An Interactive Fiction Gathering

This entry was posted by on Thursday, 25 March, 2010 at

I’m flying to Boston today for a dual work/fun trip. I’ll be hanging out at the local Google Cambridge office. I’ll meet with some teams. But the fun part of the trip is visiting the PAX East gaming conference that goes through the weekend. It’s a bit like Gencon, but smaller and more focused on videogames than roleplaying games.

Why PAX East? Because for the first time in the ~15 year history of the indie interactive fiction (IF) community, a large number of us are finally congregating in meatspace. Most of us only know each other from mailing lists, competition entries, game reviews, and chatting on a MUD. The fantastic Andrew Plotkin (a major technical and creative leader in the IF community) is setting up a hotel suite for people to gather in and geek out over interactive fiction. It’s not just for longstanding community members though — we’re hoping to evangelize newbies from the conference and get them excited about the genre. We’ll be demoing games, passing out CDs, coins, cards, and even doing some mini-talks.

My own schedule and agenda is deeply entwined with this event:

  • Thursday night: dinner with IF folks.
  • Friday morning: I’m giving an academic talk on the history of IF at the Google Cambridge office. I’ve given it twice before and it always is a huge success — there are a lot of closeted fans out there who show up. Interestingly, when I gave the talk in Mountain View, Don Woods (co-author of Colossal Cave Adventure) showed up to listen. And for my Cambridge talk, Marc Blank (author of Zork and co-founder of Infocom) will be in the audience. Who knew that these guys work for Google? It’s weird to give a talk on computer history when the historical figures keep showing up to listen. 🙂
  • Friday afternoon: watching a panel discussion on interactive fiction, which includes prominent community members as well some original Infocom alumni. I’ve been asked by SPAG Magazine to do some basic photojournalism and make some pictures of this event. I’ve got a new monopod to try out with my telephoto lens…
  • Friday night: the premier of GET LAMP, the new documentary on the history of Interactive Fiction! It’s done by the same guy who did that excellent documentary on 1980’s Bulletin Board Systems. Should be really fun. I’ll be taking photos of the post-screening panel discussion as well.
  • Saturday: hanging out in the IF suite. Gonna try doing the Speed IF contest with Jack, put up wall portraits of all the participants, play some games, watch some discussions.

I should also direct readers to a new website for IF virgins. If you’ve never tried interactive fiction, head on over to the Play IF site, and you’ll see that Andrew has posted a bunch of “newbie friendly” games that you can play directly in your web browser. See what it’s all about… it’s come a long long way from Zork. 🙂