What do you guys consider Non-IF games

Hello new user here.

I just had a burning question i needed answers to. When do you guys personally consider a game to be Non-IF. Does the game need to be centered around text? What if the game uses images rather than text? How about video? Is interactive film a part of the IF banner? Where do you guys draw the line?

Sorry for the questions, I starting out and I don’t wanna make any mistakes.

Thank you for any replies!!

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I like to think that Interactive Fiction is about story which can be done with text, or can be done with graphics, narration, FMV, and gameplay. I believe most people tend to eliminate physically challenging gameplay from the definition of IF, but many mature mainstream games incorporate interactive fiction elements along with challenging gameplay. I think text is an effective element, but isn’t specifically required.

I’ve watched plays of Control and I think that’s an amazing fictional world you explore interactively through gameplay, combat, exploration, narration, and text. In my book it is “interactive fiction” but it isn’t just that.

Also in The Witness barely a word is spoken or spelled out, but it it’s a fictional world and story you interact with and discover by finding and completing mazes.


Puzzles with no plot (like crosswords), graphics with no text. It’s possible to do point-and-click adventure or FMV in Twine, but that won’t be IF in my opinion.

There are games with IF elements like dialogue sections and plot choices and there are games with graphic elements, so the rule of thumb is if the game can “work” without these elements.

I don’t usually find it necessary to draw a line! I’m a pretty dedicated Wittgensteinian about these sorts of definitions–I don’t think that there’s a definition that can capture our idea of interactive fiction, or that it’s a static idea, but that games can be like interactive fiction because they’re like other games that are interactive fiction that are like other games that are interactive fiction… and so on. Which sometimes does include just being made with IF tools.

There’ve been IF games without real story… and even some without text, I’m thinking of a Porpentine game that was all emoji but I think that’s no longer available. It feels like there’s been a bit more of a merger of visual novels with IF recently; someone could submit a VN to IFComp now, I think, where in 2005 or earlier they would’ve faced a lot of skepticism. Etc.

…that doesn’t mean I think everything is IF though. Blow’s Witness I think isn’t IF, in that it’s a graphic game of exploring and doing a certain kind of puzzle, and more closely related to the point-and-click and puzzle genres than to IF. (And maybe less like IF than a lot of point-and-clicks.) Knytt Underground is on my short list of favorite narrative games but it’s a platformer for sure. Kentucky Route Zero is more of a borderline case–it’s point-and-click but doesn’t have the kind of puzzles a lot of point-and-clicks do, and it has a lot more text-style choices that resemble a lot of recent IF.

As for worrying about making mistakes–don’t worry, make what you want! If you make interactive film or something and it’s good, few people will worry that it’s not IF, and it’ll be perfectly appropriate to discuss here. Sam Barlow’s Her Story is FMV with text-based interaction, and people in the IF world are interested in it, while the question of whether it’s IF is not very interesting to me. (Maybe it helps that Barlow wrote a classic work of IF way back when…) You’ll find people talking about Bandersnatch and it even has an IFDb entry, and it was mocked up in Twine (though I think the final product runs on something else).

For what it’s worth my seven-year-old daughter told me she watched Minecraft: Story Mode and I said that she could even say she played it, and she said, “No. I watched it. If it’s on Netflix you watch it, you don’t play it.” So there’s a possible definition for you.


To me, IF is any work of fiction where you enter text to obtain text. Once you replace either the text input or the text output with graphics, it becomes something else. For example, Zork is obviously IF but Maniac Mansion is an “adventure” (sometimes “point-and-click”) game.

It’s just how I think about it. I’m not pressing any sort of an agenda here.


I think classification has to serve some purpose. For me, I find that I enjoy games the most when they are story-based, don’t involve real-time elements, and contain most of their information in text (a lot like MTW’s description of ‘enter text to get text’). So that’s what I think of as IF, because that’s what I enjoy.

But if someone says Her Story is IF, who am I to disagree? It’s literally fiction that’s interactive, and if it had captions, you could regard the whole thing as text-based. But I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t tried it, because interactive video doesn’t interest me as a storytelling medium.

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I was a skeptic of FMV until seeing Her Story and a playthrough of Shapeshifting Detective where I think they figured out how to do live video right - …Doctor Dekker was darn close.

Also, Bandersnatch, which I loved without remorse despite issues it had.

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Classification is a tricky thing. Some roguelikes would meet all those criteria (though many others aren’t story-based, or only use graphical tiles).

(a lot like MTW’s description of ‘enter text to get text’).

The “enter text” thing here actually seems more on point for parser IF. Using vimkeys to walk around isn’t “entering text” any more than WASD to run around in an FPS. So this would rule roguelikes out, but then it’d also rule out Twine games…

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I like this formulation. It might still need a footnote to deal with ASCII art games like Candy Box, which I would not call IF despite all the output being “text” in a sense. On the other hand, I think A Dark Room is perfectly good IF, even though it has real-time gameplay and RPG elements.

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I tend to agree with Matt that this is a case of family resemblance, and therefore wouldn’t attempt a watertight definition with necessary and sufficient conditions.

But generally speaking, I consider IF to be a form of game (or work of interactive literature) where the primary means of communication and interaction with the players/readers is text. The players get a textual description of a situation, and they interact by typing in commands (in parser-based IF) or by choosing one of several options (in choice-based/CYOA-style IF).
There might be graphics to enhance the experience, but they are not essential.

(When I say “textual description”, I mean that the situation is described by words as it would be in a novel, for example.
This is in contrast to being “depicted”, for lack of a better word, which is what the typical ASCII roguelikes do: they depict a situation by means of text in lieu of graphical symbols - usually even single letters, not words.)

@6f : If you browse the IF Wiki, the IFDB, and the IF Competition site, you can get a fairly good idea what interactive fiction (in this community’s sense of the term) typically looks like.
This is not meant to imply that everything else is thereby automatically non-IF, just that those comprise the paradigm cases.

And, as Matt also said, I think you don’t need to worry much regarding community interaction.
When you’re in the position of looking at other people’s projects, just keep an open mind and don’t dismiss anything out of hand as “non-IF, therefore not worth a second look”.
When you’re in the position of talking about your own projects and you’re in serious doubt, maybe try to concentrate on those aspects that your project has in common with various forms of IF. There can be worthwhile discussions about puzzles, game design, writing techniques, narrative structure, pacing, player engagement, and whatever else, even if your project is not a typical case of IF. Maybe it’s an interesting hybrid that brings together the best of several genres/worlds, who knows.
(And if you feel it would, after all, be off-topic, then there’s still the off-topic section of the forum.)

Have fun, and welcome to the community! :slightly_smiling_face:

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It’s interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts!

I do include Twine and Choicescript in my “stuff I like” bin, as choosing between text is a way of “entering text”.

I guess what I like the most is that you can stop at any point whatsoever without repercussions, and you can go at your own pace. If you want to replay a part quickly, you can type or click at lightning speed. If someone needs to speak with you, you can drop what you’re doing right away.

Video and even Twine with text delays messes up both those things, which is why I don’t like either one. But having static images doesn’t mess with either thing, so I love them.

I’m quite fond of my Inform6 reimplementation of robotfindskitten. If it can be compared with anything, it’s vaguely similar to a roguelike.

My extremely naive demarcation is probably the following criteria no one of which is dispositive:

  • story-driven
  • not real time
  • role playing elements where non-strategic decisions are given weight
  • no physical challenges (IE coordination or timing)

I would consider Myst interactive fiction, though it’s not really “story-driven” in the traditional sense simply because the game conspires to make you, the player, feel like you, the character.

I would not consider Starcraft interactive fiction because the choices I’m called on to make are largely or entirely strategic (what’s the optimum choice) rather than personal (what would I, a pirate king/child wizard/sculptor, do in this situation)

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I like it when people try to define IF - gives me rules to try and break in clever ways.

well I can already think of semi-exceptions to my list. papers please has a skill/coordination component that nearly overwhelms the story component but is definitely interactive fiction.