The call for proposals for NarraScope 2020 is up! We’re now accepting proposals for talks and panels.

The details are all on the web site. We’re looking for cutting-edge discussions about adventure games, narrative design, interactive fiction, and anything else that falls under our umbrella. NarraScope represents a wide range of viewpoints — indies, academics, communities outside the gaming mainstream.

(Have a look at our 2019 schedule if you want an idea of how NarraScope runs. But we’re always hoping to expand our range!)

NarraScope 2020 will take place at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign from May 29-31, 2020.

Proposals are due by January 17th. We expect to have 60-minute and 30-minute talks and panel discussions, plus a session of lightning talks (five to ten minutes).

We regret we are unable to cover travel expenses for speakers this year.

Thanks in advance!

Logo of the 25th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

The 25th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition has ended. Steph Cherrywell joins the rare company of two-time IFComp first-placers with the boozy comedy Zozzled, and of course the other eighty-one(!) entrants all brought something new to the world of interactive fiction as well. Please do browse the whole list; while games’ IFDB entries get settled you can download them from the IF Archive, or (for many games) play them from the ballot page, which we’re keeping around through year’s end.

And if you’d like something else to commemorate twenty-five years of IFComp, may we suggest something from our gift shop? Maia Kobabe, who drew the amazing artwork for the IF Archive’s own 25th anniversary a couple of years ago, returned to create a new design filled with signifiers of past competition winners. You can get the design for yourself on mugs, stickers, and other stuff. Proceeds from all purchases goes to IFTF, which powers IFComp and lots of other IF-related public services.

Thanks as always to the whole interactive fiction community for another outstanding IFComp year.

I’m pleased to announce that the name Twine® is now a registered trademark of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation.

Why do this?

​ The trademark protects the name Twine. For example, it prevents anyone (or any company) from creating, say, a competing application called TwinePlus without our permission. Anyone can still make an application like Twine—they just have to call it something different.

​ This also potentially prevents someone from trying to make a profit off of the name Twine without permission—for example, if a company tried to sell Twine T-shirts without our permission.

​ Neither scenario (application or T-shirt) has happened so far, but the trademark protects Twine should it ever occur.

​ This is not out of the ordinary for open source projects. Many other high-profile projects have their name trademarked, including Debian, Firefox, Git, jQuery, and VNC. These trademarks are often held by organizations, usually nonprofits like IFTF.

Does this mean Twine is going commercial?

​ No, not at all. Many nonprofits and non-commercial projects have trademark registrations, and “commercial” usage isn’t required to get a registration. Twine continues to be licensed under the GNU Public License 3.0, which means that you may use it without paying anyone. You can even create derivatives of it so long as you abide by the terms of the GPLv3, and that you choose a name for your derivative that is sufficiently different that there would be no confusion between your version and the original one. You may also continue to distribute Twine’s source code as much as you like. It in itself is not trademarked (nor can it be—trademarks only apply to names).

What does it mean for authors working with Twine?

​ Very little. The IFTF would kindly ask authors to avoid calling Twine stories “twines,” as this potentially makes it more difficult to enforce the trademark, but that is about the extent to which authors need to think about the trademark. You can of course continue to write about Twine, make videos about it, and post things you made with Twine wherever you like without asking for permission. Anyone can use “Twine” to refer to the TWINE® project—that’s called descriptive fair use—so there are no restrictions on saying “This story was created with Twine,” although we’d ask you to use the ® if you can.

Twinery.org now has a notice explaining that Twine is a trademark of IFTF, but you do not need to add this notice on material you create related to Twine.

​ The trademark also has no implications for anyone selling a game, story, or other unclassifiable project created with Twine—assuming, of course, the name of whatever you’re creating is sufficiently distinct from “Twine.” Selling “Beowulf: Twine Edition” is OK. Selling a hypertext game called just “Twine”… is something we are asking you not to do.

There are several other software projects named Twine. Does this mean you’re going to sue them?

​ No. The trademark filing is specifically for the name Twine as it pertains to the creation of hypertext. The other projects that we’re aware of, although they are also software, are in other domains.

What about Twine’s built-in story formats like Chapbook, Harlowe, Snowman, and SugarCube?

​ There are no plans to register them with the US Trademark Office at this time.

I have another question about this trademark stuff.

Contact us please.

You know the drill! Or maybe you don’t, in which case we’ll explain the drill to you.

Every year, the Colossal Fund raises money for IFComp prizes. (I can say “every year” because this is the third time we’ve done it.) Last year, IF supporters (that’s you) donated $9000; we distributed $7200 to the authors of 51 IFComp entries.

Now it’s time to open the Colossal Fund for IFComp 2019. The donation button is live! See your name listed on our donor page. (Or listed as “anonymous”, if you prefer.)

The fundraising deadline is November 15th (the end of IFComp voting).

This year we’re edging the goal up to an even $10000. As usual, 80% of the proceeds ($8000) will be distributed among the top two-thirds of IFComp finishers. The other 20% ($2000) goes to support IFTF and its operations, including IFComp, the IF Archive, the IntFiction.org forums, and other programs.

What does this mean for authors? Because we’re dividing the money among the top finishers, the exact numbers depend on how many IFComp entries there are. We’ve had about 80 entries for the past couple of years. Assume that remains true in 2019. Then we will divide the money among the top 53 entries. If we reach our target of $10000, the prize chart will look like this:

1: $424.89 15: $233.12 29: $100.35 43: $26.60
2: $409.24 16: $221.68 30: $93.13 44: $23.59
3: $393.88 17: $210.54 31: $86.20 45: $20.88
4: $378.83 18: $199.70 32: $79.58 46: $18.47
5: $364.08 19: $189.16 33: $73.26 47: $16.36
6: $349.63 20: $178.93 34: $67.24 48: $14.55
7: $335.48 21: $168.99 35: $61.52 49: $13.05
8: $321.63 22: $159.36 36: $56.10 50: $11.84
9: $308.08 23: $150.03 37: $50.98 51: $10.94
10: $294.83 24: $141.00 38: $46.16 52: $10.34
11: $281.89 25: $132.27 39: $41.65 53: $10.04
12: $269.25 26: $123.84 40: $37.43
13: $256.90 27: $115.71 41: $33.52
14: $244.86 28: $107.88 42: $29.91

The numbers add up to $8000, which is 80% of $10000.

As you see, this is not a winner-take-all plan. Our goal is to distribute prizes across a broad range of IF styles and ideas. Any game which does even moderately well should receive a decent prize.

Other details:

  • How do I donate? Go to IFComp.org and push the big blue Paypal button.
  • Is my donation tax-deductible? Yes, to the extent allowed by law. (Consult a tax professional, that’s all we can say.)
  • Does the Colossal Fund replace the usual IFComp prize list? No! These cash prizes will be in addition to the usual IFComp prize list. Please visit this page to donate objects and services as prizes.
  • How will the cash prizes be distributed? Via PayPal. If you can’t accept PayPal, we can mail a US check to a US address. If that doesn’t work for you, or if you wish to decline the cash prize, we will roll the money into next year’s prize fund.
  • Was any money rolled into this year’s fund from last year? Yes! Some of last year’s winners declined their prizes. So we are starting the 2019 CF fund with $780 already in the pot.

If you have further questions, please contact us at ifcomp@ifcomp.org. And thanks for your support!

As the summer winds down, the IFTF Education Committee (EdCom) is looking back at the amazing gathering at IFTF’s first Narrascope conference in Boston, and foward to our next steps.

In June at Narrascope, EdCom ran the evening workshops. Brendan Desilets offered a session on approaches to teaching IF; Chris Klimas and Stuart Moulthrop gave an introduction to Twine; and Anasastasia Salter and Judith Pintar covered the basics of Inform 7. On Saturday we did a “Meet the EdCom” Panel where we shared our experiences teaching IF and our thoughts about the wide range of pedagogical reasons why anyone would want to! We’re interested in uses of IF in classroom from primary school to graduate school, and in disciplines across the humanities, social sciences and STEM.

At the end of that panel presentation, we announced the creation of an IF Educator’s Forum on intfiction.org, as a dedicated space for IF educators to gather. Here we can share our experiences, resources, curricula and games, ask questions, and get feedback and support for writing educational IF, teaching IF, or teaching with IF. It is also a launching site for future community-creating and community-building efforts and initiatives.

If you’re an educator who uses or teaches IF in your classrooms, or would like to do, we want to hear from you! Please drop an email to the forum and introduce yourself.

We’ve also made a short survey, so IFTF EdCom can know more about who we are as a community of educators, including wannabes, and to get a collective sense of what we all teach, what resources we have to share, and what we need.

Please share this blog with your IF colleagues and in your educational networks! Our goal for this fall is to get started building an exciting, fun, and generative IF educator’s community network.

We threw a wing-ding, all right!

NarraScope 2019 came out better than we could have dreamed. No, strike that: NarraScope was exactly the conference I dreamed of. But you don’t expect your dreams to work out perfectly.

This weekend, mine did. I’m still floating.

I have many thank-yous. Thanks to Adri, my co-chair. Thanks to the committee, who worked for a year to put this gig together, and the volunteers, who worked tirelessly all weekend. Thanks to the Education Committe, who ran the workshops. Thanks to our sponsors and to everybody who supports IFTF.

Thanks to Natalia Martinsson, who launched the weekend with her electrifying keynote talk on the emotional life of her characters. Thanks to all the rest of the speakers and panelists. And thank you all for coming and being part of what we did.


I had a lot of goals for NarraScope. Of course I wanted a diverse and blazingly intense program of talks and panels. But I also wanted everyone to feel welcomed. I wanted indies, academics, players, and students to all show up and be part of something. I wanted the event to be personal. I wanted the event to be kind.

You can’t force that; you can only invite it. We made a lot of large and small decisions to extend that invitation. Having lunch on site was an obvious one. It kept the crowd together, intermingling, continuing conversations. The expo room wasn’t full of expensive booths; the tables were for anyone with a laptop and a project to show.

But there were little details too. A few people noted that we didn’t have separate “Speaker” or “Panelist” badges. The only attendees specially marked were the volunteers, who wore brightly-colored leis. (Organizers wore the same leis, because we’re volunteers too.)

I wanted people to sing the show out with me on Sunday. That was one of my dreams. You all did.


The good news: there will be another NarraScope. The (actually) also-good news: I am stepping back as conference chair. As of this blog post, my tour as co-chair is over. I’ll still be a part of the committee — but I’m only doing one job, instead of the three-or-five jobs I did in 2019.

Therefore, Adri is looking for someone to co-chair NarraScope 2020. The committee is seeking new members, as well. Now that we’ve been through the fire, we have a better idea of what the jobs are, and we’ll need some more people to fill them all. If you’re interested in helping out, please contact narrascope@iftechfoundation.org.

Where will the next NarraScope be? What will it be like? These questions are open to discussion! 2019 was in Boston because that’s where Adri and I live. If my replacement knows another city better, maybe the conference should relocate. The committee will decide.

(Of course I like Boston, and MIT has been an excellent and affordable host. But we’re aware that Boston hotels are expensive. And a non-US locale would be less politically fraught for some travellers. There are lots of factors here.)

We’ve had lots of feedback about the first NarraScope. We’re still collecting it. (Check your mailbox for the feedback survey link.) So there will be changes. Some are obvious oversights and shortcomings from our first go-round. More signage, a chat forum, recording of every speaker who is willing to be recorded. Keep registration open longer. Stuff like that.

Other changes may go deeper. Do we want more focus on historic and golden-age IF authors? A break in the program schedule for the entire conference to explore demos? Travel grants for disadvantaged attendees? Closed captioning? More tracks? Fewer tracks? Karaoke? We don’t know. Again, the committee will decide.

What I can assure you is that we will still have a slate of the most interesting, forward-looking speakers and topics in the world of interactive narrative and adventure games. And we will be kind.


A few more details…

We had 250 people registered, and about 230 on site. The event cost about $16000 but it came close to breaking even. We’ll post a financial transparency report soon, once all the invoices are paid, the receipts are reimbursed, and the spreadsheets are reconciled.

We’ll link to audio and video recordings and presenter slides as they become available. (If you’re a speaker with a slide deck on your web site, please send us a link!) We’ve already put up the list of favorite games which was posted in the Expo Room.

Finally, if you’re native to the Boston area, you’re welcome to drop by our monthly IF meetups at MIT. These are much smaller than NarraScope, and you’ll have to supply your own doughnuts, but it’s still Adri and Nick Montfort and me hanging out to chat about narrative game news.

Again, thank you all. You were the best crowd we could possibly have assembled.

As chair of IFTF’s Accessibility Testing Project, I am pleased and proud to announce the publication of its report to the IF community.

This report summarizes the work and research performed by the project since its launch in 2016. It includes the two games (one Twine, one Inform) that we concocted to test IF platforms’ accessibility fitness, and the survey responses that we received from dozens of players with disabilities who took these games for a spin on a variety of assistive-technology setups.

Most importantly, it lists fifteen recommendations to IF’s creative community for improving the accessibility of future work, both in terms of individual games and the software used to create and present them. These recommendations base themselves on Accessible Player Experiences, a thoroughly researched set of guidelines and design patterns recently published by The AbleGamers Foundation. We believe that these recommendations could help make IF games more accessible not just to players with disabilities, but to the entire potential audience for interactive fiction.

AbleGamers partnered with IFTF on the publication of this report from the start, and we extend our gratitude to it for its invaluable assistance — as well as to all the accessibility consultants and IF experts who volunteered so much time and attention towards this project, and all the players who responded so thoughtfully to our testing surveys.

IFTF plans to keep the report permanently available at http://accessibility.iftechfoundation.org. The report’s publication concludes the work of the Accessibility Testing Project, hence its move on our programs page to a new “Past Programs” section. We hope that this report sparks discussion and inspiration within the community about ways to make interactive fiction available to as many players as possible.

As noted earlier, I presented a short talk about IFTF at a technology meetup in Providence last February. I recorded it, and then immediately put it out of mind before actually sharing the recording — a realization that struck me only today, when I wanted to refer to the talk from another article, elsewhere on the web.

So, here it is, better late then never! Happily, little has become out-of-date in the intervening three months. Please pardon the handful of audio stumbles; as with all my presentations, I read from a script, and sometimes flub my lines. (Chalk it up to verisimilitude: it’s like you’re there!)

And let me drop a special greeting to the folks who traveled to Providence from as far away as New York, just to hear the talk and say hello. It was a good time! As for the rest of you, if you meet me at Narrascope, I can give you one of the stickers I promised to the crowd that evening in February.

We are delighted to announce our keynote speaker! Natalia Martinsson of Killmonday Games will kick off NarraScope in June.

Natalia is an illustrator, animator, and the designer of indie hit Fran Bow and the upcoming Little Misfortune. Together with her partner Isak Martinsson, she creates adventure games with a sparkling mix of childhood whimsy and gruesome nightmare.

You may pet a doggy, a fishy, a wolfie, the Kraken, the kitty and the foxy.

— from the preview of Little Misfortune

Natalia will speak about shaping games with emotional intelligence. Her approach to character design colors every aspect of Killmonday’s games — writing, narrative design, even the studio workplace and production process.

We look forward to hearing Natalia speak and welcoming her into the NarraScope conversation!


Remember, NarraScope registration closes on May 17th. We’re coming down to the last couple of weeks here. If you want to be a part of this conversation, now’s the time to push the button.


By the way, we’ve gotten several inquiries about video recording of the NarraScope presentations. Karsten Feyerabend of articy Software has volunteered to record some of the talks. (With the permission of the speakers, of course.) He can’t cover the entire conference, but we should be able to get a selection of the talks online. We’ll let you know the details as we work them out.

Thanks to articy Software for helping with this! Hopefully in future years we’ll be able to expand our recording capabilities.

Because I miss you all and want to see you.

Maybe that’s not the whole reason. (Maybe it’s just 27.5% of the reason.)

I’ve spent a lot of years in what I used to call “the interactive fiction community”. It was never the only such community. A lot of groups and traditions have grown up around the idea — ideas — of telling stories in the interactive arts. Sometimes we have conversations and exchange ideas; more often we don’t. There’s been a lot of border-drawing and definition-guarding. I’ve done it myself.

Some groups talk about adventure games; others about narrative games, story-games, interactive fiction, interactive narrative. Sometimes we talk about “text games”, and sometimes the games are wordless. Not everybody even thinks of themselves as creating games.

There’s a lot of diversity, is what I’m saying. But also a lot of commonality — perhaps unspoken or undiscovered. So, like we wrote on the front page: it’s time to bring those communities together.

We’ve had gathering points in the past, but they tend to be sideshows. Interactive narrative rates a mention at most game developer events, and also at many recent writing and literary conferences. But it’s just one of many topics. GDC has a “game narrative summit”, but of course GDC is enormous, expensive, and aimed at the needs of the biggest industry movers.

Recently, however, we’ve seen a few regional events which are entirely focused on narrative games. WordPlay in Toronto and AdventureX in London are our direct inspirations, and we’re grateful to them for blazing trails.

NarraScope is our attempt at such an event. We hope it will bring its own flavor to the party, and that flavor is: bringing communities together in conversation. IF or adventures or narrative games, visual novels or storygames or hypertext: what can we tell each other? What problem have you solved that I can learn from?

We hope that NarraScope will grow to become an indispensable annual gathering for everyone exploring interactive narrative. Come find out what the first one will be like.

And also, you know, to hang out. I’ll be there. I know a lot of my friends will be too. We’ll catch up.