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What is interactive fiction?

Forest Clearing​

A verdent green meadow with a scattering of flowers in the closely cropped grass.


> examine flowers

While most of the flowers are common wild flowers, there is a solitary rose bush with a single large, red rose.


> pick red rose

You pick the red rose.


> smell it

The scent of the rose is simply wonderful.


> drop it

You drop the red rose and it falls to the ground at your feet.


> look

Forest Clearing​

A verdent green meadow with a scattering of flowers in the closely cropped grass.


There is a red rose lying on the ground.



Interactive fiction, often abbreviated IF, provides computer-simulated environments where reader/players can influence the simulated world to advance a narrative that is often branching and features multiple endings of varying degrees of desirability.


Most existing IF games are the traditional computer-based games that use a command parser. They work like the game shown in the screen shot to the left where the parser responds to the reader/player's commands to display the evolving game world. To play these games, you will need to download and install a free-ware interpreter that is tailored to fit your operating system, be it Mac, Windows, or Unix. However, some parser-based games can be played online so that you don't need to install an interpreter on your computer.


These days, many of the newer IF games are choice-based IF that you play with your favorite browser instead of an interpreter. Most of these games are hyperlinked works that are played by selecting links to work your way through a branching story that often has multiple endings. The game, which is an HTML file, can be run locally or from a site somewhere on the Internet. However, it is worth mentioning that some choice-based games are hybrids that feature both links and a parser.


While IF is no longer produced commercially by game development companies, a steady stream of new works is produced by the online interactive fiction community using a variety of free-ware authoring tools. This all-volunteer community hosts contests for new works, provides reviews, maintains archives and databases for published works, and has several different forums for author and reader/player support.


Most contemporary IF games (mine included) are distributed free to the reader/player. However, occasionally you must pay a fee to play (or buy) a particular game, or there is a way to support and encourage a favored author with a donation.   

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