You have just clicked into SMU’s online student publication, The Blue and Gold.
An article title caught your interest. “Learn more about word games,” the sub-title reads.
You shrug. Word Games. Is this like a game review or something? Will it have fun word puzzles to solve? Does this involve double entendres and innuendo masquerading as G-rated material? What even does Interactive Fiction entail in the first place?
You have two options.
a) Read on
b) Ditch this for the other awesome articles on the site.
You choose to read on.
You are now a “Patient Reader”!
Congratulations for sitting through the lengthy introduction! Yes, this article will have a minor game review; no, there are no word puzzles to solve (and sadly no to the last question as well). This article aims to talk about a certain neglected genre of games that have been overshadowed by video and PC games- read on to find out more!
When people talk about online games nowadays, examples that immediately come to mind include Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), Counterstrike Global Offensive (CSGO), League of Legends (LOL) or even recently released horror games like Outlast 2. In these games, players take control of a character’s actions and movements, whether in first or third person view, behind a laptop. These games are action-packed and visually enthralling, which is why they are popular and acclaimed within the gaming world.
Interactive fiction (IF) games are comparatively less well-known despite their ability/potential to be equally as engaging and visually arousing. This is a real pity because interactive fiction melds the beauty of graphics, audio and text to present enthralling tales to the player.
Interactive fiction games are like choose-your-own adventure books- but with the added bonus of greater autonomy with regards to player choices and options. The reader (or the player) is able to influence the story by choosing certain actions after being presented with narrative prompts. The reader can respond by typing in certain actions (examine, pick up, use) and even “walk" about in different directions!
Depending on the type of IF, the means of engaging with the story will be different. Some works choose to present fun narration with multiple endings, without presenting the player puzzles or riddles to be solved. With regards to this genre of IF games, the player will typically be presented with a list of options to be clicked on, and the sequence or selection of options may later prove imperative to determining the ending the player receives.
Alternatives that present puzzles or riddles to solve are labelled as “text adventures”, and the player gets considerably more freedom compared to the former subtype of IF to explore and dictate their actions within the game. Due to the puzzles involved, text adventures may also be more challenging to play as the player has to figure out what items to take or which characters to trust, especially in murder mystery IFs.
IF works are fun, free-to-play, and are a treat for people who love to read and solve puzzles. I personally play IF games for a simple sense of satisfaction that comes from solving a mystery or simply reading a well-told story. Another thing I really enjoy is the ability to explore branching narratives that occur due to the different choices I can make at different points of the text. It makes for a lot of fun when characters react differently to my choices, and it helps to add depth to the characters and the text when I get to look at the text from multiple angles.
My personal favourite IF is Train, a game on textadventures.co.uk I haven’t been able to fully solve. My character is an amnesiac who awakens in a train cabin that is also occupied by a dead body. My character died multiple times while I was figuring out the mechanics of the game and how to survive, but I felt immensely proud of myself when I managed to neutralize the threats I faced and survive on.
An in-game screenshot of interactive fiction game Train
(For the record, I still haven’t finished solving the game- I only made it to Turn 100 thereabouts. Anyway who’s keen on playing and who has made it past that stage- do let me know and offer me some hints! :)
Can’t wait to get started? A simple Google search can lead you to uncover well-plotted and well-written IF works with an immersive atmosphere and compelling storytelling. My guilty pleasure is stalking Emily Short’s IF Only series on the game review site Rock Paper Shotgun for recommendations on IF games when I get the itch to play. I also go to The Interactive Fiction Database to get my dose of fun.
So, what are you waiting for? Summer’s already well underway, and if you’re stuck at home with nothing to do and no friends to join you for online multiplayer battles, why not give IF a shot?
You have received “IF Recommendations”!
You have two options.
a) Try these games out now, or save these links for later.