Symposium, 7 May: Text Adventures


You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.


You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

When the immersion happens that very old-fashioned way—you know, the way you used to dive into Moby Dick and get lost for hours on the ocean—but within a ruleset that bears more obvious resemblance to Mass Effect than it does to Foundation (or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) what does it tell us about immersion in games in general? If we’re right to be discussing immersion as an identification with a ruleset, what kind of people do we become when we’re reading our graphics and trying to find the correct way to phrase “slide kitchen card through slot” before we run out of time to feed ourselves on the alien world depicted in the marvelous Planetfall?

Moreover (and this is where things get really interesting for me), can we describe the learning that takes place differently from the way we describe the learning either from books or from games, whether tabletop or video?—assuming that we’re right about learning always being learning to play, and the way that connects back up on the other side with our understanding of immersion as identification. Or, to make that all much more succinct: What can we say about text adventures and interactive fiction that places them helpfully in the context of other ruleset-based art?

There’s an absolutely wonderful app for iOS chock-full of “Lost Treasures” of Infocom. Many other ways to play the games exist—especially Zork, with its roots in Adventure, and even Colossal Cave before it. It doesn’t take long to understand, if you’ve never played an Infocom game, the form’s charms, challenges, and limitations.

As befits this very special (what? form? genre? gestalt?) topic, we’ll meet at a special time, 8:30 Eastern/5:30 Pacific, with our chat on Skype as usual. Comment if you’d like to be included!


About rogertravisjr

Classicist, game critic, game educator.
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