Community-accepted IF definition? promotes a broad definition of Interactive Fiction. Don’t claim a type or style of game already accepted by the community doesn’t belong. If in doubt, ask questions or see if it has been previously discussed.

I did some searching, but I couldn’t really find anything concrete like a list of accepted genres/types. From the forum structure I know there’s parser and choice-based games, but is there more?

Is text-based a requirement?
At what point does something stop being interactive fiction and just becomes a normal game?
Is a text-based RPG interactive fiction?

The obvious definition I could think about includes anything that is interactive and fiction, which would be a superset of all computer games, but also include things like choose-your-own-adventure books.


I’d say this is the only thing it can mean. If we wanted to rule out a CYOA book we’d have to start talking about ‘digital interactive fiction’ (assuming by ‘digital’ we don’t mean ‘manipulated via digits’ in which case the book would be back in!).


That’s true, but note it doesn’t include non-text based stories. I would say “interactive fiction” actually means “interactive narrative fiction”, but it’s just easier to say and also that’s what it means now.


My main question is: Do conventional computer games count as interactive fiction? I mean things that actually have fiction not something like candy crush. Would the Elder Scrolls games be interactive fiction? Or are computer games left out to keep this forum concise?


That’s true, but note it doesn’t include non-text based stories.

From this discussion it sounds like you can give parser games a point & click graphical facade and it’s still essentially a parser game.

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As in, purely non-text. Like, if the game doesn’t have any text or such a little amount it can’t count.

I’m not clear what you mean by “doesn’t included non-text based stories”.

I had a look at Wikipedia’s definition, that one makes it also text-only.
Interestingly Wikipedia places IF as a subcategory of Adventure or RPG games.

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This year’s Spring Thing features two Bitsy games (that is, minimalistic pixel art games) where you can move around and interact with objects. And anyway, Twine games are commonly seen as interactive fiction and those tend to have flashy graphics and animation. I think interactive fiction is less text-only and more text-based.


Uhh… this feels like you’re missing the entire point of that definition, which is that we don’t draw a hard line. It’s fuzzy, there isn’t any one point where something stops being IF. It’ll be different for different people.

Definitions are odorous.


This. This this this.

This as well, but there is a certain limit to where we’ll allow it and not.


Uhh… this feels like you’re missing the entire point of that definition, which is that we don’t draw a hard line. It’s fuzzy, there isn’t any one point where something stops being IF.

Well, is IF a superset of all games then? Is Skyrim or Fallout 4 IF?

And more importantly: What kind of games can I call IF without attracting an angry mob with torches and pitchforks? That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but that’s my main point.

Anything that you think you have Interactive-Fiction relevant things to say about. If you have a particular game you want to talk about, do it. Otherwise, don’t waste anyone’s time worrying about it

Edit: Again, the point of that “definition” is that nobody’s supposed to come after you with torches and pitchforks for stretching the limits of what you want to call IF in good faith. If they do, talk to the mods.


The reason why we don’t have a hard line is because, historically, any attempts to draw one has attracted angry mobs with torches and pitchforks (with little exaggeration), so attempting to draft an air-tight definition here is not going to save you from the outcome you wish to avoid.


There are questions that simply don’t have convenient answers, and it’s more important to the stability of the community to make one’s peace with that.

Also, typically if someone strongly feels like they need a rigorous definition of IF, then it tends to be for antagonistic or bad-faith plans to drive wedges and division in the community, start flame wars, or submit a Doom clone to a comp with the intent to harass the moderators and waste their time by putting up a lengthy fight through weaponization of “what is IF?”, when there are literally thousands of other comps and jams to submit to.

It’s a not a useful question, and it’s certainly not as useful as the wider community continuing to autonomously function. There is a dynamic, distributed, and organic consensus of intuition for what qualifies as IF, and maybe it has to be case-by-case, and maybe a case is put up to a vote now and then, but this fuzzy qualification will have to be acceptable for everyone, because wider stable community function and inclusion is more important than one person knowing ahead of time that they will be “correct”, according to strict legalese.

We don’t need some caste of policing agents who know the rigorous definition to go around as enforcers. We can self-govern with this fuzzy question in particular.

EDIT: Btw, I am autistic. I structure as much of my life around formal definitions as I can get away with. If someone like me specifically is telling you that it’s a fuzzy thing and to make your peace with that, then trust that I am not saying this flippantly or lightly.

I deeply understand the importance of strict definitions. You will not find one here.


Parser games, choice games (for example, Twine games), and parser-choice hybrids are accepted as IF.

If someone says choice games aren’t IF, that’s going to start trouble.

I don’t think there’s complete agreement about which other types of games (other than parser, choice, or parser-choice hybrid) might be IF.



On the other hand, if you’re playing Skyrim or Fallout 4 and think, “hey, that’s a cool interactive storytelling technique: how have other people used this technique? What are some variations on it? Are there text-only games I should look at because they do this particularly well? Particularly badly?”

…that’s a perfectly good thing to discuss.


Amusingly, the word “game” itself is used in philosophy as an example of how slippery definitions are in general. Wittgenstein:

Consider for example the proceedings we call ‘games’. I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? Don’t say, ‘There must be something common, or else they would not be all called “games”’, but look and see whether there is anything common to all. For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to them all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don’t think, but look! Look, for example, at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card games, here you will find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost. Are they all ‘amusing’? Compare chess with tic-tac-toe. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of solitaire. In ball games there is winning and losing, but when a child throws his ball against the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look now at the parts played by skill and luck, and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think now of games like ring-around-the-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared. And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way, and we can see how similarities crop up and disappear.

And the result of this examination is this: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing, sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.

Of course, like many things that philosophers worry about, the fuzziness of “game” is rarely trouble to anyone in practice.


Good point. We tend to call all IF “games,” but they aren’t all games as I understand them (which is probably different than how others understand them). To me, some are more like toys, some are visual novels, etc. But they are all IF, and whether or not any one person thinks they’re “games” according to their definitions isn’t important.

There was a bit of a to-do when I called Baba Is You IF and nominated it for the top 50 IF list, and went so far as to call it parser IF. I still think it is. Others disagree. Which is OK-- they just won’t vote for it and that shows you what the community norms of the moment are. It doesn’t really matter if anyone agrees with me or not. What matters is if you didn’t enjoy Baba Is You. That’s just unforgivable.


I look at Interactive Fiction as a very large label for for a number of sub-genres.
But my WIP is an old-school, parser, puzzle-based “game” which has clear ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ outcomes. So I much prefer the term ‘narrative game’ which is a much clear definition for what I am hoping to achieve. Early IF was always labeled text adventures but most of them were clearly packaged as games.

A lot of Interactive Fiction today could be classified as Interactive Poetry, which is fine. But if your work of IF has a lot of puzzles to solve, distinctly making sure people understand it as a ‘game’, I think is important.

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Puzzles aren’t really my jam, but I did like Baba is You because I love an adorable little mascot creature, like Piecrust. And it’s quite cleverly constructed as a game, even if that genre of games isn’t my favourite cup of tea.