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Friday, July 17, 2009
A History Of Interactive Fiction
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Adventure Classic Gaming has published a new interview with Interactive Fiction historian Jimmy Maher. The Q&A format interview covers the history of text based computer games with discussions of early efforts in the genre, high points like many of Infocom's contributions, and the decline of commercial interactive fiction.

You've made it clear that you consider Trinity to be Infocom's finest hour. What are your other personal favorite Infocom games?
Youíre giving me license to shine a spotlight on Infocomís most under-appreciated games, and Iím not going to pass up the chance.

Enchanter (by David Lebling and Marc Blank) -- I've always enjoyed solving puzzles through magic spells, a mechanic Enchanter introduced. Add to that some great (generally) light-hearted writing, some of the best puzzles Infocom ever put together, a difficulty level that is just about perfect (for me, anyway), and a certain impossibly cute little turtle and you have a recipe for FUN! FUN! FUN! I don't even mind the hunger and sleep puzzles.
Ballyhoo (by Jeff O'Neill) -- This game rarely gets mentioned in discussions of Infocom's best, but I've always loved the atmosphere of its run-down, seedy circus, and the smile-through-tears quality that oozes from every line of its writing. No one else in computer games was writing in such a sophisticated way in 1985 -- and for the most part no one is today either.

Bureaucracy (by just about everyone at Infocom, with a little help from Douglas Adams) -- The story of this game's making is an epic in itself. More remarkable is that it came out so well. This is Infocom's only contemporary social satire, loaded with great jabs at the inanities of everyday life in the era of Reagan and Thatcher.

Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Heads or Tails of It (by Jeff O'Neill) -- O'Neill wrote just two games for Infocom, and they both appear on this list, qualifying him easily for the title of Most Underrated IF Author (at least in my eyes). Nord and Bert is a collection of mini-games that all revolve around wordplay. The player's interactions with the parser are the focus of the game, rather than just a means to communicate actions within the storyworld. Nord and Bert is of immense theoretical interest, totally unique in Infocom's catalog, and most of all just great fun. Perhaps more than any other, this is the game that makes me think that Infocom was selling to the wrong market entirely, and to wonder where they could have gone if they could have found a way to draw the attention of readers as opposed to the conventional gamers who just shrugged at Nord and Bert and returned to killing virtual orcs.

With exception of Enchanter, these games are all rather idiosyncratic favorites that seldom appear on lists of the "Best of Infocom." I hope this list begins to illustrate the depth and richness of the Infocom catalog beyond the half-dozen or so huge sellers they are commonly remembered for.
Read the entire article at the link provided below.

Adventure Classic Gaming: Interactive Fiction History

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