Superbooks: High-tech reading puts you in the story — article

Posted: 10 September 2014 in News

I just read an article on about “superbooks” (CNN’s term), interactive books that let you participate in the story.

The full article is here.

It’s an interesting concept, but is really nothing new.

Interactive Fiction as a computer medium has been around since the 70s when Will Crowther made Colossal Cave Adventure (also known as ADVENT, Colossal Cave, or Adventure) circa 1975-76 for the PDP-10 system. Crowther was a programmer and caving enthusiast who based the layout on part of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky. He later collaborated in 1976–1977 with Don Woods, who made significant expansions and improvements with Crowther’s blessing. A big fan of Tolkien, Woods introduced additional fantasy elements, such as elves and a troll. (Wikipedia)

Another well-known interactive fiction work was Zork: The Great Underground Empire, also created on a PDP-10 in 1977-1979 by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling, MIT students at the time.

Zork was my first experience with interactive fiction. My father gave me the only copy he had for sale in his video store, the Commodore 64 version.

Zork I C-64 Folio

I was surprised that the article mentioned nothing about the previous interactive fiction games and companies, especially popular through the 80s. Not to mention Graham Nelson’s fantastic (my opinion) interactive fiction authoring system Inform 7.

After reading the article from CNN, I explored the inkle studios website (here) and found that Emily Short is a contributor to their work. Emily is well known in the interactive fiction community, working on the Inform 7 project and authoring several works of her own. Her WordPress blog can be found here. Very interesting reading.

I’m curious to see how “superbooks” catch on with readers.

I still enjoy the Infocom-style (et al) interactive fiction games.


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