Monday, October 4, 2010

16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

"For the last fifteen years, the readers of the Usenet newsgroup have held a yearly interactive fiction competition. For fans of the old Infocom games as well as for newcomers to the genre, the competition is a chance to enjoy some of the best short adventure games available anywhere." (From the competition website, where you can play many of the games online.)

What's interactive fiction, you ask? It's the modern version of what used to be called text adventures. The company Infocom, mentioned in the quote, produced most of the familiar ones, such as Planetfall and Zork:

The commercial viability of text adventures went out with the invention of computer games with graphics, and these days it's more of a niche hobby.

It might seem a little bit complicated to get started with text adventures, but there are a number of beginner guides you can find online. Here's one guide, and there are links to others at the bottom of that page. In the old days, each game was contained in a small file (you might compare it to an mp3 file) and to play it you'd also need to download an interpreter program (like iTunes or some other mp3 player.) Now you can usually play online.

Ready for some examples? Visit the website of Andrew Plotkin, aka Zarf, one of the modern masters of the interactive fiction form. After you read his handy quick-start guide, you'll be ready to leap in and play any of his games online. (Dreamhold is a good one to start with if you've never played a text adventure before.)

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