We here at GWJ make little secret that many of us enjoy interactive fiction. It's a love born of our passion for stories and characters, our joy in clever indie experimentation, and no small portion of nostalgia for text adventures of yesteryear.
If you share our enjoyment of this style, then you are in luck. The 15th annual Interactive Fiction Competition, IFComp 2009, made this year's entries available last week, beginning the 6-week judging period to play and vote on your favorite.
IFComp games are short. Judges are allowed to play each for no more than 2 hours before assigning a score, so games are generally designed to be finished within that window. In years past, these games needed players to install separate interpreter programs on their computers, but 14 of the 24 entries this year are playable online.
This progress toward easier access may not mean that all the old arcana of genre convention have passed away, however. Games are still likely to expect you know to look upon entry to every new location and at every named object, and perhaps to use as many objects on each other as possible. To many, brain-contorting combinations to solve puzzles and the responses IF games give to off-the-mark inputs are part of the genre's charm. Regardless, these are conventions you should have in mind as you play IF, just as it's helpful to understand mouse-look and WASD (or your own sick variant thereof) for PC FPS titles.
Why You Should Check This Out: Not only can you take part in a central event of the IF culture, but you get to play games for free! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the options, Emily Short is a great source of IFComp reviews (as well as rich, nougaty IF knowledge).