I’ve been thinking about the side discussion regarding “oldschool” versus “newschool” IF philosophies in the thread about static objects.
In that thread, Peter Pears cautioned against the emphasis of IF promotion being too “newschool,” I think. I’m sure he’s right that obsessing over the similarities between IF and static fiction – promoting it basically as fiction with the niche hook of interactivity – misses the bigger picture and could falsely characterize IF. I wrote an article for Yahoo Voices a few weeks back, and that is the way I characterized IF there. I don’t really think I was wrong to do so, because I was deliberately writing for that angle – for people who are primarily readers of static fiction but who might want to connect more deeply with their fiction in ways that IF might be able to provide. The more important issue is the old debate over whether IF works are games first, or stories first.
I’m thinking it shouldn’t matter whether or not we call it a story or a game. Playing games creates storytelling. Games may not be stories in and of themselves, but their rules define environments where stories are created during play. Chess is not a story, but an individual game of chess suggests elements of story about archetypical Western icons for warfare and nobility. Baseball is not a story, but the players of the opposing teams create a story when they play, and when that story is told through media (such as by the classic radio announcer), it acquires a narrative.
Photopia has been upheld as the standard for “newschool” IF, but Photopia feels very oldschool to me. I’m 22. I never lived through the command line age. When I first started playing IF, games modeled after Photopia were common. If anything, I think we’ve found more ways to include puzzles and interactivity. I doubt we’ve gone back to the true oldschool style, but I’m skeptical that we’re still in the linear, artistic story era.
Reviews of Photopia that I’ve read long after the original discussions remarked at the novelty of an interactive fiction work that was not really a “game” in any significant sense. I think it is no longer relevant to say that a “newschool” IF is not a game. I think we should be able to bridge the gap between story and game. I think the creation of the story by the process of playing the game is part of the essence of IF.