Interactive Fiction as History Education

I’ve just played the first act of Lost New York and I already took a historical wikipedia tour. I learned about the anarchist/feminist Emma Goldman, the architect Stanford White, the corrupt Mayor John P. O’Brien, the builder of parks, bridges and highways Robert Moses,…

This is going to be a game to savour, slowly and attentively. The next one in this vein I have waiting is 1893, A World’s Fair Mystery.

Anyone have other deeply historical (and accurate) IF pieces to recommend?

EDIT: right after I posted this question I started having a nagging feeling in the back of my head. I have already posted a poll on IFDB with this exact request.

Historical adventures. - an IFDB Poll


I sort of pivoted my (failed) startup Textfyre 11 years ago to develop games based on 4th-8th grade subjects, including history. I definitely think it would be beneficial to see more such games.


I remember doing some research a year or so ago about the text adventures of Jim Fanning from the 1980s, that he developed to use with his secondary school classes to cover history topics. Sadly, they’re not all currently archived.

There are quite a few, fairly authentic historical adventures in the retro text adventure archives.
e.g. :: CASA :: Annabel Gray


I think the poll has most of the ones I’d recommend (I just added Lost New York since that sounds cool!)

Beyond those, there’s also Song of the Mockingbird, which is action-oriented rather than exploration focused but seems well researched. I think you’ve been following the Jigsaw Let’s Play, but that’s another obvious one (Curses too for that matter, maybe?)

As you well know, The Eleusinian Miseries is scrupulously historical. I also have a couple of WIP that would fall under this category, and I’m hoping to get at least one of them out this year…

EDIT: on the non-IF front and apropos of Lost New York, Emma Goldman is a major character in Ragtime, a very good piece of historical fiction that I think also got turned into a musical; the seminal book on Robert Moses is The Power Broker by Robert Caro, who’s also writing a monumental multi-volume biography of LBJ (the Caro is one volume, but it’s like 1000 pages – riveting throughout, though!)


Gettysburg College English 401: Viking Studies in the Medieval North Atlantic. Scroll down to the headings (not the links) starting with Andreas Ragnarok Cross, then download each of the games. Alternatively, go straight to the download page, but note that many of the games have earlier versions with different file names. You can only download the sample game ‘The Secret of Otter’s Ransom’ by course instructor Christopher Fee from this page.

As these games were written as assignments by students, the quality varies, but each game is based on a real archaeological site or mythology related to the site.


Ooh, this is cool, thanks for posting this!

I just remembered, White is in Ragtime too! Or rather his wife Evelyn Nesbit is, as well as the first of the 20th Century’s many Trials of the Century. Wondering whether the book was one of Lost New York’s inspirations?

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@DeusIrae Oh, yeah. Eleusinian Miseries greatly enhanced my understanding of the comedic shenanigansritual practices of the ancients. They did some funny stuff with stone unmentionables.

I read Ragtime right after I saw the film in my late teens. I remember liking both, but the specifics are very vague now. I should reread the book.

@8bitAG I downloaded Annabel Gray from the BBC archives. It looks interesting, and after playing Rite of the Druid, I have an appetite for more retro games .

@Warrigal I’ll definitely be checking out the archeology games you linked. I have a thing for Viking history, and the titles sound very cool. John Haywood’s Northmen: The Viking Saga 793-1241 AD is a fascinating book about the subject.

Thanks all!


On the history of New York:

-The Island at the Center of the World by Russel Shorto is a fascinating history of the Dutch origins of Manhattan.

-City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling is a historical novel about an English barber and his sister arriving as immigrants in Nieuw Amsterdam. It follows the history of their family for multiple generations. The book recounts much of the early history of Nieuw Amsterdam/New York and the development of medicine and surgery in that period (blood transfusion, breast amputation, abortion, laudanum/morphine,…) Enthralling book, now unfortunately out of print.