The Electronic Labyrinth

Interactive Fiction

Interactive fictions present a text-only interface which allows the reader to type in short phrases as navigation or action commands. Software of this type has derived from or been influenced by several forms: video games, role-playing games, electronic books, and branching storybooks. All generally presume that the reader will assume the persona of the protagonist.

On paper this form is epitomized by Bantam's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series. At crises points in the story, the (generally young) reader may select an action and turn to the indicated page to read the outcome. According to Bonime, these books have sold over 40 million copies in 23 countries ("Sony's Data Discman: A Look", 65). Bonime is president of Infotainment Limited, a publishing company which is producing adaptations of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (in Edward Packard's Space Hawks series) for the Sony Data Discman.

The proximity of the video game aesthetic and the age of the target audience has relegated this genre of writing to the margins. Even within the sphere of hypertext authors and critics, interactive fictions rarely receive mention. These works are reviewed in the entertainment section of computer magazines rather than those publications concerned with "literature."

Interactive fictions are available from such companies as Infocom.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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