The Space Under The Window

This month's featured artist review is a piece of Interactive Fiction titled "The Space Under The Window".

Interactive Fiction is a foreign concept to some people, and so is worth a moment of context. IF has its roots in the Adventure games of old, where you would type commands like "GET ROCK" and "OPEN DOOR" and the computer would describe the consequences of your actions. These games were traditionally all text (this was before computer graphics were common) so it was up to the player's imagination to fill in the details.

Eventually, the parsers (the part of the game that takes in your command) became very sophisticated, and you were able to use longer phrases such as "unlock the door with the key" and "put the bread on the table". This style of game saw its commercial peak with a company called Infocom, who made such classics as Zork and the interactive version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Sadly, these games lost their commercial following as computers were able to produce more sophisticated graphics. Recently however, there has been a comeback in this style of gameplay- the exploring, discovery, and manipulation of objects- in games such as Myst and Riven. Also, there is a steady interest in the genre of Interactive Fiction by dedicated hobbyists, who create and play new works. Andrew Plotkin ,the writer of "The Space Under The Window", is one of these hobbyists.

"The Space Under The Window" is not a traditional adventure game, however. Instead, it is more like an interactive Prose Poem. To quote from the "about" screen of the game:

Verbs such as "take", "drop", "open", and "examine" are not relevant in this work. They will not be understood. Instead, your part is to type the name of objects (or attributes or aspects of objects) that you see in the narrative. When you refer to an object, it will be brought into greater prominence, changing the course of the narrative thread.
The game suggest you type "about" to get this information, and a bit more.

You are able to play this game, to explore this prose poem, online, by the wonder of modern java technology and Matt Russotto's ZPlet interpreter. I urge you to give it a try: Myron Krueger said "an art form based on the computer should be impossible without it", and I think this piece of Interactive Fiction really demonstrates some exciting new possibilities. The romantic content will be obvious once you dig into the game.

Play The Space Under The Window by clicking here. (Note, for some reason the game doesn't always display properly when I run it with Netscape on WinNT, however on my Windows 95 machine it is fine, and with Microsoft Internet Explorer there don't seem to be any problems.)

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