IF story idea

I have an idea and I am not sure if it should be a written story or an IF. It could go either way.

What if a computer programmer was sick, like with cancer, and wanted to make an IF about himself for his kids to get advice and so on after he dies.

I’m thinking, if this was IF, it could have cut scenes where the programmer is at the doctors office or writing the game, etc, then bits where the player is actually playing the “game”.

What do you think, IF or story?

Likely to work better as IF, I suspect. Straight prose about IF is likely to be kind of like novels about music, or movies about mathematics: the thing you most want to show your audience is not very well-suited to the medium. (Okay, IF and straight prose are a lot more mutually intelligible than the examples above. But you see my point.)

(If I was doing this, I’d want to eliminate as much of the frame-story as possible, and let the details emerge from the game-in-the-game. But I’m not, so I should shut my yap.)

It reminds me very much of the play “An Imaginary Life” by Peter Parnell.

A playwright had cancer and used it as inspiration to write a play in which he didn’t. The reader/viewer is treated to real life and imaginary life in alternating sequences that confuse and amuse.

Your idea sounds like a very good idea that, in these lines, should belong to IF.

Also, for inspiration at some levels I reccommend Deadline Enchanter. For concept, not for story, naturally.

If a computer programmer was very sick, I would say, “God bless you and good luck with your treatment! Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Or if he or she didn’t believe in God or prayers, I’d say “Be at peace. We’ll send some good vibes your way.”

Sounds like a great project. Good luck with it! Reminds me of Cameron Duncan:


I’ve seen shows about sick people who made videos for their children. I just thought… well, what if it was a programmer? If it was me, would I want static videos, or would I want to write something that really represented me?

You’d be in good company - you might know that Will Crowther wrote the original Adventure for his kids, who became the world’s first players of interactive fiction!

OK this brings up a question. Should the game be completely fiction, or should it be about myself (except the dying part, I don’t have cancer). I don’t know, seems awful personal and potentially identity-theftish.

I suppose this was the elephant in the room. Glad you’re not sick, man. Before you clarified that, this looked like a very sad and depressing thread.

LOL. Reminds me of an Ann Rice press conference where she actually announced she is not a vampire, she’s a writer of fiction.

Wow, I hadn’t read that subtext at all. I hope I’m just distracted and absent minded, the alternative is a level of unsensitivity I’m not comfortable with.

Unless you are planning to put in your social security number, I would’t worry about identity theft. How autobiographical you should go – that is a good question. In static fiction, autobiography is very popular; in IF, not so much, but that might be a reason to try it out. Whether you feel comfortable with it is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. (And of course, no reader will ever know which parts of the game are fiction and which are autobiographical, so that may make it less threatening.)

Also not sure how you can steal your own identity.

Uhm, I think he means that writing an autobiographical story might make it easier for other people to steal his identity. (Though “the man who stole his own identity” would be a terrific premisse for a story inspired by Borges or Calvino.)

I think I’ll make it semi-autobiographical but with the names changed.

I don’t know if this is what duodave meant, but if you write something fairly autobiographical you might worry about stealing the identities of those around you. (Alice Munro has at least two great stories about this, “Family Furnishings” and “Material.” You should really be reading some Alice Munro stories instead of doing whatever it is you’re doing, which, I happen to know, is reading this post.)

Those cut scenes at the doctor’s office sound like they would be pretty powerful and groundbreaking if done interactively – are you sure they need to be cut scenes for your idea to work? Why not make both the framing story and the story within interactive? There is no need to abandon the IF toolbox just because you want a framing story. When a prose novelist writes a framing story, it’s still just prose. When a filmmaker creates a framing story, it’s still film. Anyway, just something to consider.


I wouldn’t do it. I don’t think the children would be very impressed with such a crude simulation of your life; to make it truly real, you’d have to spend all your life programming the parser. If you did that, then it might be a better game than the life you lived, which would be ironic.

But seriously, it’s a pretty vain thing to do as well.

Vain, eh? I don’t know about that.

Look at it from the other direction. I don’t know you, but let’s say you had a loved one die when you were young, or maybe even before you were born. If you had the opportunity to say, read a book or even letters written by that person, wouldn’t you treasure that experience?

There’s many people that do in fact make video messages to their kids or grandkids for whatever reason. Are you saying that’s vain?

As for the parser, certainly it wouldn’t have to be a comprehensive game. A few scenes would set the mood and idea. I’m thinking sort of along the lines of the way “A Christmas Carol” flows.

I think perhaps you read too much into the idea.

If it were me, the idea of writing a story (IF or otherwise) which is based generally on my own life but in which the protagonist is dying of cancer sort of gives me the creeps. Maybe I’m just superstitious – it’s like giving fate the raspberry.

Robert Rothman

Don’t listen to the naysayers, Dave. It isn’t vain. It isn’t creepy. I think it’s interesting and creative and has the potential for saying something deeper about the human spirit than 99% of the games I’ve played.

What if someone had told Dostoyeski before he wrote Notes from Underground, ‘That’s creepy and vain.’ Should he have listened?

Sometimes I find the IF community to be oddly cloistered in their view of art. This is the 21st Century: everything is possible. We don’t need to be so conservative and we don’t need to take our literary criticism cues from Aristotle.