Why isn’t Interactive Fiction more popular?

This is a question that I have never been able to really find the answer to.

You would think that being able to influence and effect a story that you reading and are very invested in would be more mainstream, and yet it isn’t.

Anyone have any ideas why the more traditional on-rails novel with a fixed end and zero choice is more popular?


There are plenty of mainstream interactive fiction games that saw commercial success, like Until Dawn, Mass Effect, and any David Cage game (regardless of poor quality). Plus, we’re starting to see more choices popping up even in linear games.


Pretty sure the CoG/HG type of games are still more in the indie-zone. Also it seems to me that many people are just too lazy to read so rather that they’d play games which doesn’t require for them to imagine what they read since they already see how things look like as they play.


Many people skip over the text until they reach the choices – this is surprising to me but I guess some people just want to see the choices and act on them without reading the rest of the words.


Honestly, that is so weird to me. How will you ever know what effect your choices have if you don’t read the text?


I don’t get it either but it is something I see a lot in testing/betas of interactive fiction. I even did an informal survey of a couple of gamer guilds I have ties to and it holds true for them as well.


Yeah, even my little brother does it. To this day it seems that the only game he’s actually read is Choice of Robots, and according to him it’s a necessity because of how much the choices affect the story, but I…still don’t(???) understand???

All choices affect all the stories??? [confused sobbing]


That’s like really upsetting to me as an author. So much work goes into the text outside the choices. It’s the meat of the story.


I’m trying to take the view that it means my choice body text needs to be that much better - so I am actually spending extra time on each set.


I’ll just put an all caps paragraph as you boot up the game, “READ THE GODDAMN TEXT YOU ILLITERATE BREED OF MAMMAL.”

Maybe put it on every other choice too :thinking:


Hide a keyword in the text between choices. You have to enter the correct code to proceed or it sends you back to just after your previous choice and tells you to read it properly this time :laughing:

On a more serious note though, I have heard people saying they skim the text between choices and I suspect it happens more often than we think. (You see reviews posted from time to time like “this game was over in like 15mins!” Which either means they’re a speedreading champion or focusing mainly on the choice sections. Hey, whatever makes someone happy.)

Edit: Oh yeah- increasing computer graphics and processing “killed” IF’s rise to power (or evolved from if you look at it that way). If you look at the 80’s games, lots of them were text based, but that has gone by the wayside in favour of things that are prettier to look at and play more like movies. (Probably much in the same way that the average person would spend more time watching TV/movies than reading a book these days as well.) As for IF books (like CYOA) most people seem to be of the opinion that they’re “just for kids”. The agency and focus is also different for traditional books. IF tends to be more of a game-book hybrid that will appeal to some but not as much to others when compared to a traditional novel.


If I’ve played a game before, I’ll sometimes skip writing if it’s something I already read. But skipping new stuff… that just stresses me out lol.


Damn it, you found my secret.

Admittedly, I do this a lot, mostly because I’m a fast reader but also because I look at interactive fiction as first and foremost a game; Meaning, I want to achieve the best ending, irrespective of story. I do obviously make sure I read things when it comes to romance and stats, but once I figure out what I’m aiming for with my playthrough, I just have that intuitive ability to guess what to do without fully reading scenes leading up to those choices. Admittedly, I’m lucky most of choices have been corresponding with the MC I create or logical choices I would pick, meaning, I get the good ending within at least within 5 playthroughs.


@trevers17 Couldn’t agree more. Buying a book and not reading most of it is like ordering a pizza and just eating the cheese.

@Jacic That’s a good point about the evolution of game books.

I still find it surprising how many people prefer to read something in which they have so little agency. From the author’s point of view it makes more sense and saves having to write different scenarios. Makes you wonder how popular George RR Martin’s ASOFAI series would have been if he had decided to publish his series on COG instead.


I would actually say Interactive Fiction is popular, though it can also depend on how you would define it. I mean, I would say RPGs with choices, etc. definitely would count for them, and many games are incorporating elements of it.

Another big contender in this are visual novels. Heh, and I have to agree with @Cari-san that some people complain about how much reading there is in them as they do CoG/HGs.

I also consider adventure games to be Interactive Fiction as well; true the new ones are point and click, but many of them can have branching, etc.

Heck, there has even been a minor surge of FMV games as well. I really liked Shapeshifting Detective, which even has some variation on ‘who did it’.


I think it is not practical for large scale novel such as lords of the rings and A song of Fire and Ice be made into an interactive fiction, each different branch or choice will result in a total different outcome that can spam into few more different novels.
If you give fake choices to readers where choices won’t change any outcome like what tell tale did with its GoT … you are going to receive much more backlash and why bother give choices if the outcome is the same.

Even with a standard novel, authors already spent many years to complete , with an interactive novel for large scale novels is simply not practical in term of time and financial burden


I’m inclined to agree with @Eric_knight here. I’d actually prefer stories that have such an expensive lore to be linear then branched, as it’s a lot of work just to create different scenarios, especially if you start doing this at the beginning of the series. To look at Game of Thrones as an example, the whole reason the series became as it is was a result of deaths of certain characters. If let’s say Martin kept Ned Stark alive, that dramatically changes the story (the North wouldn’t have gone to war with the Lannister’s, as an example).

Another example is a HG; The Infinity series by @Cataphrak. His is more story than game, but the lore is just on par, if not, similar to Game of Thrones (I.e set MC, set outcomes, etc…). In his first game, there is a battle in which the MC’s side loses badly and suffer the losses of supporting characters. Whilst the gamer in me would wish they survive, that would detract from the author’s theme, which revolves around war. Where this event not to happen, his next game would not have the same emotional impact for both the MC and the reader.

I love having options in stories, but so long that they are restrict to standalone and not in series (if they are, don’t do it as such it dramatically changes the course of the story until you near the end). BioWare does the decent job of referencing major decisions, sometimes including characters whose fate can be determined from previous games, but they serve as supporting characters as oppose to them being central so as not to detract from the latest game plot line. The game series Deus Ex, on the other hand, because of their branch endings, attempted to make all of them canon for the next game…which, for me as a gamer, would make me go “WTF !?! Did my actions in the previous game have no impact at all !?!”


I just think a lot of people don’t know about them. I found them because I was a talking with a co-worker about how I was a fan of the choose your own adventure books which led me to wondering and googling if anyone had developed something similar with today’s technology.


Nooo! Don’t tempt him. I want him to eventually finish the book series, not start new ones. (And I’m trying not to sound hypocritical here either :grin:)

Seriously though, this also gets into preset character and probably overuse of fake choices and funneled story lines to keep the story on track territory (as with MIGSey’s example of Ned Stark being able to be saved vs killed). You could not write ASOIF as a blank MC well. It would lose a lot of what makes the characters and storyline so compelling. (And spiral outwards into a terrifyingly large amount of words in the process + probably never get finished.)


Yes, I think that is one of problems. I came across COG through playing Tin Star on Steam.

@Jacic lol. Yes, he is taking his time with those, isn’t he. Still, I would have loved the chance to play Ned Stark and answer Baratheon’s request to become his hand.

Choice 1. Yes, your majesty. Anything for you.
Choice 2. I don’t really want this. But I’ll do it.
Choice 3. No. Just no…
Choice 4. Have you not seen any of my films?
This really isn’t going to end well.