Last week I attended the Computers & Writing conference in Fairfax, VA at George Mason University, a campus that looms large both in the history of the digital humanities and in my own introduction to digital humanities discourse at THATCamps past. Thus it felt only appropriate when I spent most of the first day of conferencing at an interactive fiction roundtable, the result of two merged workshops: one on Twine (proposed by myself, Eric Murnane, and Laura Okkema) and one on interactive fiction in the classroom (proposed by Daniel Frank, Christopher Wyatt, Lauren Woolbright, and Daniel Cox). We discussed using interactive fiction for several purposes in the classroom, including remixing or adapting existing works to explore the structure of stories; connecting to life experiences and using interactive fiction as a reflexive medium; and mind-mapping or building patterns for stories, essays, or scholarly arguments.
This type of gathering of interactive fiction enthusiasts and scholars always draws my attention to new tools. While I try to highlight useful resources regularly here in my Games in the Classroom series, there’s always more to discover, particularly from the open source community. Here are a few that we shared and discussed during the conference that might be useful if you’re thinking about building interactive fiction assignments into a course for next year:
- Ink - Unfortunately a past favorite for simple interactive fiction which I’ve discussed here, Inklewriter, is shutting down: if you have projects still on the site, rescue them this summer. However the open-source, choose your own adventure friendly, scripting language Ink lives on. Ink is well-documented and has both a useful webplayer and a Unity integration, making it potentially very interesting for prototyping visual projects. I’ll be trying Ink for my own classes and sharing more tips later this summer.
- ChoiceScript - Ink and Choicescript share a syntax-driven structure that makes them a useful introduction to programming. ChoiceScript works particularly well for simple logic elements, including choices, variables, and if / else statements. Like Ink, ChoiceScript powers several commercial games that make great examples for students.
- Quest - A particularly interesting choice if you want to do web-based development of retro games that evoke Zork and other classics of interactive fiction, Quest has both a fairly simple tutorial for getting started and a lot of customization options in its underlying scripting language. The “Play” arcade has a number of examples for inspiration.
- ADRIFT - ADRIFT (Adventure Development & Runner - Interactive Fiction Toolkit) makes it easier to build common interactive fiction mechanics through a graphical interface, putting less emphasis on scripting than some of the other platforms here. The forums and tutorials on the site are the best resources for getting started.
Other favorites of mine I’ve covered here in the past - Twine, Ren’Py, and Inform 7 - were also advocated. Notes and resource links from our workshop are, in classic DH tradition, collected in this Google Doc along with the full list of participants and their Twitter handles. Resources from the interactive fiction in the classroom team are collected here, while the workshop materials for our Twine session reside here.
Do you have a favorite tool for interactive fiction or digital narratives that we missed? Share it in the comments!