Interactive Fiction…the “Text Adventure” of old, had its heyday in the 1980′s, and were among the top-selling forms of computer based entertainment. But then the computers got more powerful, and graphics kept getting better and better — the very beginning of the process that still continues today — and writers junked the format. “Nobody would look at just text now that they can have graphics, too,” they said, and “Nobody sits in front of their computers to read!”
But a funny thing happened between the day Interactive Fiction was declared dead, and today: a little something called the Internet.
And now, everyone who sits in front of a computer does so to read, sometimes for hours at a time. And why read on a computer instead of with a magazine? Because you can respond to the text written on the electronic page, jump to other pages that interest you. In short, because you can interact with it. So while Interactive Fiction still lies in its early grave, Interactive Non-fiction has suddenly become the main way many people get their news. Can the resurrection of Interactive Fiction be far behind?
Yes, it can. When I first completed 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery, the flagship title of Illuminated Lantern Publishing, after four years of effort, I proudly showed it around to some of my closest friends. For the most part, they all just stared at me blankly. “Couldn’t you just make it into a Quake Mod?” they would ask, confused.
But, I persevered. I got into the business of self-publishing. Why? Because publishing companies are still thinking in early 90′s graphics-or-nothing terms, and online gamers are their target audience. In order for 1893 to be successful, it had to reach a new audience, some part of those millions of people who now own personal computers but are turned off by the twitch-fingered gaming of today. I had 1893 printed professionally, and got it into museums and gift shops and places where people interested in architecture and history might find it and bring it home with them.
And they did. Thousands of them. They didn’t buy 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery because it was a work of Interactive Fiction. They bought it because it told a story about an interesting place and time that can’t be visited any other way. Creating a work of Interactive Fiction was my choice, not theirs, but they went with it, and gave it a try, and some came to love it. The very young, the very old, even some members of that twich-happy gaming group. Email came pouring in, mostly wondering why shipping is so delayed or why it has to be run in “Classic” mode on the Mac. Sometimes even to say thanks or to share anecdotes about a family member who once went, or worked there, back in 1893.
For a long time, I thought Illuminated Lantern Publishing would exist only for the publication of 1893, then retire. But I find myself still working on new games, so it looks like you haven’t gotten rid of me just yet.