Interactive Fiction

DMS 463 :: time :: place

Josephine Anstey, jranstey at buffalo, office hrs TBA


For about forty years, writer/artists have been using the computer as a media for creating fictional and dramatic experiences. There are many names for this relatively new and rather sprawling and unstable genre – Electronic Literature, Digital Interactive Storytelling, Games, Intermedia Performance, Interactive Narrative, Hypertext, Location-based fiction. Practitioners variously focus on visuals, writing, coding. Delivery systems are flexible and diverse: from mobile phones to art installation to augmented reality. This course focuses on this expanding and morphing territory. Students will read theoretical texts, analyze work, and experiment with the creation of their own fictional and literary experiences in and around computer media.


Upon Completion of the course student will be able to …

1. Trace the development and contemporary trends of interactive fiction. Reading Assignments, Class discussions, Presentation 1
2. Discuss major theoretical issues of interactive fiction. Reading Assignments, Class discussions, Presentation 2
3. Use theoretical material to analyze works of interactive fiction. Presentation 2
4. Plan and implement an interactive fiction project. Final Project

Required Text


  • Twine
  • Aris  ARIS is a user-friendly, open-source platform for creating and playing mobile games, tours and interactive stories.

Long Description

The semester will be roughly divided into three modules. The first five weeks will be based on Hamlet on the Holodeck. We will discuss holodecks and all attendant tech, audio, video, haptics, AI, story engines, AND multiform stories, VR, Eliza, immersion, agency, procedural story-telling, tranformation, transparency and Brecht. For the second five weeks we will focus on technical skills. Finally students will work on individual projects outside of class, while in class we cycle between looking a interactive fiction projects, discussing aesthetic and technical issues, and critiquing projects.


Chapters/articles/games/IF listed next to a date should be read/played by that date. Students will be assigned as discussion leaders for texts, IF and games.

  • Reading, Participation and Attendance, – You are expected to come to class thoroughly read/played on the material (not simply skimmed) and prepared for engaged participation with written comments/questions about text/IF/games. (20 points).
  • Presentation One: Hamlet on the Holodeck Chapter: Assigned discussion leaders will make a hand-out note summary of the chapter and present their comments and questions.  In addition they will hand in a prose summary of the chapter (10 points).
  • Presentation Two: Assigned Reading, IF, Game: Audio-visual presentation (powerpoint, prezi). Presentation and written script of presentation to be handed in. (10 points)
  • Presentation Three: tech presentation (10 points).
  • Project Proposal (1o points)
  • Project Demo – playable/testable version of project (20 points)
  • Project Final (20 points).

ADDITIONAL GRADUATE REQUIREMENT: Throughout the semester, you will construct a network of reading based first on class readings, the books on course reserve, and then on books, articles, etc. that cite these books. The readings should serve as the research basis for your own future work. Finally, you can use this foundation to construct an annotated bibliography for the articles you’ve read/found. For each entry, you will write 1-2 sentences outlining the argument and its relevance to your own project. Minimum of 30 entries.


Attendance for every class is mandatory barring serious emergency. Each student is allowed two unexcused absences for whatever reason (e.g., illness, weather). If extenuating circumstances arise (e.g., serious medical problems, child care), please contact the instructor as soon as possible to address the situation. Barring emergency circumstances, each absence after two will drop lower the final grade by a full grade for each additional absence (i.e.,3 absences = B→C). Punctuality is also expected. For the purposes of grading, three tardies will equal one unexcused absence.

Criteria for Incomplete Grade:

It is the policy of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Media Study to grant incompletes for a semester only under extraordinary circumstances. Under any circumstances, incompletes will be granted only to students currently in good standing (i.e., regular attendance and passing completion of assignments). Requests for a grade of incomplete need to be submitted in writing, and should include a rationale, documentation for the reason, and a proposed schedule for completion.

University Statements

  • Please read this informational material on plagiarism, students with disabilities, and weapons as props.