Early Interactive Fiction: Narrative, Collaboration & Immersion

by Roz Foster | a Ruelle Electrique Reprint

mysteryHouseCorpseBWhen I was ten, my reader’s imagination helped to immerse me in the text-driven Mystery House (Sierra On-Line, 1980).  In spite of Roberta Williams’s masterful stick drawings, her words helped me to visualize richly rendered graphics of my own.  As a result, I felt more connected to this interactive fiction game than to graphical action games.

All I needed was that blip of glowing, command line text that shot up from the bottom of my screen telling me that I’d just accidentally started a fire in the dining room, that the basement was moist and covered with algae, or that there was a dead body in the yard—a daisy in his hand.  I constructed the details in my mind’s eye, along with a kind of holographic map of the house’s nooks and crannies, its secret passages and rooms, and the thick pine forest that surrounded it.

Roberta Williams’s crude, arbitrarily three-toned line graphics helped the narrative in a kind of diagrammatic way, but it was really the words themselves—the written plot, the textual thread of the narrative—that I found riveting.  Later, when I played the text-based interactive fiction game Zork (Infocom, 1979), I was delighted and terrified by the line: “It is pitch black.  You are likely to be eaten by a grue.” I didn’t know what a grue was—but it was shadowy and slick and mouthless in my mind—it was the living dark.  Read the rest of this piece….

This was a Ruelle Electrique Reprint and was originally published at Glopilot.


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