October 3, 2004

Interactive Fiction and Space

Perhaps the most intriguing issue related with Interactive Fiction(IF) is that of space. Where does it exist? Ofcourse the obvious answer would be "uploaded on a program," but lets think about the deeper aspect for a moment. Really, where does it exist? How do text games define our concept of space and reality? We're in there, playing characters, completely absorbed and oblivious to world (okay, I am), and in the case of Photopia, bouncing around from "space" to "space" in a non-linear world. Where does the book start from? Do stories really have to be read from beginning to end? More importantly, does anything really exist? I've been hooked on IF purely because of its non-traditional outlook on the much repeated story. It doesnt have to start at the beginning...it doesnt have to sacrifice the story elements to be a great narrative.

One of my favourite IF pieces is one written by my friend Chris (see here), where he experiments with history. This is the beauty of it. It allows a user to ponder over the "what if" question, and recreate history the way s/he saw it happen. It's also a great platform for developing critical thinking skills. When was the last time you walked away from an IF game just because you couldnt figure out what direction to move towards? It makes great readers out of people, simply because they have to notice the minute details. Which, I think, ties into the overall issue of space once again. The user struggles with space to understand how and where every detail needs to be placed, and whether its relevant to the story or not. Keep playing these games for a while, and I guarantee that not much from your surroundings will escape your eyes. The only forseable problem is thinking of the word "if" as an Interactive Fiction reference every time it appears.

For more on IF from the class bloggers, see Moira Richardson, Simon Andrews, and Dr. Jerz's guide to playing, studying and writing IF.

Posted by NehaBawa at October 3, 2004 11:12 AM | TrackBack

Neha, in Photopia, when you're in the underwater scene, how do you get the pickaxe? I've tried taking it, pulling it, pushing it, kicking it, shoving it, spinning it, eating it, killing it, etc., but I still haven't got it. I am assuming it's something really easy that I'd never think of...

Help? Please? :-(

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at October 4, 2004 11:18 PM

Valerie, when you try to take the pickaxe, something else changes in the game world, that lets you move on to the next part of the story ... but I don't think you can actually carry the pickaxe away. (But you don't need to.)

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 5, 2004 8:59 AM

LOL! Val, try going up. Dr. Jerz is right - you're not going to need the pickaxe.

Posted by: Neha at October 5, 2004 9:12 AM

I did it! Neha, I did it!!!

*feels accomplished* :-D

Posted by: Val at October 5, 2004 10:33 PM

Hey Neha, just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate this blog entry; your links and information helped to pique my interest in writing IF, so I followed the link to Dr. Jerz' academic weblog and downloaded Inform. I'm already working on programming my own IF game for my individual project. Thanks for the great ideas!

Posted by: ChrisU at October 6, 2004 12:32 PM

Anytime Chris. I'm glad it's helping someone out. I'm writing an IF piece for my individual project too - maybe we should compare notes sometime.

Posted by: Neha at October 6, 2004 3:32 PM

I've never even heard of IF until a few weeks ago when we experienced it in class. I too have been quite interested in it since then. You hit the nail on the head when you said, "It allows a user to ponder over the "what if" question." Although they do get quite frustrating to me at times, I find it extremely interesting.

Posted by: Mike Iorio at October 14, 2004 11:39 PM
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