Creating IF targeted towards teens?

Hi there, first post here, let me know if i muck something up.

Does anyone have any advice for writing IF pieces targeted towards teens, or any examples they can think of? I Figure typical YA writing advice would still apply, but how do you plan out puzzles and dialogue options? Is it the same as adults or does the ‘difficulty’ need to be toned down?

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Hiya!

I don’t think you should look at difficulty of puzzles to be different between teenagers and adults, but more as beginner players and more advanced ones. We have a few teenagers on the forum that are pretty advanced parser players, as well as many adults who struggle with them.

As for writing, teenagers are not so much different to adults imo :woman_shrugging:
Depending on the demographic of teenagers (early teens vs young adults), you may want to avoid swearing or lewd language.

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As a teen myself, it’s a weird one. It depends if the kids actually want to play the IF or not. And whether they’re experienced or not.

I myself made a parser game which was the sequel to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky, and although it’s not very popular because (mainly) it had lots of bugs and (sort of) “didn’t match the original style”, after bugs the main reasons were: too hard, and very Cruel. And long. Anyway, my point with that bit is: difficulty isn’t dependent on age. A teen makes a game that adults find too hard but I play games like that regularly. It’s okay to make hard games, but…

Puzzles-wise, long puzzles that last ages might need to be made snappy and with interesting responses, also make sure it’s constantly moving forward. But as long as the puzzles are clever and adaptive and have implemented responses, you definitely don’t need to tone the difficulty down. Teenagers have attention spans that rely on adaptation and constant interest, but their puzzle-solving ability is not affected.

If you can, definitely look to choice-based games like Bogeyman. A few of my friends (teens) don’t like parser IF (type in commands), but choice IF is okay. Especially Bogeyman. Bogeyman is really popular with my friends. If not, I dunno.

Eat Me is a parser IF that could work, since it’s simple and clever and gruesome enough to get your attention, but not too gruesome it’s just boring or age-inappropriate.

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If you are looking to make games for beginners, you may want to look at this thread for game examples:

Some of the games mentioned have their source code available.

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Nah, my game’s not meant for beginners. I fear I’m running into cross-purposes a bit since I’m having some of my friends who have played little to no IF play my buggy as hell prototype. Not exactly the best of introductions :laughing:

Interesting! Did you base it on the Restaurant at the End of the Universe or did you do your own thing with the setting?

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i was going to go with choice IF anyway since Twine seems to lean in that direction, i’ll definitely take a look at Bogeyman, thanks for the recommendation!

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It’s based mainly off of Milliways, yes! Though it has a scene in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (the book version, of course!), and loads of areas not in the book. Most of the things that happen are either related to the first game or made up though - but the story is based of the books! (Not that there is much story.)

The link is: Milliways: the Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Details

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While you should still look into difficulty of puzzles (in terms of hints or actions available on screen, sequence of action), it will usually always be easier with Twine than with a parser (since the options should be on the screen, in forms of links or buttons).

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Max already gave his ideas, but as another teen, I’ll put in my two cents.


It really depends on what you’re going for. It seems like your intended audience will be new to IF, in which case anything beginner-friendly and not overly adult (i.e. too much swearing, sexual content, etc. but some is fine) will work. If they’re already confident in their IF abilities, then just don’t get too mature and you’l be fine. PG-rated content should be your baseline maximum. For older teens (i.e. 15-18), PG-13 can be your baseline. If you include anything above that (R-rated, or PG-13 for younger teens), make sure to include a content warning of some sort.

Regarding preferences, definitely don’t tone down the difficulty if it’s only for the sake of appealing to teens. If you’re appealing to beginner players, adjust accordingly, but just because we’re younger doesn’t mean we’re less capable. Max enjoys Cruel games, but I prefer my IF to be a little gentler to failure, while still having some difficulty. Outside of IF, I’ve recently played and liked Tears of the Kingdom, Pikmin 4, Horizon: Zero Dawn (Normal), and Portal 2, to give you an idea of my preferred level of difficulty.

Twine is for choice IF, so if your IF needs to be in Twine, it will naturally be choice-based. However, if you’re considering puzzles, I recommend checking out one of the parser systems. Puzzles are usually much more interesting with parsers since there’s more freedom.

I don’t have any friends who like IF (unfortunately), so I can’t really say anything about that. I like parser IF more than choice IF, though.

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Nuh-huh, you can make parsers in Twine (not recommended but doable, parsers can be made in JavaScript, and Twine accept JavaScript, but its even possible with built-in commands). While Twine is used by a lot of choice-based game, it doesn’t mean you can’t make puzzles in them (I made a literal jigsaw in this one, entering passwords/code is also pretty common, the cycling macros can also make for neat interactive puzzles). Twine is for whatever you want can make with it :stuck_out_tongue:

You can make cool puzzles in both parser and choice-bases/hyperlink form, it just will work and play differently.
I think you have an illusion of freedom in parsers because you can’t see what actions are possible, but it’s much easier in choice-based/hyperlinks game to create diverging paths to resolve a problem :wink:

(ok sorry for the derailment, I agree with all the other points :joy: )

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I would say the puzzles and mechanics can remain the same between YA and adult IF. Puzzles are tricky to write no matter the audience. It really just boils down to the plot and dialog for YA versus adult. If you’re a reader of books, you know the difference between young reader novels, teen novels and adult novels. Write what you know. To be honest, the most fun novels are the YA ones. Many adults enjoy them.

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Just don’t go full Twilight, okay? :wink:

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Never go full Twilight! Twilight 1? Not full Twilight! Twilight spin-offs? Still not full Twilight! The last few Twilight movies? Fair enough, never follow them… :wink:

(This is completely joking, btw)

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My feeling is that the difference between writing for younglings and oldsters boils down to this: kids won’t put up with as much rambling BS as adults will. They require tight plotting and satisfactory story arcs. Successful YA writers have turned this into a formula, but I know kids who are weary of the formula (I know I am and I’ve read YA for decades).So you can and should deviate from said formula, but you still have to plot tightly and write clearly and directly.

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For teen-specific considerations:

  • Teens will almost certainly want to play the game on mobile, even if they have a perfectly decent desktop that they also use for IF. Test your game to make sure it looks good and plays reasonably well on mobile, if possible.

  • There’s more tolerance of having the IF in pieces among teens than older players, so having obvious and frequent “pause points” may be helpful. This doesn’t have to be done in massive highlights - simply having lots of short summaries and puzzles with short components can do the trick.

  • If you’re changing the user interface, change it in ways that teens are likely to be familiar with. Having it resemble browsers, apps common with teenagers or other things teenagers often use is likely to be a good way to go (Twine games often do this).

  • The ability to customise, even in small ways, can be highly pleasing to some teens.

  • Content warnings are appreciated, both to avoid unwanted experiences and find desired ones.

  • Be careful about assuming teens have a particular body of teen-specific knowledge simply because they are teens. It’s the same rule as for adults: specific items of information needed for puzzles are often best distributed in-game, and if not, then at least indicate how to find the information.

  • Teens are often (but far from necessarily) more politically polarised and politically diverse than adults. If your IF touches on political subjects or topics that have been subjected to politicisation, this will need to be considered.

  • Respect the intelligence, savvy and experiences of teens.

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Oh, huh. Never knew you could make parsers in Twine. I haven’t really played any puzzles in Twine (nor parsers) so I just assumed they weren’t very feasible.

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One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of teen-centric IF nowadays tends to be about personal experiences or themes that resonate with the author. Stories about sexuality, gender identity, and queer romance, or with anti-capitalist or anti-religious themes, are especially common, either to create solidarity or give the author a way to process their memories or opinions on a topic.

Teens definitely prefer choice over parser because of the faster pace choice games move. Click an option and you get an entirely new page of text, rather than needing to read to see if your command did anything, and figure out what you have to do now.

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Everyone has good input. I think the focus for YA writing is at no time do you ever want to talk down to the reader. As the popular Wizarding franchise has proven, you can write a great story that appeals to all ages including young-adults. Remember that The Hunger Games with all its dystopian mayhem and violence was originally written for the YA audience.

You can have stakes and emotions the same as any story, but the focus is often how a younger protagonist views and responds to it, and you maintain sensitivity around the more mature themes so they are less directly traumatizing to the reader and more food for thought. Remember how many of us growing up read and watched the Goosebumps series - despite being age appropriate, they often were still terrifying conceptually, if not graphically.

Some suggestions for research:

BPH’s Bell Park/Birdland games feel very tween/YA focused and include LGBTQIA+ themes:

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and here i was thinking i chose a niche topic :sweat_smile:. My lecturer thought it was rare enough and it’s what i know, so i guess i’m sticking to the course! Are there any that stick out to you that i can take a look at?

Good to know that they prefer choice though. I’m still a little baffled that i forgot what teens are capable of and what they prefer when i’m still in my 20’s lol

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Somebody needs to make Neurodivergentmancer! :wink:

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