Engaging intro to interactive fiction; limited support, organization

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Subjects & Skills

Creativity, English Language Arts

Price: Free
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Web

Pros: Simple design and a great introduction make digging into interactive fiction easy.

Cons: Not much support for writing stories, and current stories are disorganized.

Bottom Line: It's a great introduction to interactive fiction, but it's not organized or aimed at classrooms so implementation requires some special curation and instructional support.

Teachers can find text adventures relevant to subject matter and have students work through them alone or in pairs. It could even be fun to complete these as a class. Students can also learn how to create stories and use the platform as a means to demonstrate knowledge. As a comparative exercise, students can detail how interactive fiction is similar to or different from novels and video games. Get students to think about the unique qualities of each and what kinds of stories each medium is best suited to. Students might also take their favorite games, stories, and novels and re-create parts of them using Playfic.

Playfic calls itself a community for writing, sharing, and playing interactive fiction games (text adventures) entirely from a browser, using a natural-language programming language called Inform 7. And that's basically what it is: a program that allows teachers and students to browse, play, create, and remix interactive stories similar to choose-your-own-adventure books. Readers receive a brief introductory paragraph, such as: "You are standing alone in a dungeon. There's a closed gate ahead of you and a stairway leading down." They then progress through the story by typing commands. For example, in this case, a reader might type "open gate" or "examine stairway." There are set commands used frequently in this type of game, and a good tutorial game on Playfic introduces those commands. Readers can also write games on Playfic using an interesting language called Inform 7, which doesn't require use of coding. At this time, however, there aren't a lot of simple tutorials on the site, so writing games involves slogging through some pretty heavy reading and manuals first that aren't necessarily student-friendly.

Text adventures do an awesome job of engaging reluctant readers. Kids who might not want to sit down with a novel become intrigued with the interactive aspect of a text adventure. There's also a great deal of problem-solving and critical and creative thinking built into the structure of the stories.

Because they can write their own adventures, teachers could create stories that contain many types of lessons. Unfortunately, the current lessons are quite disorganized and open to the community. Teachers will probably have to read through stories in their entirety to make sure they're appropriate and useful for students. Fortunately, this is easy to do without playing through the entire game -- just click on "view game source" to see the whole story. Viewing the game source -- and then remixing it --will also be helpful for teachers and students who want to go on to write their own adventures, a complicated but rewarding endeavor that will draw on students' creative and technical skills.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Even students less than excited about reading will find choose-your-own-adventure texts enjoyable, and creating them can be absorbing.


Writing interactive fiction builds many skills, and the ability to remix others' work is great. In terms of reading, however, the quality ranges and needs curation.


An excellent tutorial gets kids started exploring interactive fiction; there are also outside resources linked on the website, but these aren't necessarily student-friendly.

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