Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction

Critical Writing
Publication Type: 
xv, 286
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Abstract (in English): 

This monograph outlines the history of interactive fiction from its beginnings in the 1970s, through its commercial primetime in the 1980s, its community-based explosion in the 1990s and into the 21st century. Riddles are presented as the primary literary ancestor of interactive fictions, which allows Montfort too see IF as literary but as more than simply narrative.  The book provides a vocabulary and approach for describing the genre and also presents new interpretations of selected games and summarises previous readings and discussions of works.


A critical approach to interactive fiction, as literature and game.

Interactive fiction—the best-known form of which is the text game or text adventure—has not received as much critical attention as have such other forms of electronic literature as hypertext fiction and the conversational programs known as chatterbots. Twisty Little Passages (the title refers to a maze in Adventure, the first interactive fiction) is the first book-length consideration of this form, examining it from gaming and literary perspectives. Nick Montfort, an interactive fiction author himself, offers both aficionados and first-time users a way to approach interactive fiction that will lead to a more pleasurable and meaningful experience of it.

Twisty Little Passages looks at interactive fiction beginning with its most important literary ancestor, the riddle. Montfort then discusses Adventure and its precursors (including the I Ching and Dungeons and Dragons), and follows this with an examination of mainframe text games developed in response, focusing on the most influential work of that era, Zork. He then considers the introduction of commercial interactive fiction for home computers, particularly that produced by Infocom. Commercial works inspired an independent reaction, and Montfort describes the emergence of independent creators and the development of an online interactive fiction community in the 1990s. Finally, he considers the influence of interactive fiction on other literary and gaming forms. With Twisty Little Passages, Nick Montfort places interactive fiction in its computational and literary contexts, opening up this still-developing form to new consideration.

(Source: The MIT Press catalog copy)


Twisty Little Passages cover

Critical writing that references this:

Titlesort ascending Author Publisher Year
Travels in Cybertextuality. The Challenge of Ergodic Literature and Ludology to Literary Theory Markku Eskelinen 2009
The Tribulations of Adventure Games: Integrating Story into Simulation Through Performance Clara Fernández-Vara 2009
The Monstrous Book and the Manufactured Body in the Late Age of Print John M. Vincler Dichtung Digital 2010
The Gothic in Contemporary Interactive Fictions Van Leavenworth 2010
The American Hypertext Novel, and Whatever Became of It? Scott Rettberg Routledge 2015
Techno-historical Limits of the Interface: The Performance of Interactive Narrative Experiences Andrew Hutchison 2009
Solving the Babylonian Confusion: an Encyclopedia for Interactive Digital Narrative Hartmut Koenitz, Mirjam Eladhari, Sandy Louchart, Frank Nack
Shuffling the Sjuzhet in Marc Saporta's Composition No. 1 Courtney A. Pfahl Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 2015
Programming for Fun, Together Nick Montfort 2012
Generating Narrative Variation in Interactiv Fiction Nick Montfort 2007
Generating Narrative in an Interactive Fiction Game John L Jacko 2018
Games/gaming/simulation in a new media (literature) classroom Scott Rettberg On the Horizon 2004
Further, Reading Scott Rettberg Vagant 2011
Fiction and Interaction: How Clicking a Mouse Can Make You Part of a Fictional World Jill Walker Rettberg 2003
Feral Hypertext: When Hypertext Literature Escapes Control Jill Walker Rettberg 2005
Face It, Tiger, You Just Hit the Jackpot: Reading and Playing Cadre’s Varicella Nick Montfort, Stuart Moulthrop 2003
Expressive Processing: On Process-Intensive Literature and Digital Media Noah Wardrip-Fruin 2006
Electronic Literature Scott Rettberg Polity 2018
Digital Media Scott Rettberg, Jill Walker Rettberg Modern Language Association (MLA) 2010
Creating Screen-Based Multiple State Environments: Investigating Systems of Confutation Donna Leishman 2004

Teaching Resource using this Critical Writing:

Resourcesort ascending Teaching Resource Type Author Year
Digital Poetry and the Limits of Interpretation (ENGL 5559) Syllabus Lori Emerson 2010
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