I’m looking into organizing an IF club at my university (where I’m an instructor). I’m thinking about having two advisors – one computer science (me) and one English/Creative Writing/Whatnot, but I don’t know any English/Writing types. I’d like to solicit suggestions from you all about what choice-based narrative games would be good for introducing a college professor in one of these fields to IF. I’d imagine something grown up yet accessible, focussing on narrative first. Or if you have other ideas, I’d like to hear them!
Well, I feel like Queenlash would appeal to many literature professors, but it might be a bit much for a first time out.
Harmonia is both well-written and about academia, although whether the latter is more often a plus or a minus for professors I’m not sure. The interactive aspects are very accessible.
The Absence of Miriam Lane is a well-regarded recent game that felt pretty literary to me. In the back half of the game I did sometimes find it hard to figure out what I should be doing gameplay-wise, but that might just have been me.
The Spectators is excellent and also based on a commonly taught poem, which could possibly intrigue professors with the potential for New Ways for Students to Engage with Literature, but it is parser-based, which is less accessible.
Photopia comes up a lot in discussions like these. I didn’t personally love it, but a lot of people do. It is also parser-based, but heavily involves menu-based conversation, which makes it a bit easier to get into.
There’s also Emily Short—most of the games of hers that I particularly like are parser-based, but Bee or First Draft of the Revolution could work.
I could probably come up with more suggestions if I kept poking through my IFDB history, but I don’t have time at the moment—maybe later.
Choice of Games seems to be positioned as literary product, especially with their high word count.
Second this times one hundred - it’s got very impressive prose, compelling themes, and I think relates well to the literary hypertext movement if they’re familiar with that. It might not be that accessible to most audiences, but a Lit prof is probably a special case.
(I think the rest of these suggestions are good too but especially wanted to single Queenlash out!)
New Years Eve, 2019 has a Bildungsroman-y feel and is a little more systematic in its interactions than some of these others, which could be a nice introduction to that side of IF (especially since there aren’t puzzles or fail states or anything like that).
The Best Man might be a good choice too - it’s got lovely writing and uses a lot of literary fiction tropes.
January is gorgeously written and elevates a more traditional genre scenario into something literary. It also uses choice in a gentle way (choosing which order to read passages) that might be good for a newcomer to IF.
Computerfriend is another easy recommendation for folks who like fractured, postmodern narratives (that are actually well written!). Some indelible images in that one.
Per your post it sounds like you’re only interested in choice stuff but if you want some parser games also I could add a few of those as well!
Maybe Will Not Let Me Go by Stephen Granade.
Seconding Photopia + thirding Queenslash (and very pleased to be mentioned alongside them). For someone unfamiliar with IF, I might suggest The Fall of Asemia - it felt familiar to me as a creative writing exercise.
I took an interactive fiction course in undergrad, and the syllabus was curated by an English professor. Among that list of games, the free ones were:
Counterfeit Monkey by Emily Short
Creatures Such As We by Lynnea Glasser
Queers In Love at the End of the World by Anna Anthropy
Save the Date! by Chris Cornell - this one is more focused on commentary around game mechanics and meta-/ludonarrative stuff, though
With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine
This was in 2019-2020, so no games from the last few years could be represented. Incidentally, I wrote we, the remainder for that class, if you need an example of what kind of IF students could produce.
Really, nobody is going to suggest Violet (parser)?
I haven’t played it yet, but The Anachronist is supposed to be a literary/academic game (it’s also by a professor).
A lot of Victor Gijsbers’ works might fit.
Castle, Forest, Island, Sea is an academic philosophy game.
Solarium and We Are the Firewall by Anya DeNiro are both pretty literary (imo) and really good.
This might be a bit out there if they have staid tastes, but I will always recommend SPY INTRIGUE. howling dogs too.
I’d agree with the Creatures Such as We suggestion, and I’d add two games from Inkle Studios, 80 Days and Overboard!
By the way, I happen to be an English/Writing college professor.
For the ”canon” of IF I guess you cannot do much better than AMFV and Trinity, if parser games are ok.
Cactus Blue Motel captures the angst of becoming an adult in a beautifully surreal story about a road trip with friends.
This was the game that helped me to realize the potential of non-parser IF.
You might well find that some of the lit profs already know about IF and have favorites of their own.
I haven’t played “80 Days” but would guess this remarkable game fills a similar niche “1893: A World’s Fair Mystery”
They’re really not related at all.
I would include Bronze by Emily Short.
Bronze does several things well that many aspiring creative writers struggle with: setting, mood, pacing, and brevity. I have always enjoyed Emily Short’s works for her prose (above all else), although she has arguably demonstrated great technical prowess as a programmer.
I straddle both worlds, myself. I started my college career as an English major with an interest in Creative Writing, then shifted my focus to programming and information systems. Whenever I think about games I’d like to introduce to writers, Bronze is always at the top of my list.