Interactive fiction and mathematicians

I read long ago that Graham Nelson is a mathematician. I read recently that Jon Ingold is a mathematician. I don’t write IF, but I enjoy it, and I’m also a professional mathematician.

Is there a common trend for IF fans and writers to be involved in mathematics, or vice versa? What other backgrounds do writers have? For instance, Eric Eve is a theologian, I think.

I’m interested to hear your experiences.

It’s unsurprising, I think, to see a relatively large selection of mathematicians in a hobby that involves computer programming and puzzle design – two things where mathematicians have always been clearly present.

I myself am a philosopher, and I know a couple of other people here have a background in philosophy as well, more than you’d statistically expect.

My highest degree is in classics, but I did a minor in physics in college. I think the mix of humanities and STEM interests is not uncommon in the parser IF world.

My first degree was in computer science, with hefty sub chunks of astronomy, mathematics and physics; my next three (to PhD) were in history. I like the mix of logical programming and creativity IF provides. Though I’m more of a player than a writer, with too many unfinished WIPs.

I’m a philosopher with a bit of a math background–I minored in math in college, studied some philosophy of math in grad school, and have done a bit of work in logic. (My Erdos number is 3.)

Anyone going to bring up the Phoenix games?

Oh, wait, I just did.

I don’t have any degree yet, but my major is Computational Linguistics (basically any areas of overlap between computer science and linguistics - includes things like getting machines to understand natural language better). So IF, being effectively based on a human and a computer communicating through natural language, is fascinating.

I’m an author, but when I was in school it was for computer science, and I’ve always had a knack for mathematics.

I have a CS degree but took some advanced math classes as well.

(On the other hand I avoided humanities classes as much as possible and never took a writing class at all.)

I can’t say that the high-end math has ever been applicable to my IF work. (Graph theory, yeah, there’s lots of graph traversal.) But the habit of reading Martin Gardner math-and-puzzle books as a kid is all sorts of relevant.

The only math I had an aptitude for was geometry. I’m more on the philosopher side of things, but math is something that does fascinate me, even if I’m not too hot at it.

I’m the opposite of Zarf - I have a creative writing degree, but I didn’t take CS at all in college, and the only math course I took was biostatistics.

I’ve always had an interest in anything science-y, which resulted in a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology, but not so much math itself. While most of the science majors I went to class with were taking science-related electives, I opted for film. A dichotomy, I think, which explains my interest in IF quite well.


I’m terrible at math. I’m into writing and literature. I have a degree in English.

Was going to do a maths & philosophy degree; ended up doing a straight-philosophy one. (Mostly analytic philosophy, very much the Anglo-American school. The IF programming experience helped an awful lot in formal logic, got so say.)

I have a math degree (computer science minor and emphasis) and a fine arts studies degree (music, media arts, computer science).

I shouldn’t really call myself a mathematician; I don’t do very much maths any more, the only recent exception being this.

No college, but did very well in math and language arts (reading, writing, poetry) in high school. I attribute my interest based on; finding IF at a fairly impressionable age (15-16 years old) when computers were still very new things in schools, and I also spent hours on those little grocery store logic puzzle books as a kid.

I also thought Graham was funny on

I have a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and philosophy.

I went to film school of all things, which I think makes me an outlier in this crowd.

Sequitur, I studied architecture, which is like film in a lot of ways! And Jim Munroe is a filmmaker as well.