, very short.
>
>

um. Exhibition?

Ian F.

Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
Warning:
ahead is probably the single most offensive thing I've ever posted to
r?if. If you knew me from my alt.tasteless days, this won't shock, but
for the rest of you who want to keep your image of me all pristine and
virginal, stop reading now.

I mean it.

You asked for it.

Last chance.

In article <Pine.HPP.3.93.100031...@merle.acns.nwu.edu>,


Second April <dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:
>Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
>characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve the
>supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture. Fear, maybe. Muse. On the
>Farm. I think you'll find the list is very, very short.

Blow Job Drifter.


Well, I *wanted* to believe.

Sorry, I came all over^W^Wover all Stiffy Makane there for a moment.

That still didn't come out right, did it?

Perhaps I'd better stop before I do something worse.

Adam
--
ad...@princeton.edu
"My eyes say their prayers to her / Sailors ring her bell / Like a moth
mistakes a light bulb / For the moon and goes to hell." -- Tom Waits

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
> Name another work of IF that involves multiple even mildly believable
> characters in an even mildly realistic setting that doesn't involve the
> supernatural or woolly scientific conjecture. Fear, maybe. Muse. On the
> Farm. I think you'll find the list is very, very short.

Deadline. Suspect. Witness. Ballyhoo. Hollywood Hijinx. Infidel. Shogun.
Corruption. SpySnatcher.

And that's only the commercial text adventure games I can think of now. If you
look at free and/or graphical IF, you'll find a lot more.

--
+-----------------+---------------+------------------------------+
| Gunther Schmidl | ICQ: 22447430 | IF: http://gschmidl.cjb.net/ |
|-----------------+----------+----+------------------------------|
| gschmidl (at) gmx (dot) at | please remove the "xxx." to reply |
+----------------------------+-----------------------------------+


Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
[..]

>I guess what I'm driving at with this is that "simulationist" IF (a)
>should involve characters who respond in believable ways to the PC, and
>events that are generally credible without major suspensions of disbelief.
>That I'd call "realistic." Very few of Infocom's efforts even tried in
>this regard--the mysteries were the main exception.

Hmm. I've got a different definition for these terms, I guess. For me,
Photopia is realistic but not simulationist -- it involves events and
people that could actually occur, but doesn't concern itself at all
with the details of the place. On the other hand, I tried to make Bad
Machine simulationist but I wouldn't consider it realistic.

>Duncan Stevens
>dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu
--
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Marnie Parker <doea...@aol.com> wrote:
>>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>>From: Second April dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu

>>Yes, but the art-show pieces I've seen do _not_ include all the
>>information processing modes--that would seem to be beyond the scope of
>>_any_ IF--and in that a requirements for the art show is "no
puzzles," the
>>problem-solving mode seems to be excluded by definition. That's good, I
>>think. Puzzleless IF needs more exploration. But I don't understand why
>>you're complaining about IF that narrows its focus.
>
> I don't believe I did object.

I also felt you were objecting. You referred to Infocom as "a standard
that appealed to a broad audience", and to any deviation from that
standard as throwing out elements, and senses, and (consequently) part of
the audience.

You did not object in the sense of saying authors *should not* take that
track. But your thesis is clearly that it produces works which are less
good, in some objective, overall sense. I disagree with this:

First, you're implicitly assuming that any change from Infocom's mode
consists of throwing something away *without* gaining anything in
return. I can't buy that. A large map has kinesthetic feedback as you
explore it, but being trapped in a single room is claustrophobic -- which
is also a kinesthetic sensation. Ask/answer/tell is one way to simulate a
conversation, but we pretty universally agree that it's a very limited
simulation. (The alternatives are also limited, but in *different*
ways. Surely it makes sense that having menus with explicit dialogue will
be more comfortable for a different sort of player?) And having a generic
adventurer is certainly not the same as appealing to a generic player.

Second, I'm not sure Infocom ever *did* appeal to a broad
audience. Computer users in 1985 were a heck of a different group than
computer users today. It was a *tiny* group, and self-selected
technophiles. Geeks. :-) Sweeping the "Top 10 Games" lists among those
people (which Infocom did, regularly, in the early 80's) was a different
task than it would be today. And the composition of R*IF is different
again.

I posted a few weeks ago that one big difference between 1996 IF and 2000
IF is that we are no longer defined by Infocom (and the other Eighties
game companies). We've gone beyond reacting to that single set of games,
from a small handful of authors.

Certainly there are people who (on average!) like Lebling / Blanc / Berlyn
/ Meretzky more than Cadre / Plotkin / Finley / etc. But I get awfully
nervous when you suggest that they were right and we are wrong, in any
sense larger than one player's opinion. And I felt you *were* straining
hard to make that suggestion -- the arguments didn't hold together.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Jason Compton

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

: Certainly there are people who (on average!) like Lebling / Blanc / Berlyn


: / Meretzky more than Cadre / Plotkin / Finley / etc. But I get awfully
: nervous when you suggest that they were right and we are wrong, in any
: sense larger than one player's opinion. And I felt you *were* straining
: hard to make that suggestion -- the arguments didn't hold together.

Actually, most of the in-depth conversations on the subject seem to take
the stance that "Cadre / Plotkin / Finley / etc. are right and Lebling /
Blanc / Berlyn / Meretzky were wrong" variety, so how nervous can this one
possibly make you?

--
Jason Compton jcom...@xnet.com

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to

I was speaking to Doe's paper.

No single sparrow falls, &c.

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: Andrew Plotkin erky...@eblong.com
>Date: 3/16/00 9:35 PM Pacific Standard Time

>Certainly there are people who (on average!) like Lebling / Blanc / Berlyn
>/ Meretzky more than Cadre / Plotkin / Finley / etc. But I get awfully
>nervous when you suggest that they were right and we are wrong, in any
>sense larger than one player's opinion. And I felt you *were* straining
>hard to make that suggestion -- the arguments didn't hold together.
>

No where did I suggest anyone was wrong.

So this perception is probably due to my poor writing and I will see what I can
do to correct it with an updated version.

My emphasis was on how we all process information differently. And why games
now may receive a higher degree of polarization than they did before -- based
on information processing -- as it becomes more fragmentary or narrowed to
specific audiences.

What an artist chooses to do is up to the artist, there is simply no right or
wrong about it.

Naturally people have "added things" as well, and maybe my paper didn't
emphasize that.

But when I analyzed games I was doing it only within the parameters of my
theory. Where the audience seemed to polarize along the lines of information
processing.

I made NO attempt to discuss content, prose, etc. in any detail or much at all.
1.) That would have involved spoilers. 2.) I am not a reviewer and do not feel
competent to comment on prose or content. 3.) My focus was on the polarizing,
nothing else. So that section focused only on that. I could have written the
paper without mentioning ANY games, but I felt that would have made it TOO
theortical, too airy fairy, "out there". It needed examples about polarization.

So obviously I need to add some lines here and there to my paper to clarify.

I think differing ways of processing information, is a FACT, however. And I
wrote my paper because I have felt that interactivity and information
processing have been overlooked when it comes to IF. That by focusing on
authors, stories, and content we do not stop to examine the medium.

The paper was NOT a comment about author quality in any way -- it was about
interactivity. Period.

After all, I mentioned where each game placed in the yearly comp, which is an
implied comment about a consensus of what people consider about the quality of
each game. That I felt, covered that.

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: Andrew Plotkin erky...@eblong.com
>Date: 3/16/00 9:35 PM Pacific Standard Time

>Certainly there are people who (on average!) like Lebling / Blanc / Berlyn
>/ Meretzky more than Cadre / Plotkin / Finley / etc. But I get awfully
>nervous when you suggest that they were right and we are wrong, in any
>sense larger than one player's opinion. And I felt you *were* straining
>hard to make that suggestion -- the arguments didn't hold together.

Frankly, your and Duncan's reactions have totally befuddled me.

This paper is about information processing and interactivity as they relate to
IF.

Nothing else. I tried to be as "factual" and impartial in my "reporting" about
what I see happening with INTERACTIVITY as I could be.

I think if you see it as a commendation of Modern IF, you either didn't didn't
get my point about interactivity/information processing and/or you didn't agree
with it. Because I feel you are ascribing an "agenda" to me that I simply did
not have.

You might note quite a few others did not read it as commendation.

But I have noted the confusion and was going to make some changes anyway, so I
have added a paragraph above the game analyzation section that should take care
of most of your objections.

Michael Brazier

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> I also felt you were objecting. You referred to Infocom as "a standard
> that appealed to a broad audience", and to any deviation from that
> standard as throwing out elements, and senses, and (consequently) part of
> the audience.
>
> You did not object in the sense of saying authors *should not* take that
> track. But your thesis is clearly that it produces works which are less
> good, in some objective, overall sense. I disagree with this:

Having just read Doe's paper, I think you've misread it. As I
understood it, the thesis was that the Infocom games all conformed to a
standard of interactivity, that the modern games depart from that
standard in various ways, and that therefore the modern games have
different "ideal players" -- different both from the Infocom games and
from each other. Moreover, the closer any actual player is to the
game's ideal player, the more inclined that player will be to rate it
highly.

I'm inclined to view it, not as a way of judging IF works, but as a way
of sorting them into meaningful "genres". That is, the way in which a
player is expected to interact with a game is the most important aspect
of the game. To choose from recent examples, it's more meaningful to
say that _Photopia_ is literary, _Worlds Apart_ is driven by
conversations, and _Mulldoon Legacy_ is a giant puzzle-box, than to say
that _Photopia_ is realistic, _Worlds Apart_ is SF, and _Mulldoon
Legacy_ is fantasy.

--
Michael Brazier But what are all these vanities to me
Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?
X^2 + 7X + 53 = 11/3
-- Lewis Carroll

Adam Cadre

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Josh Wise wrote:
> Well, perhaps it would be better to do all instead of one or the
> other.

I really like burritos. I really like ice cream. That doesn't mean
I want to eat burrito-flavored ice cream.

Adam Cadre

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
YesuSlave wrote:
> If someone wants to be able to look up a game based on its litterary
> style, they should be able to. If someone wants to look up a
> game based on its genera, they should be able to do that too.

Okay, I misunderstood. To me it looked like you were arguing that a
game should be literary, driven by conversations, a giant puzzle-box,
realistic, SF, and fantasy, all at once. And that game sounds to me
like it *would* be the burrito ice cream or pork soda or what have you.

YesuSlave

unread,
Mar 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/18/00
to
> To choose from recent examples, it's more meaningful to
>say that _Photopia_ is literary, _Worlds Apart_ is driven by
>conversations, and _Mulldoon Legacy_ is a giant puzzle-box, than to say
>that _Photopia_ is realistic, _Worlds Apart_ is SF, and _Mulldoon
>Legacy_ is fantasy.

Well, perhaps it would be better to do all instead of one or the other.

Josh


Play Deephome, an interactive exorcism and repair job.
Http://www.angelfire.com/nj2/Yesuslave

YesuSlave

unread,
Mar 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/18/00
to
>Josh Wise wrote:
>> Well, perhaps it would be better to do all instead of one or the
>> other.
>
>I really like burritos. I really like ice cream. That doesn't mean
>I want to eat burrito-flavored ice cream.
>

hardly the same thing. If someone wants to be able to look up a game based on


its litterary style, they should be able to. If someone wants to look up a
game based on its genera, they should be able to do that too.

Hardly the kind of thing that necessitates burrito-flavored ice cream. (btw
have you ever had a chocho-taco? Very good stuff! Ice-cream in the form of a
taco!)

YesuSlave

unread,
Mar 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/18/00
to
>
>Okay, I misunderstood. To me it looked like you were arguing that a
>game should be literary, driven by conversations, a giant puzzle-box,
>realistic, SF, and fantasy, all at once. And that game sounds to me
>like it *would* be the burrito ice cream or pork soda or what have you.
>

Actually, I think that would be the very well done Star Wars game that I was
talking about at rai-f. :)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/18/00
to
Marnie Parker <doea...@aol.com> wrote:
>>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>>From: Andrew Plotkin erky...@eblong.com
>>Date: 3/16/00 9:35 PM Pacific Standard Time
>
>>Certainly there are people who (on average!) like Lebling / Blanc / Berlyn
>>/ Meretzky more than Cadre / Plotkin / Finley / etc. But I get awfully
>>nervous when you suggest that they were right and we are wrong, in any
>>sense larger than one player's opinion. And I felt you *were* straining
>>hard to make that suggestion -- the arguments didn't hold together.
>
> Frankly, your and Duncan's reactions have totally befuddled me.
>
> This paper is about information processing and interactivity as they relate to
> IF.

I agree (and I replied elsewhere to a thread which was more about the
central topic). ("Elsewhere" was on RAIF instead of RGIF, I think.)



> Nothing else. I tried to be as "factual" and impartial in my "reporting" about
> what I see happening with INTERACTIVITY as I could be.
>
> I think if you see it as a commendation of Modern IF, you either didn't didn't
> get my point about interactivity/information processing and/or you didn't agree
> with it. Because I feel you are ascribing an "agenda" to me that I simply did
> not have.

(I assume that's "condemnation", BTW.) I dunno what you intended, but your
text *does* imply that agenda very strongly. The other example was, where
was it, here:

------
Chatters who disdain emoticons and acronyms, who insist on using complete
sentences, who cling to the "correct way" to write, may be in cultural
shock. Or they may feel they are firmly holding the line against a
de-evolution of the written word. But possibly they have not stopped to
notice that a chat room involves numerous people in real time, drastically
changing a written medium into a written and oral / auditory
medium. Authors who disdain traditional puzzle / dungeon games, who insist
that interactive fiction is just a subset of fiction, who cling to total
control of their plot's denouement, may be in cultural shock. Or they may
feel they are elevating or maintaining fiction's literary
standard. But possibly they have not stopped to notice that all kinds of
players can play their game at any time, drastically changing a fictional
medium into a fictional and interactive medium.
------

This analogy reads explicitly that the former cases (chatters disdaining
chatspeak, and IF authors disdaining traditional games) are missing
something important -- "have not stopped to notice" is a pretty clear
suggestion that you think they *should*.

That would be fine if I bought the argument, but the whole analogy feels
like it's trying to balance a camel on the side of a cliff. You're
comparing people who cling to tradition with people who *disdain*
tradition, and say both are examples of cultural shock? The obvious
comparison, to me, is to equate chatspeak with *non*-traditional kinds of
IF; both are evolving away from their origins in order to explore -- to
make better use of -- the peculiarities of a new medium.

Again, I realize this isn't the main topic of your article. I *like* the
article; it feels like a good way of looking at things. (Pardon the mixed
sense-metaphor. :-) But the paragraph I just quoted is where I said, okay,
there's a subsidiary agenda here which is being whanged on until the
crowbar bends.



> But I have noted the confusion and was going to make some changes anyway, so I
> have added a paragraph above the game analyzation section that should take care
> of most of your objections.

Okay.

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/18/00
to
>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: Andrew Plotkin erky...@eblong.com
>Date: 3/18/00 9:39 AM Pacific Standard Time

>Chatters who disdain emoticons and acronyms, who insist on using complete
>sentences, who cling to the "correct way" to write, may be in cultural
>shock. Or they may feel they are firmly holding the line against a
>de-evolution of the written word. But possibly they have not stopped to
>notice that a chat room involves numerous people in real time, drastically
>changing a written medium into a written and oral / auditory
>medium. Authors who disdain traditional puzzle / dungeon games, who insist
>that interactive fiction is just a subset of fiction, who cling to total
>control of their plot's denouement, may be in cultural shock. Or they may
>feel they are elevating or maintaining fiction's literary
>standard. But possibly they have not stopped to notice that all kinds of
>players can play their game at any time, drastically changing a fictional
>medium into a fictional and interactive medium.

I tried really, really hard to figure out where you found any value judgements
in my paper and this was the only section I could think of. The one you quoted.

However, if it is a value judgement, it is in favor of interactivity, but not
any specific KIND of interactivity. And my interest in interactivity has been
long known. So your original posts didn't make much sense to me in that
context.

Any genre usually starts splitting up into smaller genres. And I made only one
comment pointing that out -- and no value judgements about it that I can
recall.

So my last line was a recommendation, that if authors identify their audience.

Well, at least that is cleared up -- I racked my brains trying to think of
where I put any value judgements in. Because despite what you think I was not
trying to make any. Strange as it may seem, I actually believe what I said. I
think looking at IF as a medium is important. I'll leave the game reviews and
postulating about what direction Modern IF SHOULD take to others.

My feeling about IF has undergone quite a few changes over the years.

So I think of my paper as being more, "Can't we all get along?" or "I like
tomAtoes, you like tomatOes..." or something

Doe Hehehe. :-)

Dave Zeriger

unread,
Mar 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/20/00
to
Michael Brazier <mbra...@argusinc.com> wrote:

> Having just read Doe's paper, I think you've misread it. As I
> understood it, the thesis was that the Infocom games all conformed to a
> standard of interactivity, that the modern games depart from that
> standard in various ways, and that therefore the modern games have
> different "ideal players" -- different both from the Infocom games and
> from each other. Moreover, the closer any actual player is to the
> game's ideal player, the more inclined that player will be to rate it
> highly.

I'm not sure that even the Infocom hypothesis is true. OK, maybe Zork and
Infidel and Starcross had the same ideal player in mind, but one thing
that really gives me an appreciation for Infocom was their willingness to
try stylistic experiments. They did an incredible amount to expand IF,
and in recent years we've had modern IF writers doing just as much for the
genre, but there is a history of innovation. Do "Plundered Hearts", "Nord
and Bert", "Hollywood Hijinx", "A Mind Forever Voyaging", and
"Spellbreaker" have the same player in mind?

Granted, some of their experiments were failures- the "chapter" design of
Borderzone comes to mind, as well as Seastalker and the RPG implementation
of "Beyond Zork"- but they still did a good bit to advance what's thought
of as IF.


Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/20/00
to
>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: Michael Brazier mbra...@argusinc.com
>Date: 3/17/00 5:05 PM Pacific Standard Time

>Having just read Doe's paper, I think you've misread it. As I
>understood it, the thesis was that the Infocom games all conformed to a
>standard of interactivity, that the modern games depart from that
>standard in various ways, and that therefore the modern games have
>different "ideal players" -- different both from the Infocom games and
>from each other. Moreover, the closer any actual player is to the
>game's ideal player, the more inclined that player will be to rate it
>highly.

I think that's a fair summation. Leaving out a great deal of the information
processing stuff -- which was the most important thing to me -- but a fair
summation.

In the paragraph I added in response to Zarf's objections, I pointed out
interactivity has still changed very little from Infocom's day. Html TADs
excepted.

So the major changes have been on the fiction side of Interactive Fiction
(which someone else could write another paper about). There have been much
fewer on the interactive side. We are seeing that beginning to change now. But
only beginning to.

Doe :-)

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages