Visiting an IF class at UIUC

I had a fun experience yesterday I thought I’d share here. A guy I know here in Champaign-Urbana had been telling me about an Interactive Fiction class he was taking at the university, and a few weeks ago I met the professor, who, it turns out, is Judith Pintar, author of Cosmoserve. Her field is sociology with a specialty in Slavic languages, but she’s still really interested in IF and particularly how it might be used to bring a literature aspect to STEM training. We had a great chat about IF and writing and programming, and she asked if I could talk to her class. So yesterday I spoke for a few hours (probably longer than I’ve ever talked about anything before!) about Lime Ergot and Six Gray Rats, walking through the games on the projector, demonstrating various things and then showing how I coded them, answering a bunch questions (or trying to) about the IF community, where I saw the future of IF headed, about the medium of IF, and what a program to teach middle-schoolers how to program Inform might look like. Of course it was nice to talk to people about my work but more than anything it was cool to suddenly discover there are a bunch of people in my area who are also into IF. The class, which is a pilot class, has about 15 people in it, and she’s designed the class so they are really learning to use Inform–if they’re interested, after this they’ll definitely be able to make games/works of their own.

Edit: I finally found the course description: … /461?sess= . It’s kind of interesting because it looks like this course varies from year to year and I’m sure when they first made the course never imagined that the literary form being studied would be IF!

Very neat! I always love hearing about how stuff like this goes and what approach people are taking to it.

Also, surprised/charmed to hear what Judith Pintar is up to. She was already gone from the scene by the time I arrived in it, and therefore remains one of those figures of mystery.

This is great to hear about! I still think Lime Ergot is my favorite parser game. It’s such a great, compact concept that really uses the format perfectly to deliver the story. You can’t give newcomers to the field a better example than that to study, in my humble opinion.

She said she hadn’t had any IF involvement for quite a while after AGT became obsolete, but for the last few years she’s gotten interested again, teaching Inform to camp kids and now, this course. She also told me about this cross-disciplinary PhD program here ( which includes (so far) one person somewhat interested in studying IF, though more broadly electronic literature in general. I think she’d really like to get more literary/IF people into it somehow. I’m looking into it, and am curious, but I’m not sure a PhD in IF would be practical or even possible for me… It’s intriguing, though.

Thanks! One of the things I talked about was how the time constraint on that really forced me to come up with an idea that allowed for a lot of content and yet was very easy to code. And then I got really lucky that the story I had in mind matched up with the surreal world model so well: I could include lots of props and scenery items to flesh out the world but didn’t have to worry about people trying to manipulate them because they were all out of reach or imaginary! I wish I could come up with ideas like that on purpose.