IF Community


Weeeeeelllllll… yeah, I concede that. I go to iTunes looking for adventure games and I see find-the-object apps which don’t interest me at all, plus even action games. Then there’s the escape the room games, which are exactly what I’m not looking for and which seem to have gotten pretty lazy…

But, “escape the room” certainly fits the adventure genre. So it may be useful as a sub-genre, to clarify exactly what I’m looking for. But as a specific subset of adventure games, rather than their own thing.

I’m making this up as I go along here, I never gave it any thought before, but it seems sensible that if that’s the case having the division between parser and choice would be enough to disambiguate. If I look for adventure games I want to opt out of action-adventure and escape-the-room and where’s-waldo; if I want to look for what I’ve grown up perceiving as IF I want to opt out of choice-based games. So I look for “parser IF”.

The Ren’Py visual novels, that I’m clearer about in my own head. I don’t much care for their inclusion either. Still, diversity is good, and every community does need people pushing the boundaries. Some games will make you go “that’s never IF!”, some will make you go “Oh wow, that’s not IF but I love it!”, and some will make you go “Cute, I can see how this can be IF”.

I mean, LOOM is considered to be an adventure game, but it eschews so many of the traditional mechanics…

Rambling. Must stop. Bottom line: I get your point, clearer labels may be useful to those who want them (and those who don’t care may ignore them). How to have the comps respect this and still be useful to the community, though, I can’t quite see.

I still think ParserComp was a great thing.


Yes. And those communities usually don’t consider themselves interchangeable with the others. Which seems to be happening with some parts of the IF and Choice communities. Or rather just some part of the IF community. Which is great. There’s community sites for Choice games. I can go there for my Choice-games fill. There’s no reason to bring the Choice community to intfiction.org with the premise of Choice games being on-topic there.

Same genre, but different communities due to the subject matter. A porn text adventure is still a text adventure.

It’s still the same genre though. The communities formed around distinct aspects of the games.

My point is that game genres are more immutable than communities. If a part of some point&click adventure community out there decides they really like story-driven action-RPGs that also have puzzles, and some claim that both kinds of games are in the same genre, then what does that mean for the point&click genre? In my opinion, absolutely nothing. Those games still aren’t point&click adventures.

For the same reasons, if people say that choice games are IF, I am going to correct them. Of course, on intfiction.org a moderator might decide to take preventive measures against that. Which makes it more annoying. Basically, the administration team of intfiction.org is saying “we decide what is IF or not and you are not allowed to express disagreement with that.”

Basically, intfiction.org slowly pulled a bait and switch on IF.

Distinctiveness is lost. People discovering text-based games might play a text adventure game, they find the mechanics completely suck for them, and thus Choice games suck too. They’re both the same genre, right?

In the “new world” some people are trying to create, there are no Choice games and IF games. There’s only IF games. Either all those games have a parser, or none do, depending on what actual genre (which doesn’t exist anymore, remember?) you played first.

These “formal differences” are so big that you cannot put both game genres into the same genre.

Why don’t you make a new genre? “Text-heavy games” seems to describe both types quite nicely. Why not do that? Why try changing the previous meaning of IF instead? I really don’t get it.

[quote]On followup, it looks like you mean specifically that you’d like to be able to refine, as it were, your shopping experience: maybe an additional tag for parser games on IFDB, and a bit more labeling in other places?
Maybe. I suggest these tags: IF, Choice, PDF.

But let me guess, the “Choice” tag is gonna be merged into the “IF” tag, right? Yeah, I thought so.


Hm. As I explained above, I use “IF” to mean things like “relevant to the IF community” and “using shared resources of the IF community”, with probably at least a tinge of expectation that such works will be text-based and take some user input, but without many more formal criteria than that.

I use “parser IF” or “text adventure” to mean “game that has a parser and a text adventure-style world model”. I think my usage is pretty common, and also that genre titles often do tie into audience and surrounding community as much as or more than they tie into formal features.

I can see that it would be frustrating if someone kept saying to me “howling dogs is a parser-based text adventure,” when clearly it is not one and no amount of assertion could ever change the fact because there is a formally-based meaning for “parser-based text adventure” and howling dogs does not qualify as even the fuzziest edge case of that definition.

If you consider the words “interactive fiction” to be literally equivalent to “parser-based text adventure,” then yeah, I guess a lot of what gets said is probably pretty exasperating. But I think you’re also perhaps using a minority definition.


[quote=“RealNC, post:82, topic:250”]It’s annoying when I go to Steam to buy a game, click on the “Adventure” genre and get Tom Clancy’s The Division and Grand Theft Auto.

Similarly, it’s annoying when I go to an Interactive Fiction community site or event and get visual novels and PDF documents.

That’s all I’m saying :slight_smile: [/quote]

Actually I can definitely agree with that. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve tried finding games of one specific type and instead end up being given lists of games completely the opposite of what I’m after.


[quote=“RealNC, post:85, topic:250”]For the same reasons, if people say that choice games are IF, I am going to correct them. Of course, on intfiction.org a moderator might decide to take preventive measures against that. Which makes it more annoying. Basically, the administration team of intfiction.org is saying “we decide what is IF or not and you are not allowed to express disagreement with that.”

Basically, intfiction.org slowly pulled a bait and switch on IF.[/quote]

You might have a good point, but to be perfectly honest, the way you made your point on the Intfiction forum was never going to go down well.

[quote]Where’s the parser?

Enough of this “choice” nonsense.

I want my parser.

You guys have ruined IF forever. And now people who never played an actual IF game in their lives are trying to tell me what “IF is about” with their new authoring system.[/quote]


I use the term “IF” to refer to games that use similar mechanics to the Infocom games.

I use the term “Choice games” to refer to games that use the same mechanics as visual novels. I don’t know if “Choice games” is the correct term, because “Choice of games” seems to be a publisher? I really want to call them visual novels, but the issue is that most of the time there’s no visuals. But they use exactly the same mechanics as visual novels.

What would you say are the game mechanics of Interactive Fiction games? Does it make sense to distinguish between IF mechanics and Visual Novel mechanics?

Or would you say that IF should not be associated with game mechanics? In that case, IF can not be a video game genre. In that case, what is IF?


[quote=“Davidw, post:88, topic:250, full:true”]You might have a good point, but to be perfectly honest, the way you made your point on the Intfiction forum was never going to go down well.

[quote]Where’s the parser?

Enough of this “choice” nonsense.

I want my parser.

You guys have ruined IF forever. And now people who never played an actual IF game in their lives are trying to tell me what “IF is about” with their new authoring system.[/quote]
I knew in advance that I would get a warning from a mod no matter how I phrase it, so I decided not to hold back.


I’d say that

– Choice of Games works and many visual novels both use choices with stat-tracking. This is indeed a shared mechanic, but the games may diverge in other respects; the presence or absence of imagery is only one. CoG works are also distinguished by some brand-specific features.
– many (but not all) Twine games omit stat-tracking entirely and use only the current node as state.
– some Twine games have complex state including location and inventory (see Hallowmoor); also there are things like Draculaland and The Colder Light that use a rooms-and-objects world model combined with a clickable interface. The mechanics of these are in many ways very similar to the mechanics of an Infocom text adventure, except that the player does not type.
– some Twine games accept text entry for other purposes (see Contrition or Ruiness).
– some parser games accept text entry and do something with it other than model manipulation (see Space Under the Window or various interactive poetry).
– An Earth Turning Slowly uses text input to select from a series of prefab choices, so it’s a choice node model hidden under a skin of semi-parserness.
– this discussion doesn’t really account for quality-based narrative like Fallen London/StoryNexus at all: that is also using numbers, but differently from the Choice of stuff.

In other words, mechanics can be all over the place and different elements can combine in different ways. Some games even use different mechanics at different times! It is only thanks to convention – community habit together with the affordances of the most available tools – that text entry has historically tended to be combined with a certain type of world model, while hypertext clicking has tended to be combined with the absence of a world model or the use of a very simple flag-based model. There are many works that occupy intermediate positions. Do we give each of those its own genre name? Some of the combinations are complete one-offs, so surely that doesn’t count as a genre yet?

I do think there can be different player experience effects that result from these choices. I personally am interested in cultivating affect – the player’s sense that they are able to manipulate the world in somewhat predictable ways and that they can do some forward planning – which is something parser IF has traditionally been good at. I’m also interested in cultivating narrative agency, the player’s ability to significantly alter how the story turns out, which has traditionally been more a strength of choice-based works. (I go on about this topic at length in this article, if anyone is curious about having these thoughts expanded.)

I do think that a genre can be defined in terms of its audience, and I’ve been fairly influenced by Zarf’s article on this topic.

But if forced to define what IF is in some other way, not calling it a genre at all, I’d probably be backed into defining it in a way you really won’t like: as an artistic practice.

In other words, IF is what happens when someone combines text (or possibly even other media) with rules and mechanics in order to tell a story, especially one in which the mechanics themselves are communicative and serve storytelling goals. In Choice of works, the stat system tells a story about how different kinds of characters could potentially move through the narrated world. In StoryNexus works, the stats and storylets describe an experience of exploration and chaotic causality, in which quite unrelated things can combine to produce particular results. In parser works, the world model describes how the manipulation of medium-sized dry goods produces a particular outcome. In Twine works, the model may be more focused on the experience of reading the story, on features of emotion, pacing, and narrative voice (though that’s not the only thing Twine can do).

That definition would put some VNs, interactive comics, interactive audiobooks, interactive film, FMV games, and graphical adventures in the interactive fiction camp as well. It might tend to exclude, on the other hand, games where the story is pretty much patched on, which applies to a lot of (but by no means all) the AAA and indie space.

I do not swear not to change my definition in the future. I’ve changed it in the past.


It would seem that IF is for you a game design method, and the resulting games can be in any genre.

Which to me is not useful. It encompasses too many different things.

It would seem that even though I always thought I’m part of the IF community, I am actually not. IF is not what I thought it is. It’s something for game designers/developers, not for players.

This could also be a sign that there’s more game authors than players on intfiction.org. I’m not even sure what the site is about anymore.

On the other hand, it could be that my definition of IF is historically correct, and intfiction.org has become a community of game authors, not players, and they redefined their interpretation of IF to suit their needs. I suppose the text adventure demographic is very small these days, so I don’t think any complaints will pile up anytime soon. It’s not like they’re trying to redefine First Person Shooter. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Activision would develop the next Call of Duty as a tower defense game, and then say things like “FPS is a game design principle and we applied it to this game, look here, you can shoot the towers. It’s totally an FPS game.”

Thanks for your input. IF is a video game genre to me, describing games similar to Infocom’s, and I cannot possibly view it any other way. It was, is and will continue to be a game genre, not a design principle or story telling device, just like RPG, FPS, Space Sim, etc, are not design principles or story telling devices. Not because my ego prevents me from considering other people’s views, but because changing the definition would make the term 100% completely useless to me (funny, that’s an egoistic reason after all, isn’t it.)

I am not a game author.


For me, “first person shooter” is fairly specific. “Interactive fiction” is a broad term - again, for me. It’s fiction that’s, well, interactive. Parser is one form of interactivity, but there can be many more. It’s especially exciting for me given that, while the first form of interactive fiction were parser games - not surprising given the technology of the time - much has happened since then in the evolution of computing where we can now explore new and possibly even not-yet-conceived means of making fiction interactive.

I understand you see it as a game genre. I personally see it as a thing in its own right, based just on the term, on the words “Interactive Fiction”. It’s about using the power of the computer to make fiction come alive and immerse the player/reader/partaker in that world, using whatever means of interactivity works for the work being created.

It’s a shame that Infocom used such a broad term as “interactive fiction” to describe their games. If they had been more specific (and for me, “text adventure” fits that bill), then things wouldn’t be contentious now, perhaps. It would be like the first person to throw a ball calling it “sport” and saying nobody else could use the word “sport” for anything besides throwing a ball, despite the fact that the general word “sport” applies to that and so much more.


Hi Emily,

I’m so sorry you’ve been made to feel unwelcome. :frowning2: And I really appreciate the time you took to clarify.

To be clear, I was not intending to criticize your intfiction post. Mainly I was trying to establish that (I was guessing that) people besides Porpentine may have also seen the original post as problematic in the sense of “having possible negative effects on certain groups” even though the poster may not have intended it that way.

Your post was incredibly helpful in explaining what was going on.


[quote=“jaynabonne, post:93, topic:250, full:true”]
For me, “first person shooter” is fairly specific. “Interactive fiction” is a broad term - again, for me. It’s fiction that’s, well, interactive.[/quote]
Video game genres are almost never accurate. The same applies to IF.

To give a few examples, “Space Sim” games are not space simulators. They’re mostly trading games. The flying around in space is in most cases not even remotely realistic to be called a simulation. Space Sim refers to a specific kind of game.

MOBA (Multiplayer online battle arena) is so broad that literally every game where’s battle would be a MOBA. Yet, only DotA-clones are described as MOBAs. Again, MOBA refers to a very specific kind of game.

RPG is similarly broad. Yet, not every game where you play a role is a Role Playing Game, even though virtually every video game in existence has you play a role. But only some games qualify as being RPGs.

Interactive Fiction is broad too. Virtually every game is fiction and is interactive. (Wouldn’t be much of a game otherwise.) Yet, IF (IMO) refers to very specific kind of game.

If IF would apply to every game ever made, without exception, then we can just as well drop the term, as it would be useless. I maintain that game genres have some history behind them, and they shouldn’t be taken literally. Otherwise, they’re all useless.


I don’t know if this would work for you, but I follow various forums on a feedreader, and for some forums I’ve put a filter to eliminate topics I’m not interested in. Maybe that would make following intfiction less annoying for you?


Not so much “I do not consider the authors welcome in the community” as a mass influx of authors with a conflicting culture(*) (I’d characterize this as Tumblr culture vs. hacker culture) arrived and then told the existing authors that they are no longer welcome in the community that they had founded unless they shut up and toe the social justice party line. See the events surrounding the establishment of the CoC.

The resulting conflict is the virtual equivalent of the current controversy surrounding mass immigration in Europe. If members of the existing IF community had written some choice-based works and the community had organically evolved towards a broader definition of IF that included them, you would not see this kind of reaction. The choice vs. parser conflict is only a surface reflection of the underlying cultural conflict.

(*) I define culture as implicit shared history, purpose, and values. In the case of the IF community, I think that the differences in history and purpose (as applied to IF) are reconcilable, but that the fundamental values of the subcommunities are actively in conflict with one another.


The issue I have with intfiction.org has nothing to do with filtering. It’s that it tries to redefine the term IF, as if they had appropriated it. If someone doesn’t like a specific genre as it is, then they should invent another one.


I agree that there do seem to be cultural differences between parts of the IF community, some of which reflect surrounding cultural schisms. However, this description doesn’t match very well with my understanding of what happened around the CoC. The way I remember it, many of the people who espoused the CoC were long-time members of the community, while many of the IF authors you might describe as belonging to Tumblr culture don’t actually hang out at intfiction on a regular basis.

I don’t really think of myself as belonging entirely to either of the two cultures you identify, and there are aspects of both that make me uncomfortable, as well as generational differences – I’m a bit older than most Tumblr users. But I find I have generally had a higher rate of success reaching an understanding with people who explicitly prioritize concern for others’ feelings than with people who explicitly prioritize free speech. There are many individual exceptions.

I will admit I felt some saltiness at the time of the CoC because I’d been told in so many words, for years, that being targeted by trolls was something I should naturally expect as a woman on the internet, and that it was more important for the community to maintain a standard of free speech than for anyone to be formally discouraged from slinging insults, so I needed to just accept this with good grace for the sake of everyone else. But once other people’s feelings were involved, then it was suddenly considered worthwhile to establish community standards of behavior to prevent that kind of expression.

With my rational mind, I can hypothesize some reasons for this. Perhaps I was perceived to be a “punching up” target who did not need or deserve protection, or maybe even actively needed deflating; again, perhaps people’s perceptions of the harm done by that kind of treatment had gradually shifted over time. But whatever I might logically conclude later, I was aware at the time that my feelings on this topic were judgment-clouding, and I also had a lot going on in the rest of my life, so I engaged very little in discussing the content of the CoC when it was going through.

Anyway, I think I’ve probably said as much as I can here, and to the extent that this is a culture-war argument, I don’t feel that there’s a lot I can say to unpick that division or that my particular angle on it would likely fit very well in this forum.

Thanks, all, for hearing me out about what I meant earlier.


No need to apologize, you aren’t intruding. This is a public forum. :slight_smile:

It’s kind of a relief to know I’m not the only one still wondering.

On the other hand, if none of those people expressed a reason but they all felt strongly about it, that suggests they might have been motivated by something they didn’t want to admit (maybe even to themselves).

And, well, I think @vlaviano has hit on it with the reference to “Tumblr culture vs. hacker culture”. There’s a recurring pattern around certain kinds of creative geekdom:

Many geeks can tell you stories of how they and a few like-minded companions formed a small community that achieved something great, only to have it taken over by popular loudmouths who considered that greatness theirs by right of social station and kicked the geeks out by enforcing weirdo-hostile social norms. (Consider how many hackerspaces retain their original founders.) Having a community they built wrested away from them at the first signs of success is by now a signaling characteristic of weirdohood. We wouldn’t keep mentioning it if it didn’t keep happening.

In this case, the “weirdo-hostile social norm” I see is, roughly, “You have to devote equal time and respect to my preferred medium/form/genre, whether you enjoy it or not, because it’s the best way for me to express what I want to express.” That’s a problem in a community that, until recently, was understood as exploring what could be expressed in one particular form.

I think one harm is that it’s made judging competitions more arbitrary and the results less meaningful. I find it a lot easier to meaningfully rank, say, Lost Pig against Photopia than to rank either against any choice game I’ve played. So when I see choice games winning more of the top ten spots in the comp, that doesn’t give me a good idea of whether the games are getting better or whether the population of judges is changing.

That said, I don’t really want this to be a parser community only. I just want the distinction to be preserved for the people who feel strongly about it, and for no one to have to bite their tongue about categories of game they don’t like because it’s considered taboo to dump on them.


You’ve expressed a couple of times that you feel that you’re intruding in a space where your views won’t be welcome.

The culture that I support is one where dissenting views are permitted, even encouraged, because they help us to increase our knowledge and understanding. I don’t want to have to walk on eggshells while expressing myself, nor would I require it of anyone else. I’d rather learn something new and suck up an insult along with it than be denied the opportunity to learn because someone feared creating offense or a third party decided to “protect me” from it.


I agree, and I love the way you put it, and the thing is, I don’t mind knowing I’m not fully up to date. In fact, one of the things that I loved about intfiction.org was, I never felt I had to be, and people didn’t mind.

But when I read Porpentine’s article about how parser is unoriginal and imperfect (yes, it’s imperfect. No, I don’t like to let imperfect stop me from doing things) and then see her shame Merk for his board policies, where she doesn’t post much anyway or say “I’d like to post more” and can’t even say “thanks for doing this” afterwards–and nobody tells Porpentine to keep it in check? This seems like a recipe for helping build silent resentment or apathy.

At some point, riskiness and edginess isn’t really risky and edgy, because someone knows what they can get away with.

Yes. And I think there’s a difference between dissenting views and faux-courage cutting down someone or even comparison over whose dissent is worthiest. I know the times I’ve made the biggest mental/emotional/social leaps were seeing, oh, I never considered looking at it that way made total sense. And people need to have that chance and feel comfortable with it, and if they make mistakes–well, I’ve seen lots of TedTalks saying that’s ok. Just, hopefully they thought things through before, without fearing a “DIDNT YOU THINK THINGS THROUGH?”

This occurs in an artistic forum, or at school, or at work, or just getting to know any new person or group of people.

Also, Emily, I appreciate you posting here, and if this is the only thread you show up in, it’s still a big and worthwhile contribution. There’s a lot of stuff to consider, and while “I didn’t consider it that way” can feel like a blow-off, in this case, I’m suspicious of superlatives–and you’ve opened up things to think about. And I feel that much more confident there are solutions, etc., even partial ones, or the partial ones can lead to something more.


Yeah, you can’t bully people into moral growth.