The history of interactive fiction


I plan on studying history and I was alway curious about the history of interactive fiction. I noticed that interest in choice driven adventures and particularely text adventures rose a lot in the last years and I am really happy that something that became so niche is becoming popular again.

I am pretty new in the IF world. I have been on this forum for a long time but I never really went outside of it so my knowledge of the domain is really limited and I know we have a lot of veterans here. If any of you wish to share your knowledge of the history of interactive fiction I think it could be something really interesting to discuss.


I’m not very knowledgeable about it, but I first got into reading IF when I discovered R.L. Stiens’ interactive novelettes in the 2000s. I might be wrong, but he could have been the one who started, or at least revived, IF in the 1980s.


It depends on how far back you want to go, and what you consider interactive fiction. I grew up on the original Zork text games (as well as others), and while considered an ‘Adventure Game’ (when Sierra did their first adventure games, it was essentially parser games but with pictures).

Of course, others would say that it really isn’t interactive fiction since there wasn’t much variation…


As far as you want to go! Absolutely all of it interest me. Both choice driven games and text adventures.

I personnally started with R.L Stiens. The special goosebumps were a real blast to read.


I would assume you’d look at book stuff like the Choose Your Own Adventure stories with Edward Packard and the Cave of Time? Those were a tad basic though.


The story about how Queen Elizabeth wanted to see Falstaff in love, leading to Shakespeare writing The Merry Wives of Windsor, always struck me as an early foray into interactive fiction.

I guess you have to be a Queen to make that work, though.


I started with the Fighting Fantasy print game books in the 80’s


The first ever piece of interactive fiction I played was He-Man and the Memory Stone. I still remember not understanding what a “table below” was and thinking it was a tiny piece of furniture I was meant to roll dice on. I didn’t realise it was a chart!

I played a lot of Fighting Fantasy, which I preferred over Choose Your Own Adventure books. (Although I played those too. I also played Hero-Quest gamebooks, and Knightmare. Way of the Tiger (which I loved), and LoneWolf, and likely far too many others.

The first ever text adventure I played was. Unfortunately it was far too difficult and I never got very far on it. I played cover disks with text adventures too. There were quite a few shareware text adventures.

I asked for The Lost Treasures of Infocom for Xmas one year, but other than Moonmist I found them all too difficult to finish. (I did play and replay Moonmist though.)

And of course when I finally got internet access, there were huge piles of interactive fiction there. Very little of which I actually played. The parser always seemed too complex and never my friend and I’d just end up getting frustrated with it. I think I preferred playing MUSHes, which is similar format but interacting with other people.


This is a bit dense (PDF link below to the IF Theory Reader), but as a prospective history student, that shouldn’t deter you. :wink: The chapters specific to the history of IF are saved for last, starting on page 359. Hopefully you will find some valuable information there!


HOLY POOP! Thats a great deal of info. Thousand thanks to you!