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.

The IFTF Education Committee (EdCom), is excited to be hosting three workshops at NarraScope on Friday June 14. Early sign-in begins at 6:30 pm in MIT building 32 (the Stata Center). The hour-long sessions will start at 7:30 pm, also in building 32.

All workshops are free for NarraScope attendees. Registration is open now.

This is what is on the line-up:

Teach Lamp: IF Workshop for Educators

Presenters: Brendan Desilets and Matt Farber

Are you a teacher who has always wondered about using interactive fiction in the classroom? Here’s your chance to sample some interactive fiction in its two principal forms, parser-based IF and choice-based IF, and to learn directly from people who successfully use it in their own teaching. In this workshop you’ll read interactive fiction that has been used in classrooms, and you’ll try your hand at writing some as well. This is your chance to get started! For more information, contact Brendan Desilets, brendan_desilets@uml.edu

Make Lamp: Crafting Parser-Based IF with Inform 7

Presenters: Anastasia Salter and Judith Pintar

The classic verb-driven, parser-based model of Interactive Fiction offers space for nuanced world-building, conversation models, and puzzle development, but can be needlessly daunting for beginners. We’ll dive into the “natural language” engine of Inform 7 and work through the textual construction of objects, rooms, and a few classic puzzles. For educators, Inform 7 can be a particularly compelling way to introduce the logics of object-oriented programming, and for writers Inform 7 offers impressive flexibility in narrative branching and NPC character building. For more information, contact Anastasia Salter, anastasia@ucf.edu

Twine Untangled: A Beginner’s Workshop

Presenters: Chris Klimas and Stuart Moulthrop

Twine is a platform for making anything from choose-your-own-adventure stories to entrancing, multi-mediated game-worlds. Twine is as powerful as a world of creative coders can make it – yet incredibly easy for beginners and a great tool for teachers. Join us for a hands-on taste of Twine, introducing the interface, basic composition, story logic, and some glimpses of scripting and other advanced topics. No programming experience necessary! For more information, contact Stuart Moulthrop, moulthro@uwm.edu

IFTF has published its Transparency Report for 2018 as an eight-page PDF. It summarizes IFTF’s activity from January 2018 through December 2018, including a high-level accounting of the organization’s financial income and expenditures.

As a public-service organization that many people entrust with their time, attention, and money, IFTF presents this annual report in an effort to show how it has applied its community’s investments over the past calendar year.

IFTF president Jason McIntosh wrote most of it this year, so it also contains at least one extremely dry joke. Please give it a look at your own convenience.

The registration page for NarraScope 2019 is now open.

Really we opened it up on Friday — you may have seen the tweets. But we were quiet about it through the weekend in case any last-minute problems turned up. Maybe they still will, but now it’s time to shout about it!

While we’re shouting, here’s some more things you should know:

The event is limited to 500 attendees. The venue rooms only hold so many people.

We expect registration to sell out well before June. There will be no at-the-door registration! We’ll post regularly to let people know how fast the tickets are selling.

We want NarraScope to be accessible to everyone interested in narrative games, regardless of their background. Therefore, we have several classes of ticket available.

  • The standard membership costs $85. This gives you access to the entire conference; it also includes lunch Saturday and Sunday.

  • If you can’t justify the cost of the standard membership, we also have a restricted-budget membership for $35. This gives you access to the entire conference, including lunch Saturday and Sunday. That is, it’s exactly the same as a standard membership — it just costs $50 less.

  • To counterbalance this, we offer a community supporter membership for $135. This is, again, exactly the same as a standard membership — it just costs $50 more. The extra money goes to support one restricted-budget membership.

  • Current MIT students may register for free. Our thanks to MIT for giving us affordable function space on campus! The MIT student membership gives access to the entire conference, but does not include lunch. Sorry about that.

  • If you are a confirmed speaker, we have emailed you a complimentary registration code. Check your inbox.

By the way, the restricted-budget and community-supporter memberships are entirely on the honor system. Pay what you can afford. We hope and expect that it will all balance out in the end.

Also: we’re aware that Boston is an expensive city, and a $50 discount on membership doesn’t go far towards the cost of travel and housing. We apologize that we can’t do more. We’ll see how it works out this time, and we’ll consider every option to make NarraScope more accessible and affordable in the future.

(If you are interested in sponsoring NarraScope, please contact us!)

Beginning in December 2018, we debuted Twine News. It’s a roundup of Twine game releases, educational resources, events, and pretty much anything else that people in the Twine community would be interested in. If there’s something Twine-related you’d like to get the word out about, please submit a suggestion using the site’s online form. If you’d like to follow the Twine community more closely, there’s also a Subreddit and Discord, too.

IFTF plans to publish its third annual transparency report by the end of March. This is a little later than last year’s publication date, due in part to my own coming up to speed with the authorship task after former board member Flourish Klink handed the job over to me. I thank the board and the community for its patience, and will of course update this blog with a link once the report goes public.

I also have the privilege of overseeing the IFTF Accessibility Testing Committee’s report, which — after a rather longer delay! — looks on-target to appear later this year. The accessibility program successfully concluded the testing exercise it began in January, with its public call for more participants resulting in a tidy doubling of the initial tester-pool. (We also extended the testing period by a week to better accomodate these later arrivals.) The committee now possesses accessibility survey responses from several dozen players with disabilities, including both IF veterans and those new to the form. We now turn our attention to transforming this data into a meaningful report, and I very much look forward to presenting it to the community.