Can we split IFComp into two categories?

This is fine …


public class Animal {

public class Flamingo extends Animal {


public class Sparrow extends Flamingo {

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Hahaha. Well at least in acting you’ve seen the script. All I’ve read of these choice games is their title.

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Tangentially: I empathise. Receiving no direction at all for 3 months and then being told 2 nights before curtain up “oh yes, darling, that’s marvellous, but…do you think you could you do it completely differently?” is amongst my most cherished memories.


I’d think it would be actually difficult to write a completely plotless game. A reason to be solving the puzzles, a goal and a payoff is still Setting/Character/Conflict/Resolution, aka a story. Clever puzzle design isn’t possible either without precise writing that clearly communicates what’s going on and what’s expected to the player.

I do enjoy a good puzzle game, but I’d enjoy it more if it would introduce some kind of stakes for the character or evoke some kind of emotion.

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It’s a slow start, but gets quite racy towards the end. Carry on!


I thought it might be fruitful to provide a list of past times this conversation has happened (with varying results over time). These discussions usually include debating the value of story in games vs narrative, where to draw the line between parser games and choice games, etc. Sometimes they’re enthusiastically discussed and sometimes aggressively, but the actual content hasn’t really changed at all over the last 25 years.

They went away a little bit the last few years but seem to have come back.

1996 (
Does int. fiction have to be a game?

1998 (
Are there any alternative to puzzles? (contrasts puzzle games with CYOA/branching)

1999 (
Defining IF (yet again) (was: Are there any IF+RPG?)

1999 (
What is IF?

2002 (
What is IF really?

2003 (
class on if (update) (contains a lot of the same discussion in this thread almost word for word)

‘interactive fiction’, a meaningless signifier?

2005 (
Why newcomers struggle with IF.

2006 (
Defining IF (again)

Communicating the type of game to the player

CYOA trend

Emily Short – Down with Parsers!

What is CYOA as opposed to IF

Surprising conclusion: CYOA is not MCA!

IF and Choice (or, another goddamn CYOA thread)

Something I noticed

IFcomp is gone all hail IFComp

On the overwhelming response to non-IFComp events

Making CYOA Challenging

Why are there so little parser games now?

IF is dead

Why can’t i get into CYOA or restricted parser games?

IFComp 2018 Reviews

Should we distinguish between games and literature


-throws grenade into room-
-doesn’t post again-


It’s a coincidence, but I just asked my teenage son (who’s mostly into FIFA, Fortnite, CoD, etc) if he’d finished Dragon Age Inquisition, and how did it end? He said, do you want me to spoil it for you? So I said no, but would he play it again? And he said, yes it’s my favourite game.


To be fair, they made their stance pretty clear and it was met with a resounding no by basically everyone, so there probably wasn’t even a reason for them to attempt a counter argument. I’m kind of glad, TBH, because it probably wouldn’t have turned into a pleasant discussion like it has if they had.

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What is interactive fiction? It’s the eternal question.

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True. And I felt like they invalidated their own argument immediately anyhow by pointing out that they never actually played any of the games they were making broad statements about.

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My opinion on this (as I mentioned a bit before) is that the issue comes up from people that want to say that text adventures (or rather, text games with a world model) and interactive fiction are synonyms, where the reality is that interactive fiction is the genre and text adventures are the subgenre. Fiction that is interactive is an interactive fiction (I’m not sure why that’s something that needs to be said; it’s right in the name). Bandersnatch is an interactive fiction.

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It’s almost as though genres and terms are social and historical phenomenon, not something given premade by the universe.


Ah, World Modelling.

In Software Engineering, classes define behaviour, and objects capture state.
But in IF, we go up a dimension because NPC behaviour should change according to player choice.

Even in Python, where there are tricks you can play, you should never really change an object’s class at run-time. So if your GraveDigger NPC may or may not behave as a Thief NPC, you must not implement that behaviour as class.

Instead, you have to conjure up a Trade state which can take a transition on a player choice, and maybe switch back later.

Hard lessons. :blush:

Yes, but I think this thread has become extremely rich and interesting. So I’d like to thank the OP for kicking that off.


As robinjohnson pointed out, “IFComp winners are overwhelmingly lightly comic puzzly parser games”. Have you played any of them? If so, which ones did you like? If not, why not give them a go? It sounds like they might be up your street.

To be fair, interactive fiction did used to be a synonym of parser based text adventures. There weren’t all these other communities even around back then to define the terms or insist they be included.

Later the term text adventure was actually avoided for awhile, because it was dEmEaNiNg to the art and brought to mind a game like Zork at a time when everyone was in love with being literary and artistic and above all that. Same reason fantasy games were reviled.

I still think of parser games by default when someone says IF, even though that’s not how I’d define it now when introducing the games to others. But the IF community has historically been resistant to change so I’m not surprised that’s something that sticks in a few craws even now. You have to remember the OG community was still hanging on on newgroups into the 2000s and scorning these newfangled forums with no plans to ever change.

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That history’s so interesting. My path to IF was like: Bioware Games > Visual Novels > Twine Games. I had played Hugo’s House of Horrors when I was little so I was vaguely aware of parser games but honestly I hadn’t even thought about them until checking out past entries in this contest and seeing so many of the winners a part of that genre.

My early idea of IF was like “It’s a Bioware game but you don’t have graphics”.


Maybe… but I’d imagine that the birth of the phrase interactive fiction came about because the community (consciously or not) began to realize that the genre was bigger than dungeon crawlers and another term was needed. Otherwise they would have just remained calling it text adventures.

I get that. I’m like that with RPGs even though there hasn’t been a normal Final Fantasy-styled JRPG for years. Now RPG refers to stuff like Dragon Age Inquisition and Witcher 3, which I would have probably called action adventure games if you asked me what to call them 20 years ago.

If you’re interested in archive diving, you can go to

It was the central hub of IF discussion and there are conversations there going back to…well I believe it was actually created on Usenet in 1987. Not sure if what’s there is the full archive, but I just searched up an old bit of game discussion from 1994, so it still goes back pretty far.