Kevin Megill

Interactive Fiction

Back when I was in high school I used to love to play the Scott Adams text adventures (not the Scott Adams who writes Dilbert) that were available for my brother's friend's TRS-80 personal computer. In these tiny games, the user was placed into the middle of a story with a character to play, a goal to accomplish and an assortment of random objects to use toward that end. The computer game accepted short two-word commands like "Go north" or "Get key" or "Examine shovel" and responded with more narrative.

Several years later I looked for similar text adventure games and discovered to my dismay that they had disappeared from the gaming scene. People didn't want to play games without fancy graphics. I tried without success to find anyone who knew what I was talking about at all.

Anyway, time continued to flow by, and in about 1990 I started reading a couple of usenet newsgroups about interactive fiction, not really knowing what interactive fiction was. To my surprise, it turned out that interactive fiction games were text adventures! Apparently, they had continued through the 80's under the guise of Infocom (of Zork fame) among other companies, and now had a small fan base including the members of the newsgroups.

By the time I encountered them this fan base had already established a library of free interactive fiction games. Over the next several years, the IF community would also:
  • create several IF game development systems
  • write some new games fully as good as the best professionally developed games of previous decades,
  • create an annual contest for game authors (in which each game is designed to playable in two hours or less)
and, most significantly of all,
  • expand and deepen the literary aspect of interactive fiction.
Eventually I hope to say more about the IF genre, but for now let me provide the most crucial links:

Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems
Sauk Valley Community College
(815) 288-5511 x 251
Office: Room 2E17