I’m strongly thinking about implementing this in my WIP for two reasons - a) I’m under the impression that inputting questions about the game world is something newbie players are likely to do, and b) I think it could very helpful for people learning English. Someday I would like to use IF in the classroom somehow.
Anyway, I couldn’t find much advice about the best way for the game to respond to these questions. The main issue I’m thinking of is having the game notice the difference between WHAT IS THE MAGAZINE and WHAT IS A MAGAZINE. These really aren’t the same question, especially for second-language learners. I’m afraid that guaranteeing a sensible response to the second question will involve a lot of extra coding.
That’s a pretty good solution. For now though I’ve decided to go with printing the object’s description if a definite article was used, and printing a definition of the word if the indefinite article was used. The generic response to WHAT IS A MAGAZINE is “That hardly requires explanation.” So then the author could override that by providing an actual definition.
In some cases, I guess, the generic question could be put without use of the indefinite article, though: What is water? What are hamsters?
(And in some cases, I guess, the specific question, too, can be put without using the definite article: Who is Emily Short? What is Bohemia?)