Textual Adventure Games

When Professor Sample first mentioned “textual adventure games” I immediately thought of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series that I loved back in middle school. In the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books you are given the perspective of the main character and every page presents you with a decision; based on your choice you flip to another page in the book and follow this progression until your character either dies or completes the story-line. Within each thin novel there are countless ways to arrive at a variety of conclusions.

After playing a couple of computer-based interactive fiction games (“Aisle” and “Lost Pig”), it seems like these are Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books taken to the next level. Instead of being restricted to a couple of options per page, the player is free to look around, ask questions, or interact with objects within the game world. This brings a whole new dimension of interactivity with the narrative of the game.

Both book-based and computer-based textual adventure games force the player to use their imagination to form the game world. From black text on a white background, the player can (with some help from the game designer) explore a cave, stand in a grocery store aisle, or help a troll find a lost pig. It seems plausible that modern graphic-game designers rely too heavily on flashy graphics with weak story-lines and thus remove the player’s ability to form a mental game-world of his or her own creation. I find this very sad as the creation of a mental game-world was always one of my favorite parts of reading the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series.

One thought on “Textual Adventure Games

  1. Professor Sample

    Yes, I think there are many links between the classic CYOA books and interactive fiction. In fact, both of them appeared in the popular consciousness around the same time, during the early eighties.

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