February 15: Interactive Fiction & Narrative Games

Read: Interactive Fiction and Other Game-like Forms 


Blog: After reading Rettberg’s chapter on the evolution and variety of digital literary games, explore the works listed above and choose at least two to explore in-depth. Compare the uses of game interaction to communicate narrative or poetic ideas. How do game goals and puzzles involve the “interactor” in finding meaning in the works?  Are there clear goals or is the game framework an excuse to explore more literary ideas? How do the works engage your imagination? 


TALK: Interactive Narratives/Games


Hamlet on the Holodeck, by Janet Murray

IF dream: Story Simulation
games as literature and experience, where you play a role in the story and can change the story


Natural Language Processing

ELIZA: 1966 Joseph Weizenbaum, MIT Computer Science professor. Program accepted natural language as input. ELIZA effect.


Making Virtual Space:

Hunt the Wumpus 1972 Gregory Yob
Simulates complex spaces. 


SHRDLU by Terry Winograd at MIT in 1968–1970. An early natural language understanding computer program. The user instructed SHRDLU to move various objects around in the “blocks world” containing various basic objects: blocks, cones, balls, etc.

Colossal Cave Adventure
1975 Will Crowther,
detailed simulation of part of cave system
accepted commands
Simulating Worlds (character, plot) 
Dungeons and Dragons…character driven?

Infocom > Zork (1980)


King’s Quest V, 1991 (Inforcom couldn’t compete)


Facade (2006) – simulated interaction with characters, drama


Procedural Simulation? A problem of limits…

Human/Machine storytelling

Ian Bogost :
system operations (big goals, narrative arcs)
unit operations (small actions)


Galatea, Emily Short (2000)
Galatea cheatsheet 

Ad Verbum, by Nick Monfort (2001)

Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw, by Donna Leishman (2004)

Game Game Game and Game Again, Jason Nelson (2006)

Howling Dogs, by Porpentine (2012)

With Those We Love Alive, Porpentine (2014)

More Games:


IF in Twine”

Another Twine template

Making Space: “establishing shot” is also an index to the places of the story

  1. Set scene, where are we at start? 
  2. Connect spaces (links allow traversal of spaces… or not)
  3. Place obstacles, objects, characters and other narrative details 
  4. Set challenges (narrative conflict) along the way to reach goal (game play)
  5. Add narrative or poetic detail, evoke a world or character
  6. Make a way out, end point(s) or goal(s)

ELD Entry (20%) 

Write a research entry for the Electronic Literature Directory (ELD) about a term or a work of a electronic literature. The essay should be 500-750 words and include a bibliography, screen gabs or screen captures. A list of terms and works will be provided.

  • First draft is due 03/01 – 5% 
  • Final draft is due 03/22 – 15% 

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