Interactive fiction

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  • What is Interactive Fiction? Just what it says: it's a story with which the reader can interact. Sometimes "interaction" means problem solving--bringing the story to its resolution by overcoming the roadblocks". (Suzanne Britton, in a now dead Web Page)
  • Interactive fiction' is a broad term for any sort of story in which the reader takes a role more active than reading words and turning pages; the term has been applied to all sorts of fiction that doesn't fit the traditional mold of short stories, novels, and the like. Interactive fiction includes anything from "choose your own adventure" books to hypertext novels to text adventures, but it's this last form that has become the most widely recognized meaning of the term. (from an old version of the TADS introduction to IF

Interactive fiction is closely related to Adventure games, Role-Playing (RPG) games, etc.

See also: MUDs and MOOs. If they contain scenarios, they can be considered multi-user IF.

Interactive fiction in education

There is potential for:

  • language learning by playing or (better) writing games (Vilmi, 1996).
  • historical simulations

Sidenote: IF is probably the only computer game medium in which an individual author can hope to create an entire work on his or her own.

Examples (more needed)
  • Stranded. An educational interactive fiction game that teaches cconomics and the use of the library

See the exellent Teaching IF list from


Text-based interactive fiction engines

Classical IF is text-based and the engines below represent the "real thing". According to Wikipedia, most IF development is now implemented in Inform, TADS, or ADRIFT. (3/2015)

  • TADS. Quote (3/2015): “is the programmer's power tool for IF authoring. It offers a robust and modern language that'll be instantly familiar to anyone who knows Javascript or C++, and a full-featured suite of development tools from text editing to debugging.”
  • Quest. Quote (3/2015) “lets you make interactive story games. Text adventure games like Zork and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Gamebooks like the Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy books. You don't need to know how to program. All you need is a story to tell. Your game can be played anywhere. In a web browser, downloaded to a PC, or turned into an app.”
  • Inform Inform is the classical IF engine. Inform 7 “is a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language. It is a radical reinvention of the way interactive fiction is designed, guided by contemporary work in semantics and by the practical experience of some of the world's best-known writers of IF” (3/2015)
  • HUGO (A less popular engine, but powerful. Not sure that this project is still alive in 2015...)
  • ADRIFT. Quote (3/2015): “ADRIFT Developer is a Windows application that allows you to create complex interactive fiction games quickly and easily. It allows you to concentrate on the story by making everything else easy, such as having all options available in dropdown lists, rather than you having to spend a lot of time just trying to figure out how to code the game.”
  • Twine publishes directly to HTML/JavaScript and therefore doesn't need running an interpreter.


  • Short, E. (2008). Teaching IF, retrieved 15:12, 9 June 2009 (UTC).

  • MS memorial Magnetic Scrolls (Infocom-like games). You can download emulators and games or play with an online emulator.
Tutorials for Players


  • Davidson, Drew et al. (2009). Well Played 1.0: Video Game, Value and Meaning, ETC-Press (Beta) Available from This online book includes a good chapter on IF, plus related genres.
  • Desilets, B. (1999). Interactive fiction vs. the pause that distresses: How computer-based literature interrupts the reading process without stopping the fun. Currents in Electronic Literacy, 1. HTML, retrieved 15:12, 9 June 2009 (UTC).
  • Duncan, S. M., & Shelton, B. E. (2006a, February 22). Voices of Spoon River: Study of the development of an educational interactive fiction game by instructional game students. Paper presented at the Philadelphia Area Educational Technology Conference (PAETC), Bryn Mawr, PA.
  • Duncan, S. M., Stowell, T., Allen, B., & Shelton, B. E. (2006b, February 22). School of learning sciences: Design of a multi-user game for learning science students. Paper presented at the Philadelphia Area Educational Technology Conference (PAETC), Bryn Mawr, PA.
  • Howell, G., & Yellowlees, J. (1990). The evolution of interactive fiction. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 2(1), 93-109.
  • Keller, Daniel. "Reading and playing: what makes interactive fiction unique" p.276-298. in Williams, J. P., & Smith, J. H. (2007). The players' realm: studies on the culture of video games and gaming. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. ISBN 9780786428328
  • Montfort, N. (2003a). Toward a theory of interaction fiction. In E. Short (Ed.), IF Theory (3.5 ed.). St. Charles, IL: The Interactive Fiction Library.
  • Montfort, N. (2003b). Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (First Paperback ed.). Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Montfort, Nick (2005). Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-63318-5.
  • Seegert, Alf. (2009), "'Doing there' vs. 'being there': performing presence in interactive fiction", Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds 1: 1, pp. 23–37, doi: 10.1386/jgvw.1.1.23/1
  • Shelton, B. E., Neville, D., & McInnis, B. (2008). Cybertext redux: Using interactive fiction to teach German vocabulary, reading and culture. Paper presented at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2008, Utrecht, Netherlands.
  • Shelton, Brett, E. Zork & Kingdom of Loathing - Brett E. Shelton, in Davidson, Drew et al. (2009). Well Played 1.0: Video Game, Value and Meaning, ETC-Press (Beta) Available from
  • Short, E. (2008). Teaching IF. HTML, retrieved 15:12, 9 June 2009 (UTC).
  • Tillman, F. (1997). Hypermedia fiction: A medium of forking paths. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 10(4), 387-397.
  • Vilmi,Ruth, Malmi,Lauri (1996). Learning english by creating, writing and playing WWW adventure games, Educational Technology Research and Development, 44, 3, 9/18/1996, Pages 109-118, DOI 10.1007/BF02300432 (Access restricted)