You decide... to try out some 'Interactive Fiction'

29.10.2021, 11:31

What is happening to books and the joy of reading? It's perhaps the purest form of metaverse, or virtual reality, in that the shared sense of character, story and place is all described for the reader to interpret - in their imagination. As the reader, you can mix the written impressions and interpretations with those of your own experiences, on a subconscious level.



It's true, this is without the freedom of choice found in video games, like sandbox games, perhaps. But what about a combination of both? Interactive Fiction is not video games, and it isn't books either.


Indeed, this genre makes it possible to inject some freedom of choice.... without impacting the page-turning quality of a good story. Here at Prizes Drop, we're always excited about latest online trends and technology. Well, it's never been so easy to write your own IF, or step into this way of writing which is more immediate, and can be potent one too.


Better than a good novel?


The art of reading (beyond information and learning) only came about via poetry, and then the invention of the novel in the 18th century. They could be printed too, which was pretty amazing (and expensive) technology back then. Now we have computers, and they too have changed language. Books have to work hard to capture our imaginations these days, with photoshop art covers, online websites and tie-ins. 


'IF' or text adventures (matured) are a medium designed for on-screen, or phone apps, where touching parts of the text lead you off to unexpected story developments, character interactions or events. Add to this a range of commands, and they start to feel like video games very quickly. We'll come back to IF in a moment. 


First, you could also wonder about what's happening to the art of listening to stories. Audiobooks and Audible is the place to go, for listening to books, instead of reading at your own pace. But this is perhaps why audio books vary so much, or suit only some people; many people enjoy reading quickly, or where they don’t have to wait for the voice to continue the story. But with IF you can have your passages read to you onscreen, or with a relevant soundtrack.


In this world, more and more young people are getting sucked into games, apps and metaverses. They still read, but on screen, either endless news or text that accompanies games, menus etc... Both movies and games are easier or more passive than books: they offer rich experiences without having to imagine them. They give immediate experience but (on the whole) less emotion and character involvement, although movies can work just as well for emotion as books.


The drawback to video games is the effort they take, in order to get to grips with them. And anything where you become the hero, leads to less story, emotion - and more exploration and action. The idea in a sandbox is that you may create your own stories or excitement, within the game environment.


It seems older people (former gamers who no longer play) are re-discovering the more passive art of reading.  


But they also look for a combination, where choices can still be made, and alternative endings provided. 


So what about IF or 'Interactive Fiction'?


Interactive Fiction can fill a strange space in between. They can also known as 'text adventures', although these generally come with a command prompt for entering commands, so are more like the crude, early games. IF is the more mature version, becoming easier to create, and more popular. They don't have to include a command prompt at all. 


What they provide is easy-access into stories, and they don't have to be in the second-person ‘You’ tense. Eg. ‘You have reached an overgrown gateway. Would you like to enter or go back?’ 


They allow for different paths through the same story. They can be addictive, and well-written.


Interactive Fiction is harder to write, in that writers need to provide choices and alternative pathways through a story or scenario. However, luckily there are good programs which can help a lot so writers don’t need to know much coding anymore. And they can be written in a more simple or direct style, that is more about action and making choices. 


Start here....! reading some first. Over at the IFDB, the 'go-to' database listing for all the latest works, you'll find plenty and diverse kinds.


There are apps for smartphones like Galatea that can now feature them. 


And... How or where to write Interactive Fiction?


If you need a break from completing our simple tasks here at Prizes Drop, then check out these programs where you can create your own IF story or scenario - for free!


Twine - this is one of the best since it leverages that universally-accepted way to view or create them: your HTML web browser. This means once created, they are easy to share for everyone. To create IF, you can access the editor online, without any download needed, although there is a desktop client if you like. 


The sticky-note based interface for writing entries and then linking or un-linking them, works really well for writers to just get going on their ideas.


See also: 


Squiffy - another HTML-based creator. Easy to use for simple IF and edit without any editor download required.


Quest - a powerful tool for creating both IF and text adventures, with the only drawback being that you need the Quest viewer to read or create. But it's not something everyone has access to. 


Good luck!


We hope this post provides some diversion into the exciting world of IF reading and writing. Anyone can create their own ideas for games, stories or scenarios, and publish them quickly. Who knows, you might even be the next breakout hit, and then be able to sell your creation to a book publisher - or games company - looking for new projects to develop.


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October 2021




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