> Unconventional Parser < Movements

This thread is prompted because of this message in the chat:

I keep seeing the thread title " Unconventional Parser Movement"–which is a perfectly fine title–but my brain keeps wanting to interpret it as a Movement in the art form of IF. A Movement of unconventional parser games.

So now I can’t stop thinking and wondering whether there are Movements in Parser like you would see in art, and if so, what would they be/how are they named. And what parsers could be considered unconventional. Or if there was a movement of unconventional parsers…

PS: I have not played enough parsers nor know enough about Parser History to assess whether this is a dumb question or not :joy:
I’m going to take a guess that it probably is, and the answer was probably covered in the 50 years of IF book…


I don’t think it’s a dumb question at all - I’d say there have definitely been many different movements in parser games but not many attempts to formalize or trace them (Rosebush article, anyone?). Historically, there was the initial Infocom-midwifed movement towards “interactive fiction”, which started to integrate gameplay and theme in a more or less self-consciously literary way; the movement towards shorter games in the mid 90s amateur community due to the Comp; a turn towards, and then a turn away from, “mimesis” as a reality-mimicking ideal; and the legion of post-Photopia games dialing down puzzles and dialing up serious themes. There’s also been a secular trend towards more characterized PCs.

Those are just the ones that became more or less mainstream - there are definitely trends that have bubbled along outside that mainstream, though distinguishing between a subgenre and a movement can be difficult. In terms of current movements, the ones that jump out to me the most are the rise of limited parser games (they’ve got deep roots but have definitely increased in prominence over the past decade) and a turn towards the confessional (faux or real memoir games - there aren’t as many of these but things like And Then You Come to a House and Repeat the Ending feel like a mini-trend to me; Sting could be included too).

Both of those strike me as in some ways a response to, if not hybridization with, choice-based games as those have come into greater prominence. Contrarily, I also think there’s a retro movement that’s always been part of the scene but maybe could be seen as a response in the opposite way (not that the retro stuff I’ve seen is invariably backwards-looking; some games try very hard to adopt the exact trappings and experience of playing an old school game, but others focus on a core set of design principles that are throwbacks to a different time, but are happy to iterate in them).

Anyway this leaves a ton out - I wasn’t active in the community from the late aughts through late teens, so that whole era is pretty much a blank for me. And it’s very much a view from the Comp-centric “IF community” side of things; there are other IF communities out there, some of them quite big, who’ve experienced different trends. But I think this is an interesting topic so figured I’d throw some thoughts out!


There are movements on the choice side of the tracks as well. For example, in the last few years we’ve seen an increasing number of choice titles borrowing traditional parser conventions, like the world model, or an inventory system. The Bones of Rosalinda come to mind.


I was thinking it’d be interesting as well to get a sense of unconventional choice movements (these Rosebush pitches just keep coming lol).


You might be interested in this talk by Emily Short which presents a parser art history.


I hadn’t seen this talk! This has now been added to the Theory page on ifwiki, in the history section.

It is now on the History page on ifwiki.


Yeah, at first we were all about accurate simluations of tying ropes to each other. Then a few minutes later we were all like, ‘Rope-tying, schmope-tying!’

I reckon @mathbrush is bringing back the rope. His rope code was actually lagging his WIP: Debugging game slowdowns - #9 by mathbrush