Adam Cadre has published one book to his name, but I know him better as the author of the spectacularly funny MSTing of "The Eye of Argon", a spectacularly funny (and bad) piece of fantastic fiction in the Conan vein. MSTing has a certain postmodernist flair (V. used Cadre’s version of "Eye" as an example in a linguistics paper she wrote), and recent mention on MetaFilter reminded me that Cadre is also the author of some fascinating interactive fiction. Interactive fiction — think Zork — was largely killed off by graphical games (Sierra’s being the best known), CD-ROM puzzle games, and Myst. But as with so many things, the Internet has enabled remaining enthusiasts to keep their hobby alive. In the nineties, well after commercial viability of text adventures was ended, Graham Nelson, an Oxford professor, created a programming language, Inform, to help him write his game Curses. A few years later, Michael Roberts released his authoring system, TADS, which dated back to 1987, freeware; two professional-quality tools for writing games were available, and literally hundreds of games are now available. There are newsletters and newsgroups dedicated to discussing the theory and practice of IF writing. People have tried to judge the best interactive fiction (1 | 2); every year, a group of volunteers puts on a short IF competition which attracts dozens of entrants.

Games are still written outside the competition, but they are few and far between, to the point that Mr. Cadre created a spring competition of his own in an attempt to draw more entrants. Cadre has done quite well in the past compeitions, although I confess that I think that 9:05 is a gimmick in the guise of a game and that Photopia, while a solid piece of writing, is only by the skin of its teeth a game. Still, Cadre has put some thought into what he’s doing. Pushing the envelope is how art is advanced, even art that only a few thousand people in the world care about. I’m not terribly good at i.f. games, but I find the effort that goes into them (and the thought about the medium that lead Cadre to write Photopia, which was very enjoyable once you got over thinking of it as a game, or lead Zarf to write his experimental i.f., The Space Under the Window) fascinating. How many people are still writing serialist music? How many people care about modern dance? What’s the minimum amount of creative energy and critical attention required to keep an art form alive?