Aisle-like games, teaching IF with positive reinforcement?

I was thinking about Aisle-type games today, one action games where the purpose is exploration. In a way, they naturally teach new players how to think in “If language.” The parser commands that unlock new content are usually those written in a traditional IF way. Whenever a new player types in a command with traditional IF thinking, he’s positively reinforced with new content.

Also, they’re simple and literally impossible to get stuck on. Even though they’re basically a giant “guess the verb” puzzle, I think they’re well suited to teaching new players. The only ones I know of, though, are “Aisle” and “Pick up the Phone Booth and Aisle.” Are there any more prominent ones out there? I think this sort of design-space is under-explored.

There’s Rematch, but I wouldn’t recommend it for teaching beginners to play IF. Firstly, it requires commands far more complex than any other game’s parser can handle. Secondly, it’s a puzzle game, and a difficult one at that. Although it’s a one-turn game, it’ll take a long time for most players to work out the one command that will win the game. (On the other hand, I found Rematch tricky in part because I had preconceptions about the way the parser worked and what its limitations would be - new players would be less likely to have that problem.)

Apart from that, I don’t know of any other one-turn games. IFDB has The Phoenix Move tagged as “one-move”, but one of the reviews points out that it isn’t really - only one aspect of the game resets after a move, and you need a sequence of commands to win.

You’re right.

Well, it would be not too hard to do another Aisle in a different setting and with different story seeds. I felt that playing Aisle was like having your own personal imrov actor in a box. There’s this simple starting situation, you pitch an idea what should happen next, and the actor just makes up the rest from there.

It actually reminds me a lot of the recent story-telling/Indie movement in the RPG community.

Anyway, just thinking aloud here…

That’s an interesting analogy actually. Many story game RPGs concern themselves with setting up rules to talk about a particular situation. I guess you could extend this to the Jeepform live action games as well.

I’m trying to think of other IF games that are similar but I’m drawing a blank. I’m not sure games that model physics/materials/magic should be included here; this kind of rule setting rarely has to do with the physics of the model world (though it may influence the physical types of characters you commonly have).

Sorry if that’s a little vague but I don’t quite have it worked out myself.


I think physics/materials/magic modelling gets in the way of this kind of story pretty quickly. With all the radically different stories, you’d have to write a whole lot of different simulations. Sort of like statting a whole bunch of NPCs on the fly and drawing detailed maps for all possible locations. You’d go nuts.

That’s why I believe something like Aisle only works as a one-move game.

In terms of the sheer work involved being a limiting factor I think you’re right as a general rule. However if an IF author was insane enough I think it could happen :slight_smile:. Maybe this kind of game would be better created as a team effort…?

There’s an IRC game called Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan. In it two players trade phrases that they make up improv style, in a duel of wits basically. I’ve always thought it’d be interesting to make an IF game like this…it’d kind of turn into a Scribblenauts of IF. A ton of work no doubt but I think it’d be fun. Anyway, this is a little OT to the original post. :smiley:

It might be, but it also could end up with one of us doing an Aisle-style game, just what the OP wishes for :wink: