This past week, in my “Critical Analysis of Video Games” class, my students and I played Adventure and discussed the game and interactive fiction more generally. Most of my students admitted finding Adventure a frustrating game, and one summed up the problem as “Guess the Verb.”
We spent a bit of time in class playing Lost Pig (available for play here) as a group, with students shouting out suggestions as I typed away at my iPad. I did this for a few reasons. Primarily, I wanted the students to see a more recent interactive fiction title, and I wanted them to think about how setting matters in playing games. Most of the students found playing Lost Pig in a group a bit more fun. Even as the game got frustrating, they often responded with humor and fed off each other’s interest. I dutifully entered suggestions ranging from “go north” to “punch the gnome.” We didn’t finish the game in class, but I’d previewed it before class, and I’ve been playing it intermittently since. It’s charming, and, now having spent this much time with, I just have to know what happens.
One of the things that came up in class discussion was students’ conviction that interactive fiction is obsolete. I didn’t delve into this much — we were running out of class time — but at our next meeting, I’ll be sure to point out the ongoing production of interactive fiction in the traditional sense (Lost Pig, for example, came out in 2007), and also some of the more recently developed platforms for interactive fiction. On that note, I’ve also been playing Cabinet Noir, which is quite fun, even if the limited number of plays per days is a bit of a drag (and, yes, I already bought Nex, but I think the amount of money I’d be inclined to drop on this game far exceeds the amount I should drop on this game). In Cabinet Noir, you are an agent of the cardinal trading in secrets and favors, which is to say, you’re a church spy and also a bit of bad news.
StoryNexus bills itself as a platform for creating and playing “storygames.” In practice, these storygames are much like interactive fiction based around illustrated cards. The interface is easy to navigate, and the “world” dashboard holds a lot of useful information about your game (how many moves you have left, who your character is, what skills and items you hold, etc.).
Of course, StoryNexus is only one of many interactive fiction based platforms. The new Versu app for iPad looks quite promising, for example, and the more stripped down Text Adventure Development System (TADS) is both freely available and highly accessible for visually impaired users. I actually just suggested TADS to a friend of mine who works with blind students, several of whom have expressed interest in game design. And, of course, everyone loves Twine.