Interactive fiction

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Interactive fiction, often abbreviated as IF, refers to a class of computer games in which the player uses text commands to control their character. These games are also called text adventures; they are a particular type of adventure game.

Many of these games are quite difficult, and include a large amount of descriptive text. A transcript of the very ending of one of these games might read:

> look
You are in a big room with tall pillars, to your north resides the large doors into the Wikipedia.
> go north
The doors are locked. Wait, that makes no sense, Wikipedia is for everyone! Something must be done...
> inventory
You are carrying a soda, an umbrella, The Key to All The Information in the Universe, and a little plastic bottle cap.
> unlock door
Unlock door with what?
> key
The door opens easily and noiselessly, and before you can walk through, there's a mad rush of people to enter the library and begin improving it. Your mission is complete!
Would you like to restore a saved game, restart, or quit?
> quit

The first text adventure game, Adventure (also called ADVENT, or Colossal Cave), was written in Fortran for the PDP-10, and has since been ported to many other operating systems. The popularity of Adventure lead to the wide success of interactive fiction during the late 1970s and the 1980s, when home computers had little, if any, graphics capability. The most well-known company producing these games was Infocom, who created the Zork series and many other titles still fondly remembered by countless fans.

Today, interactive fiction no longer appears to be commercially viable, but a constant stream of new text adventures is produced by the interactive fiction community using freely available text adventure writing systems, particularly Inform and TADS. Most of these games can be downloaded for free from the Interactive Fiction Archive (see link at end).

Since 1995 there has been an annual Interactive Fiction Competition for relatively short games. There are also annual XYZZY Awards in various categories, modelled on the Academy Awards. Two free online newsletters exist: XYZZYnews and SPAG.

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