A History of Interactive Fiction

This is an oldie (appearing in 2006) but goodie if you're interested in interactive fiction — Jimmy Maher wrote a lengthy, well-written and comprehensive history of interactive fiction, from Eliza to the era of Infocom to the state of IF today. It's a fascinating wrap up, even if you're not one of the handful of active IF players; but IF's fall from commercial grace hasn't stopped IF creators from trundling on to creating bigger and better things:

... The genre has fallen from all commercial grace, and its overall popularity is a miniscule fraction of what it once was. Barely twenty years ago, at least one IF game sold one-million copies at price points of thirty dollars or more; today, the active community of IF players is reduced to a bare handful of thousands, despite the fact that its games' creators now give their work away for free. On the other hand, though, those remnants of IF's once prodigious fanbase who remain have largely shed the lure of retro-gaming nostalgia that has afflicted similar revivalist efforts in other genres and produced work of often amazing originality and quality. While there is plenty of detritus about, the top ten-percent or so of hobbyist IF of the past decade easily dwarfs that of the commercial era in terms of design, sophistication, and literary quality. That a relatively small group of amateurs has been capable of surpassing the work of well-funded companies not just once or twice but on a regular basis is remarkable. That they have taken IF in directions those companies never dreamed of is inspiring.

I'm personally really interested in IF for a number of reasons, and had a grand time reading through a comprehensive but digestible history of IF, from Zork to its current stars.

Let's Tell a Story Together [Jimmy Maher]


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