RAIF FAQ > General Interactive Fiction information > 3.1: What is interactive fiction?

3.1: What is interactive fiction?

"Interactive fiction" is a catch-all name for many forms of story-telling. Most forms are text-based (but see below) and feature some degree of reader, or player, participation beyond the act of, say, turning the page of a book to read the next one.

In the context of rec.arts.int-fiction the name is most commonly used to refer to just one type: computer-based text adventures. These games involve the player entering textual commands in response to the game's output. In turn, this output is influenced by the player's input. An extremely simple example of this interplay between player input and game output (from "Zork") is:

West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.

Opening the small mailbox reveals a leaflet.



ZORK is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortals. No computer should be without one!"

Although interactive fiction, in the sense of text adventures, is usually text-only, there has always been limited interest on rec.arts.int-fiction in graphics and sound. It is widely considered that the most important, if not the defining, element of interactive fiction is the text-based user interface and the parser (that part of the program which analyzes and acts upon the player's input), and as long as this is kept there is no particular reason why the game's output cannot include, or consist entirely of, graphics (static or animated) and/or sound. A not insignificant number of "purists" would refute this, however. Recent updates to the major IF languages have simplified creation of graphical and aural IF.

"Interactive fiction" is also used to refer to (Web-based) hyperfiction, where the reader selects links to progress though the story; "Choose Your Own Adventure" (CYOA) books, which are a sort of non-computer hyperfiction; multiple author, or contributory, fiction, where multiple authors write a story by each contributing, say, one chapter; and MUDs and MUSHes, which may loosely be described as multi-player text adventures. It has also been suggested that Role Playing Games (RPGs), such as "Dungeons & Dragons", present the ultimate in interactive fiction.

Interactive movies have also been mentioned on the newsgroup from time to time. This is a rather poorly defined genre of film-making. Interactive movies seem to be the cinematic equivalent of CYOA books, rather than text adventures.

Though the non-text adventure forms of IF are rarely discussed on the group, one must always keep in mind that the group was created (by famous Mac guru Adam C. Engst, circa 1986) without the intention of text adventures in mind. Though you may not, many people enjoy discussion of non-text adventure IF on the newsgroup, and so flaming newcomers with a "that's not what raif is for!" is not a good idea.

RAIF FAQ > General Interactive Fiction information > 3.1: What is interactive fiction?