The Storybook Kingdom of IF
Games for the Non-Illiterate

twinkling golden castle Draw up your monitor and listen to a story...
O nce upon a time, a long, long time ago 1 , a troupe of bright young men 2 formed a court 3 to create whimsical but challenging all-text adventure games. They christened it, "Infocom," and the legendary era during which it reined is now known as, "The Golden Age of IF."

1 1979; 2 recent MIT graduates; 3 software company
Zork as a rock monument At first they crafted just one game 4 , but it was so monumental it towered over the rocky competition. Impressed by this artful monolith, folk eagerly flocked to the Land of IF 5 to settle in its bountiful valleys. Since the field of computer entertainment was relatively unmined, the Infocom court soon brought forth more games. With their next mighty edifices 5 they also tried their hands at even fancier sculpting (creating/adding plots). The new iffy citizens were properly and playfully grateful, loving the intelligent games that were stories (or the stories that were games). Well, except when they got hung up on a tricky puzzle that could keep them trapped for hours, even days. But the Infocom court jesters, while mischievous, were also merciful and offered hints books so players could get unstuck if they really, really needed to. So Infocom prospered, the Kingdom of IF flourished, and everyone lived happily ever after. Well, until...

3 Zork; 4 Interactive-Fiction; 5 "Witness," "Planetfall," "Enchanter," "Infidel"
flying dragon A disturbing change swept over the land... Graphics! Its fiery breath scorched the Kingdom of IF's gently rolling hills and softly dipping valleys, although the games themselves were fireproof 6 and remained standing unharmed (and are still playable today). But most iffy citizens were mesmerized by the gargantuan's motion and vivid (but burning) color and so trailed after it in a stupor. They regained some of their senses in the now greener pastures of graphic games. Its flashy, trashy structures required little or no reading (most didn't even require much thought), but the many peasants among them rejoiced since they had found reading too much trouble anyway. Unfortunately, they were also full of violence, although few noticed at first, because it was cunningly renamed, "action". When more finally did, it was too late, the players were thoroughly entranced by how easy the new games were to play. Thus enthralled, passively choosing the simple use of a little rodent (masquerading as a dragon) over their own more taxing brain power, the dazed folk stayed.

6 guiproof

white flag with no symbol Back in the Kingdom of IF, the abandoned Infocom court frantically tried to lure the defectors back by hastily constructing computer comics; graphic short stories for short attention spans. But, of course, they didn't have enough "action," so the captivated mouse-clickers didn't even bother to look up from their frenzied playing.
Downcast, the Infocom troupe decided to seek their fortunes 7 elsewhere and set out on a perilous journey to another land 8 . But the way proved thornier than they had anticipated and they got lost among the many brambles 9 . Spying their misfortune, another court 10 lurking in the bushes, swarmed out and conquered them 11 . No blood was shed, but rather than meekly swear fealty, the bright (but no longer young) men and women (who had joined the troupe) of Infocom disbanded 12 . Although, for awhile, the victors tried to pretend that the famous imps 13 had become their faithful vassals.

7 Cornerstone (Infocom's database program); 8 the personal computer database market; 9 other database programs (Dbase, Q&A, etc.); 10 another game company -- Activision; 11 bought them out; 12 1987; 13 implementors

caves of despair Despair struck the few loyal IF players left behind. Although they had watched these events unfold safely from a distance, they were still distrait. "Oh, woe is us, disaster!" they cried. "This means there will be no new intelligent games to look forward to! Surely, we are doomed!" The hills of IF echoed with their grief, as they rent their garments and wailed to the heavens. Inconsolable, they then retreated to huddle in isolated caves 14 and ponder their fate. They didn't want to play mindless and/or violent games. They wanted to THINK and have fun!

14 local BBS's (computer bulletin board systems)
moving knight on horse S o the Kingdom of IF disappeared and the land became a less joyful (but, paradoxically, more colorful), place. Then, lo, out of thin air a hollow voice seemed to whisper, "Write your own games." The still dedicated IF players struck themselves on their foreheads and exclaimed, "Why didn't we think of that? Wait a minute, we did!" Then they grinned 15 . Thus inspired, more bright (age undetermined) men created game authoring systems 16 and they and others started writing new games. But these treasures were tucked away in twisty caverns all over the land and it took an arduous quest 17 to unearth them. So a German knight, Volker Blasius, bravely rode forward and announced, "I will gather everything together in one place so the dedicated IF players and new authors can find it." True-blue, he faithfully kept his pledge and created the if-archive 16 to the immense relief of all the iffy refugees.

15 <g>; 16 AGT & TADS; 17 finding the right BBS's and, after the advent of Internet, using archie & other methods; 17 1992
Oops, I left something out. walking wizard Something wonderful happened before this that made the creation of the if-archive even possible. The formation of that magical place we call the Internet. Well, it really occurred earlier, but only wizards 18 knew the complicated spells 19 that allowed one to materialize there. Then town markets 20 started offering simple potions 21 to plain folk. They did this in exchange for gold and silver coins 22 , but it didn't matter (Infocom had been mercantile too), people benefitted anyway and more and more started popping in and out 23 of the Net.

18 computer variety; 19 urls and commands; 20 ISPs (Internet service providers); 21 easy access; 22 credit card & direct debit; 23 surfing

Due to the dedication of countless IF players and programmers (who are also players), the Kingdom of IF lives again, floating safely in the mystical land of the Net. But us current iffy citizens now try to protect it from uncaring, non-reading, mouse&graphic-obsessed people. So we want to know you first BELIEVE in the magic of IF before you cast the spell that will transport you to its new enchanted court.

That is why I told you this story. Only if you believe...  click your heels three times and say, ""
(Now the spell is:  "") click, click, click,

Table of Contents

What is Interactive-Fiction? Interactive-Fiction is all-text adventure games. Well, that isn't totally accurate anymore. Basically IF is a story in which you play the protagonist and can affect the progression of the plot and its ending. Most have some sort of "puzzles" that need to be solved to move the story along. Not puzzles in the crossword puzzles sense, but puzzles like:  "How do you open this locked door? Where is the key?" Although simple locked door puzzles are becoming increasingly rare. There is also a minority of "puzzleless" IF.

Interactive-Fiction games have:  locations (mansion rooms, outdoor fields, underground caves) that the player can move around; objects (flashlight, magic amulet, futuristic device) that the player can pick up and use; and other characters (people, animals, robots) in the story the player can socialize with. It also comes in all genres:  mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, etc. Thus, Interactive-Fiction is fiction that you, the player, can interact with.

Top of Page     Kingdom of IF Contents     The "Real" Story (History)

screenshot of History page

IF Art Gallery

Doe's Main Interactive Fiction Page

This story was told by Doe.