Twisty Little Passages - Nick Montfort

I've been playing a fair chunk of interactive fiction (er, text adventures) recently, so I finally decided to buy Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction, which has been kicking about my wishlist for a while. Oddly (and irritatingly) enough, it appeared in the local charity shop just after my copy arrived! Ho hum. Someone nearby has decent taste, at any rate.

It's an interesting book, attempting to put interactive fiction on some kind of decent academic footing (you can tell this due to the pun on 'Passages' in the title). Apparently interactive fiction is looked down upon by the practitioners of hypertext fiction, perhaps because hypertext fiction is, as far as I can tell, a purely academic exercise. So, the first part of the book is his thesis that interactive fiction, being both puzzley and literate, are best thought of as the descendant of the riddle (rather than just puzzles plus story). This does appeal to me, if only to explain why quite so many text adventures pun and otherwise play with words. It's a comparison that is growing on me.

The rest of the book is a potted history of interactive fiction, starting with Adventure, passing through Infocom and the commercial years, and then covering post-commercial developments. Clearly not every piece of IF of merit can be discussed in depth, but many interesting ones are at least named, and a decent number discussed in varying depth. I personally think it's perhaps weighted a little too much towards the early days, at the expense of later stuff, but there you go. I can't really complain.

Taking its academic credentials seriously, it has a decent bibliography, both of other works about IF (including plenty of internet-accessible material), and also of the games themselves. The latter looks like it will be a very tempting time drain for the foreseeable future, as I work through thirty-something years of IF history!

Posted 2013-06-14.