Is this a fair statement?
If you read or author IF, then you’ve liked video games since adolescence.
I like IF. And also, since my adolescence, I’ve liked video games.
When I was a kid, IF was “video games”
And I liked video games
I’ve played IF since about 1980, and I loved arcades as a child. But from about ages 25-40, I played IF pretty exclusively. I never took to playing graphics games on a computer. When I got an iPad, I took to gaming with a vengeance. The touchscreen is the best invention since IF.
Computer games tend to be a very common interest from childhood for people below the age of 40 who live in wealthy enough parts of the world to have afforded the equipment. The exceptions for anyone I’ve known who had an interest in any form of computer game have been people who couldn’t afford the kit until they were adults.
I think it’s likely that a certain proportion of the people who get into computer games start authoring them eventually, and they tend to enjoy making games like (some of the) ones they enjoy. (Players who would author games but enjoy the sort of games that are too complex for a small number of people to author, tend to author mods and other supplemental materials to the type of games they like). Since a portion of computer gamers like IF, a portion end up authoring. It may be a higher proportion of complete games for IF enthusiasts, because we’re lucky enough that tools exist that are simple enough for 1-2 people to make games in their spare time. Let me tell you, that doesn’t happen for fans of modern life simulators (the other genre I like enough to have created content for).
I first got access to computer games when I was 2, and enjoyed them immediately. Text IF completely passed me by in childhood, though I did my share of grumbling at the first three King’s Quests (“what do you mean, “What’s the matter?” doesn’t make sense to the grandmotherly character in the house?”) I preferred point-and-click adventures (Maniac Mansion!), and a whole bunch of other genres/mediums of computer game over the years. Understanding the idioms of computer games in general makes it easier to think logically through programming issues (and sooner or later, creating IF will involve programming issues).
One of my playtesters has almost never had an interest in video games - he liked playing one specific game on the TRS/80 to understand how it was coded (well after his adolescence), and other than that hadn’t played a single computer game until he play-tested the original beta version of Budacanta. I can’t imagine him jumping up and authoring any IF on the back of that experience, though I’ll let you know if that changes The other three have had a variety of backgrounds regarding computer games, and one of them didn’t get an interest in computer games until adulthood.
My first computer gaming was in 1980 aged 8, including Colossal Cave. Over the next few years I played loads of 8 bit computer games. Adolescence is too late for me, I was hooked way before that.
I think a lot of this depends on how broadly you understand “video games” and how IF relates to that category – on broader formulations, the proposition could be equivalent to “if you read or write chick lit, you’ve liked books since adolescence” (which seems likely to be almost invariably true); on narrower interpretations, though, it could be more like “if you read or write poetry, you’ve liked mass-market fiction since adolescence” (which is still probably the case more likely than not – though I suppose at this point the main question is whether the “since” implies continuous engagement or if being into video games while a teenager suffices without more).
I was also going to make (a less worked-out version of) the same generational point Alianora made while I was writing this, since I think that’s relevant to understanding answers too!
EDIT: oh, and speaking personally, yeah, I got into video games when I was like 8 or 9 – largely Oregon Trail on the school computers though we got a DOS machine that I played mostly graphic adventures and RPGs on. I had glancing encounters with Infocom stuff but didn’t get into IF in a real way until right after college, after the turn of the Millennium.
I will admit I understood “video games” in a broad formulation, in that if it runs on a computer and fits at least one definition of “game” that I’ve heard of, it counts.
This is a great point, and I see what you’re getting at with the examples.
I suppose the question that I’m really interested in is the contrapositive of my own question, which is this:
If you didn’t have an interest in video games since childhood/adolescence, then you don’t read or author IF.
And I think Alianora provided a counter-example already, right?
I think that’s fairly what I was thinking, too. I was thinking: anything that needs a screen. (mobile, tablet, desktop, tv, etc.)
And I tried to formulate the question as “interest in…,” which could encompass the set of people that, say, think about designing video games, but don’t play them currently. I meant to capture the spirit of “presently not interested in video games.”
Yeah, that is an interesting question! Alianora’s counterexample is interesting, as you say, and I suspect there are some academic types who came to IF via like hypertext literature or other stuff that’s less linked to the traditional video game path – would be really interesting to find such people and hear what their experience of IF is like.
I think @DeusIrae has a great point.
I play basically three kinds of video games today: parser IF, NetHack, and retro emulated stuff. I don’t care about games that came out this millennium (really nothing after Doom II). My daughter has gotten me to play Breath of the Wild exactly three times on her Switch.
I hate touchscreens and wish I could have a good keyboard on my phone again.
I hate Microsoft and haven’t used Windows since 2007.
I hate spying, tracking, ads, etc. and refuse to play games in a browser.
Thanks for reminding me about hypertext literature. What do you think the chances are of me finding a group that’s still active nowadays somewhere on the internet?
(Random tangent: You’d think that hypertext games from that era would have made a comeback in the mobile age, right?)
Maybe I misunderstand what y’all mean by “hypertext”. Isn’t that the same thing that came back in Twine, and has now taken over this community under the weird name “choice-based IF”?
I have a reasonably solid idea of how my playtester got interested in IF, although I’m happy to get more details when I next visit. He spent much of his career programming business software, especially payroll. His hobbies were mostly in completely different stuff, although he was always happy to help his friends with technical issues - and liked setting himself small programming challenges. The one he uses the most nowadays is an automated hint device for a specific style of sudoku he likes solving in his newspaper.
Getting into IF via playtesting Budacanta was sort of a combination of the latter two things - helping a friend with a computer technical issue* and it was a category of programming challenge he’d never heard of before. I would be happy to find out what his experience of Budacanta was like when I next see him, but I don’t think he got any sudden urge to start playing computer games of any sort from it…
I think choice-based IF is the descendent of hypertext, although I don’t think the people in those two categories of IF have ever quite reconciled their differences. (It doesn’t help that a lot of people who are in the choice-based IF scene don’t know the hypertext scene ever existed).
Oh, I didn’t consider that. For some reason, I assumed “choice-based” came from CYOA (i.e., traversal via choice list). Or maybe I have the wrong conception of “choice-based,” huh? Is that term meant to imply Twine and/or Choice of Games?
And regarding “hypertext,” my conception was the highly experimental webpage-based IF works that tapered off around 2000, and which did not implement a choice list.
You and I are very different people - I mostly play parser and choice-based IF, Angband, and retro emulated stuff Well, I have a console to play Assassins Creed games, too, since I’m a sucker for history tourism.
That’s a really good question! I feel like there’s still some of that stuff out there – like if you follow Nick Montfort he’s connected to things that at least feel like successors to the hypertext lit movement, but I’m not sure where those communities hang out online.
As Alianora says, they’ve got some similarities in terms of what they look like, but the genealogies and communities are quite distinct. Jimmy Maher has a good introduction, but basically this was writing that had a set of more literary ideals and goals that contrasted with the more populist/entertainment-focused IF tradition (of course there are massive generalities embedded in that statement), with the links not representing specifically-framed choices but highlighting different words and images that linked to each other in an associative, rather than cause-and-effect, relationship.
There’s not much of it around these days, though @kaemi’s Queenlash and Manifest No seem to me to fit into the tradition reasonably well.
A common saw in the software development world is that video games are the gateway drug to learning how to code. That was certainly the case for me.
CYOA contributed to choice-based IF through a different pathway. You are correct to identify that influence and there are certain strands of choice-based IF where it was a bigger influence than hypertext. I think I may have been over-broad in my previous description. Thank you for telling me.
You are correct that hypertext did not implement a choice list. However, early Twine in particular looked to hypertexts for inspiration.
And yes, @jnelson, computer games definitely led to me learning how to code (and, most importantly, to the attempt that succeeded in me learning a programming language)!