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Interactive Fiction with Inform7

January 23, 2015

On March 18, 2014, a Facebook friend posted a status.

Interactive Fiction, Facebook Style

Interactive Fiction, Facebook Style

And we were off. We directed the narrative through comments and meta-discussion about where to go, what to do, and how to solve the “puzzle” in this world he’d created.

It lasted days. It was amazing.

I loved the social aspect of this, which would be hard to create in any other setting apart from a  tabletop gaming session.  I also loved the retro-mechanic to it. My friend was playing the role of the computer program, while we commenters were players, frantically typing in commands to move our intrepid adventurer along.

It got me thinking about Interactive Fiction. In its print form, Interactive Fiction is the chose-your-own-adventure story where you’re instructed to turn to page 8 if you take the door on the right, and page 15 if you continue going down the hall. In middle school, interactive fiction was creating dungeons in Hypercard, where you’d hide the secret piece to the puzzle in order to get out in some obscure place that no one would think to ever click on. When I was in high school, it was the MUD I’d log into in order to level up my character and hang out with friends across the globe (this was before World of Warcraft and shiny graphics).

Today, Interactive Fiction is still digital, but it’s easier than ever to write/code. I’ve been poking around at Inform7 for a while, and I really think there is a potential for a library program here. Teen Tech Week maybe? Writing interactive fiction is “making” a game, after all, right?

Inform7 is a relatively easy tool for writing interactive fiction. You don’t have to know any code – just a bit of syntax.  After minimal instruction (maybe 15 minutes) and a well-written one-page handout that outlines the basics (or the use of one of Inform7’s teacher resources), a group could be off and writing. At the end of the writing period, maybe they swap with a friend and play each other’s stories.

Screenshot of Inform7 Source Text

Screenshot of Inform7 Source Text

The Inform software can package everything up for easy web publication, so that the IF is available to be read/played after the event, and so participants can share their work with friends and family.

In reality, it might end up being best spread over a few days. At the very least, I feel that Inform7 (and a place on the library’s site to host fiction written by its patrons, should they chose to “donate” their work) would be a great addition to any digital media lab or makerspace.


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