Please enjoy Episode 8 of The Gameshelf’s video series. It’s about modern interactive fiction.
Interactive Fiction (a.k.a. text adventures), a curious cross-medium blending videogames and literature, defined computer entertainment at the start of the PC era. While it’s been decades its commercial heyday, the web has allowed passionate fans and creators to revive the medium through a resurgence of groundbreaking new work.
However, few gamers — even fans of more mainstream adventure games — know that this movement even exists.
In this ten-minute video, Jason McIntosh demonstrates some examples of modern interactive fiction, ponders the challenges that the medium faces in today’s digital-game landscape, and offers some starting points for players first discovering this unique kind of game.
Additional credits, links and notes below:
- The People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction
- The miniature guide to playing IF, in various formats
- The Interactive Fiction Database appeared a couple of times in the video without overt fanfare. To find, download, or (if available) play online any of the IF games I mentioned in this video — and hundreds and hundreds more — pay it a visit.
Producer / Writer / Editor / Host
Lindsay Gonzales, Greg Reimann
Lee Stewart, Julia Tenney
“Action Castle” Players
Ruth Alfasso, Denis Moskowitz, Gavin Schnitzler, Karl von Laudermann
The Gameshelf theme music is by Joe Johnston.
This episode’s music also included:
Besides sitting for an interview, Nick Montfort also let Lee and I film various clips in his curio-laden office. The Apple IIc, the retail-box IF antiques, and the various other relics of bygone electronic games are all part of his own collection.
Andrew Plotkin helped sanity-check this video’s content, through its several drafts. (And also sat for an interview.)
Jason Scott didn’t have any direct involvement in the production of this video, but we did have some nice conversations about video production between my last major effort and this one. Mainly, I wish to mention that his own breathtakingly ambitious, feature-length (and then some) documentary about interactive fiction’s history, Get Lamp, is going on sale very soon, and it’s beautiful. You should go buy a copy.
Somerville Community Access TV lent Lee and I the equipment we used to record Nick’s interview and office footage.
Yes, I did in fact write an IF “game” that became the backdrop for my host segments. If you’re very good I might make a short followup video about it, and about Inform 7 (the language I used) in general.
In the brief shot of the two of us talking, Nick holds a copy of this book. View its cover at full-size to properly appreciate the majesty. That clip’s original audio (not present in this version) was part of a comedic segue between Andy’s interview and Nick’s, so he pulled this volume off his shelves to use as a wackiness-increasing prop. The entire gag ended up in the post-production trash heap after I decided to go with the shorter format. Luckily, the clip is too dark to make the book very visible, so I used a little of it as a lead-in anyway. Call it an easter egg.
My inspiration for cutting the video’s length from 30 minutes to only ten came from my discovery of Put This On, an excellent, funny, and geek-friendly new video series about men’s clothing and fashion by Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor. When I pulled up the first episode, I unconsciously looked at the countdown timer in the corner, saw
10:00, and thought, Well, I’m skeptical about a show about clothes. But it does look kind of interesting, and what the hell, I have ten minutes to spare.
And then a light went on: I’ve been asking too much. It made sense to shoot for 30 minutes when I thought of The Gameshelf as a TV show that I also happened to publish on the web. But, I realized, that’s view proved both outdated and myopic. If I will only agree to sit still in ten-minute chunks, then why would I create videos demanding more time than that?
I came to this decision after starting production months ago with a half-hour script, so more time and effort ended up on the cutting room floor than I’d like. That said, I find this abbreviated format far superior for the web-based publication that The Gameshelf has evolved into. Expect most future video work from me to stay YouTube-sized.
I hope you enjoy both this new format and the video itself. Feel free to let me know what you think!