Parser vs PC vs player

In parser-based IF, how do you think of the relations between the parser, the player character and the player?

Should the player refer to the player character as “me” or “you”? Is the player sitting inside the head of the PC, or is the player a different person, telling the PC what to do?

Should the parser/game have a voice as if it’s a living entity in its own right, referring to itself as “I” and the player or the PC as “you” (i.e. “That would be dangerous. I can’t let you do that.”) or should the parser/game talk like it’s a part of the player or PC (i.e. “I think that’s too dangerous. I won’t do that.”)? Or keep some general voice where it’s external to the player/PC but never refers to itself (i.e. “You can’t do that.”)?

I realize some games do it this way, others do it that way etc, but I’m asking what feels the most natural to you, and thus (?) gets the least in the way of immersion.


Personally, I don’t have strong feelings about it as long as it seems to fit what the game is trying to do. But I know other people are more sensitive to certain things…

I’m guessing you’ve probably seen the triangle of identities chapter (player, protagonist, narrator) in the Inform Designer’s Manual?


I personally find the “you” of the parser habitual and inconspicuous, so I don’t get up in my head about wondering who’s speaking to the player unless a game plays with that idea on purpose. (As you mention, I have a slight preference for avoiding the parser’s “I” where possible, though never to the point where I’ve actually gone as far as overriding its generic “I didn’t understand that sentence”.)

“I think that’s too dangerous. I won’t do that.” is distracting and obtrusive to me.

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I personally feel drawn to games that make you feel like you are the protagonist and the parser is a third person that acts as a consultant, even being able to warn you from harm or refuse doing something stupid. That’s how I do it in my games. But one needs to consider that there’s just a thin line between taking someone by the hand or destroying the feeling of freedom in the microcosmos of a text adventure / IF piece. With that concept in mind it is absolutely okay for the parser to refer to himself as “I” but I am not forcing it and when looking at the code of my current work in progress projects, it almost feels like I unconsciously avoided this form of expression.

Generally I do think there is no ultimate answer to this. We are all different and what might work for me could fail to build up immersion for someone else.

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Yeah. You might have a style or philosophy and make every game that way. Or you might decide the voice and person on a game-by-game basis.

In answer to the original question, I don’t think anything’s the most universally natural-feeling. Whether the choices made feel natural will come down to whether they work in the case of the particular game. Second person in general has the longest tradition in IF for a range of technological and cultural reasons. I’d say the use of first person has increased in line with the advance of technology allowing us to traffic in the larger amounts of text that lend themselves to create characters by inner monologue, and so create more characterisation-heavy IF.



Personification of the parser is a stylistic choice. Sometimes it can be a character (see VIOLET), or it may just be a dry report of the player’s actions. Some people do not enjoy default parser snark “You jump on the spot, fruitlessly.” and will alter the messages accordingly.

It’s possible to rewrite all the library messages to avoid the 2nd person “you” - again as a stylistic choice, such as changing “You open the red door.” to something like “The red door is now open.” I think there’s an extension called “Neutral Library Messages” that did this, but now I7 makes it easier through the index to change default responses.

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