Experimenting with stories and text

Continuing the theme of text adventure games are still new, a couple of excellent thought-provoking blog posts from the last week:

First, Jimmy Maher’s look at Infocom’s 1983 game Infidel raises questions which are very much still relevant today:

When you boot an adventure are you effectively still yourself, reacting as you would if transported into that world? Or is an adventure really a form of improvisatory theater, in which you put yourself into the shoes of a protagonist who is not you and try to play the role and experience that person’s story in good faith? Or consider a related question: is an adventure game a way of creating your own story or simply an unusually immersive, interactive way of experiencing a story?

And Emily Short finds herself ranting about text:

Text is not just cheap. It’s not just the medium you use when you have no resources and no high-end software. It’s a very powerful medium for communicating nuance, viewpoint, interiority, motivation, the experience of the outsider. It’s an artistic medium with its own beauties. … Sometimes people assume text games must be ugly and have low production values. That isn’t true either. It is possible for text games to be visual feasts.

Emily’s post links to a number of experiments that people have done, which show that an interactive text-based game can take on many forms.

Myself, I feel more than ever a need to do some more experimentation of my own. So far I’ve created a prototype split-screen text adventure, but that was a couple of years ago now and it’s clear to me that I need to work on something bigger to try out some more ideas. Something is taking shape in my head (and on various scraps of paper) … but very slowly. I’ve always seen myself as a programmer, not an author, so it’s hard work and involves stepping outside my comfort zone, but that can only be a good thing whatever happens.

As I keep saying, none of us has any idea what the text adventures of the future will look like, and the only way we’ll find out will be by trying things out and being prepared to fail.

3 thoughts on “Experimenting with stories and text

  1. Jay Nabonne

    The first article in particular touches on something I was toying with recently, and they it succinctly in the article – is it you making the actions in the game, such that the game is about the choices you’re making, or are you stepping into the role of an actor in a story, such that you are no longer yourself as much as you are now looking through the eyes of someone else, someone who might not behave the way you would behave. It’s a a bizarre thing to get your head around.

    Here is an interesting thought (perhaps this has already been done): what if when you enter commands in the game, they are conceptually being transmitted to an in-game counterpart, someone with his/her own point of view and morals, someone who might take your command and twist it, someone who might just flat out say “no” to what you wish?

    1. Alex Warren

      Indeed, this is exactly the sort of thing I want to play around with in my own game, which is why Jimmy Maher’s post resonated with me in particular. Just need to get on and write it!

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