Since 1985, the author of this web site has introduced about a thousand young people, aged eleven through twenty, to interactive fiction. Most of them like it. In fact, it is the most popular form of literature with most.
Lots of kids and young adults tell me that they like interactive fiction mainly because it’s an exciting way to read a story, a way that lets them feel very active and involved. They enjoy using IF to gain experience with all of the major elements of literature, such as plot, setting, and point of view.
Many young people also like the problem-solving that comes with the IF experience. These folks appreciate interactive fiction because it challenges them to recognize and solve problems, in ways that no textbook seems able to match.
Here’s what young people themselves say about interactive fiction and about their favorite stories.
“Interactive fiction can be fun because it is like a game. You get to be a character and explore, and figure out puzzles. It is good because it gets people to use their imaginations.”
“Kids like IF because it’s fun. It gets you thinking and helps you learn strategy.”
“Kids choose IF because they get to decide what happens next.”
“I would recommend Zork I because it is somewhat challenging and you need to use lots of thought. It is a very exciting game, too. You get to try lots of things.”
“The book/game I am reading, Zork I, is an adventure story. You start off as a regular person, and, as you get more into the game, you get more experience. You find all sorts of different treasures, and it is really FUN.”
“I like the way you participate, instead of just reading a book. IF also makes you think.”
“I like Suspect the most of all the interactive fiction I have done so far. I like it mostly because I like mysteries and solving puzzles.”
“My favorite piece of literature this year is Moonmist. I like it a lot because it was my first piece of interactive fiction. It also had a great plot.”
“My favorite piece of reading this year is Arthur: the Quest for Excallibur. I like it because it is a good adventure story and I like adventures, and because I like King Arthur stories. In this one, I like how you can change into different animals.”
Reading IF Aloud
In my twenty-two years of work as a middle school teacher, I found that students generally enjoy interactive fiction a great deal. In fact, about thirty percent of my students chose IF, over all other options, for individual silent reading. However, they liked IF much more when they could read it aloud, together. When they could read IF together, about eighty-five percent of the kids like IF more than other literature. Why did this form of literature motivate oral reading more than silent reading? Three factors came together to produce this result: solving problems together, reading stories in bite-sized chunks, and a feeling of writing a story while reading it.
As we’ve seen, students are very much aware that they like IF because of its gamelike problem-solving. They can also easily see that, with interactive fiction, there are lots of well-placed pauses for reader input. These pauses create excellent places to switch readers, at random, or otherwise.
Students aren’t always aware, though, that they enjoy a sense of creating a story, rather than just reading it. When I ask them about this advantage, they report that they do feel that they are being creative when they read IF, and that they like this sense of writing a story while they’re reading it.
If you’d like to explore this sense of creating a story further, have a look at “Joys of the Parser” in the “Teaching with Interactive Fiction” section of this website.
You can also find more information about what kids can learn from interactive fiction in “Teaching With Interactive Fiction.”