In Defense of Text

Gaming, Writing

I believe I’ve previously mentioned the terrific documentary Get Lamp by Jason Scott. It looks at the past, present, and future of interactive fiction and text adventure games through interviews with many prominent figures in the history of IF. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in literacy, interactive fiction, puzzles, escape rooms, gaming (tabletop, video, and anything else) and philosophy.

Go ahead and watch 45:50-51:55 and then come back. Go on. Git!

There’s something worth really considering in this about the value of text, and how it has been lost in ways due to the ease and immediacy of the image in contemporary culture.

I think there may be a resurgence of text in gaming and entertainment independent of the externally manufactured image (such as can be seen in film, television, and video games), like an ember bursting into flame after a period of dormancy. You can see some of this already occurring in the commercial success of a mobile game like Lifeline.

At the same time, adventure video games such as Life is Strange and The Wolf Among Us carry on in the best tradition of IF (with strong characters and narratives) differentiated by their use of more evolved graphic and interface capabilities.

Virtual Reality presents further challenges and possibilities.

Ultimately, it is not a question of whether text is “better” than the image, or vice-versa. It is rather a question of whether we can hold onto both forms in their independence and in their integration without losing the best of either. Can both find their place?

This question is also one our globalized world is facing in terms of race and ethnicity.



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