Episode #8 - Modern Interactive Fiction

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.

Download it as a high-quality Quicktime file.

Additional credits, links and notes below:


Full Credits

Producer / Writer / Editor / Host

Jason McIntosh

Voice Talent

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:

Special Thanks

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.

Other Notes

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!

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18 Responses to Episode #8 - Modern Interactive Fiction

  1. Joe Johnston says:

    This ep has the best production values of any GS show.

    Nice work, Jason!

  2. Kevin Jackson-Mead says:

    Excellent. And I definitely want to see that game. If you haven't already, you should totally make a nice little win condition and release the game :-)

  3. Laroquod says:

    This is excellent. Thank you.

  4. George says:

    Nicely done! I quite enjoyed it!

  5. Bob Mackey says:

    Great work! I'm going to have to give Bad Machine a try.

  6. Jmac, I really liked this! That moment when you brought up the prompt for the first time was hilarious (and chilling).

  7. Johan says:

    Well done! A fun and fast introduction to the wonderful world of IF.

  8. UK_John says:

    Here's something that may shock! There is an Easter Egg in of all games, Call of Duty Black Ops - yes that giant release of a couple days ago, that has a full copy of ZORK sitting in one of the PC's in the room you start in! You have to find a way to get out of the chair you are sitting in, but once you do, wander around and you'll see an old PC on the floor with a monitor. There is also a shot em up, some game screenshots and sound effects too!

    But the complete ZORK in Call of Duty Black Ops - now THAT'S a tribute!

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