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January 8, 2008

IF/if/id = harmony.

Interactive Fiction (IF). If (if) is a possibility or a variable. Id (id) is the inner desire, or "it" of something.

These three simple terms are wholly related. Interactive Fiction, as I believe I have mentioned, is a genre which I had some experience with, but admittedly limited experience.

Interactive fiction is certainly a world that expands horizons, all the while not requiring these huge budgets and constant delays that new-era videogames require. Consider a game like Heavenly Sword for the PS3. This was a game that cost over 35 million dollars to create, lasted only 10-15 hours, cost consumers sixty dollars to purchase, and was in development for 2+ years.

Think about those numbers for just a moment. Now consider the following (follow the link - it will show you a geographical breakdown of sell-through of Heavenly Sword, total sales numbers, average review scores, etc etc):


If every copy was sold at an MSRP of 60 dollars, the game was profitable, but barely. It would have netted about 7 million dollars. Of course, there is more to game sales than just these raw numbers. The 35 million dollars was just development cost. That doesn't include production and marketing. After the dust settles, Heavenly Sword will have been one of the most expensive, delayed, and over-hyped games - albeit a gorgeous game - of the modern gaming era.

Consider, then, the overall cost and potential profit of IF games.

With that, I point to IF games. In a perfect world, people would play IF games because they are thought provoking and fun, while also being terribly aggravating at times. Consider the title of this - IF, if, id. The Interactive Fiction draws a user in, while doing the absolute minimum. If IF is not written properly (both in the human world or in the coded world of the game), it becomes a problem of variables; IF becomes if - if a programmer codes a loop such that the player can never progress through a game or a section, but it is not illogical, than it has become a broken series of if/then statements. All of this, of course, cannot exist outside of the Freudian analysis of the id - why do we play games in the first place? Why do we challenge ourselves to play IF games? We receive an immense level of satisfaction from completing them or achieving new scores and accomplishments in plowing through them, as is defined by actions controlled by the id.

The id's pleasure principle can be seen clearly at work in game design - ignoring the obvious, id Software LTD, creators of franchises such as Duke Nukem. The object of games is to play and to reach the end, showing some level of technical, educational or physical prowess on the behalf of the player. When the id drives a person, as it is believed that children are entirely id-driven, they are perpetually seeking out some level of reward and satisfaction. They are seeking pleasure.

A game which is designed and considered too difficult loses some of the intense id players, as they want something more immediate. A game such as MYST or even Colossal Cave Adventure, could lose some id-intensive players as it is not immediately rewarding. A game, such as Scarface: The World Is Yours, is a much more action packed game, filled with immediate thrill and reward.

IF games, however, are id-driven. For the player, it is more than an explosion or a car chase that thrills them. IF players get their pleasures and rewards from working their way through the linguistic mazes of the imaginary worlds created by others - it requires a certain level of divination on the behalf of the player to know what the programmer was thinking. The obvious word choice isn't always actionable. >throw axe does not mean you will throw the axe where you want. >throw axe at dwarf, however, does something more.

IF games transcend gaming - almost as though they were a living, breathing book, waiting to be discovered, but you had to learn the language of the author and how the verbs and nouns were used to continue onto the next page.

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at January 8, 2008 3:37 PM


Hi Kevin! I agree very much with your statement about IF games not being expensive compared to modern day video games. This is very true because, for example, Guitar Hero 3 costs $90.00 for Playstation 2. This is very expensive and most games usually run around $60.00. Amazing that these prices are so high when the systems cost so much. Take for example Playstation 3 is being sold for $400.00. Now after reading your statement about how much Heavenly Sword cost to create I can understand why video games cost so much. WOW! I can't believe that it cost 35 million dollars to create. That is amazing!

I think you have a great idea about IF games which you call IF/if/id. I agree completely with your answer. I also agree that games such as MYST could lose some players that want the rewards to be instant. I have never played Scarface: The World Is Yours, but it sounds very interesting.

The idea of IF players, "working there way through the linguistic mazes of the imagery world" is very true. The IF players think and ponder over to do next and how important the phrases can be in determining the next step. On the other hand, modern day video games let the player follow a sequential pattern and they don't have to think as much.

I really enjoyed reading your blog entry about IF games. It was very interesting and informative!

Posted by: Derek Tickle at January 8, 2008 5:44 PM

Your last sentence I totally agree with. Other then that this was a wonderful blog and I overall agree with it. Theres really not much more for me to expand on. lol

Posted by: Ashley F at January 8, 2008 10:27 PM

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