A Beginner’s Guide to Downloading and Playing Interactive Fiction Games

Here are five easy steps describing how to get and play interactive fiction (text adventures) on your computer.

How to Download and Play Interactive Fiction Games (A Beginner’s Guide)

An interactive fiction (also known as text adventure) game is a story, and you are a character that wanders through, collecting items and solving puzzles to reach the end. You can type instructions such as “GO EAST”, “POUR WATER ON GROUND”, or “EXAMINE CHAIR”, and will get a resulting snippet of text giving you more information about the game world or progressing you through the story. As an avid reader and casual gamer, I really like these games. Older readers may remember playing similar games in the past, such as Zork. But did you know there are still people writing new ones?

Here are 5 easy steps for getting and playing interactive fiction games on your computer:

1) Download a game player.
2) Install the player.
3) Find a game.
4) Download the game.
5) Play the game.

And here are more detailed instructions for each step:

1) Download a game player:

I suggest downloading Gargoyle, as it is the only player available for windows that plays all the different story types. You can download Gargoyle from this page.

Make sure you only download the one called gargoyle-2008-12-25-windows.exe. Save it to the desktop.

Note: If you do not use windows, you can use MultiAventures for MacOS.

2) Install the player:

Go to the desktop and find this icon:

Then double-click it. Follow all of the prompts until it is installed.

3) Find a game:

There are several listings of games on the internet. Currently, I am playing down a list of 5-star games I have found. I have also been playing the winners of the 2010 Interactive Fiction competition (Aotearoa is fun!). You can also search for games using Baf’s Guide.

If you are not sure where to start, one of my favourite games is Lost Pig. Another favourite was 9:05 (but be warned, although it is very easy to play, 9:05 has no help available at the start). This tutorial will be using example screenshots for Lost Pig.

4) Download the game:

Once you have found a game, you will be on a page that looks a lot like this (it may be slightly different, that’s ok, the important part is the Downloads box):

Now minimise your internet browser and create a folder somewhere (for example, the Desktop) called something like “IF Games”. Un-minimize the internet browser.

Find the link on the page to the executable file. The file extension should be one of the following:

  • a3c
  • a3r
  • acd (also download the .dat file)
  • blb
  • cas
  • gam
  • gblorb
  • glb
  • hex
  • t3
  • t3x
  • ulx
  • z1, z2, z3, z4, z5, z6, z7, or z8
  • zblorb
  • zlb

In my screenshot, the file extension was z8. All of the file extensions are interactive fiction games that will open in your reader.

Once you have found the right file (the one with one of the above extensions), click it. A download box will appear. If you are using firefox it will look something like this:

Choose save file (or similar if you are using a different browser) and save it to the folder you created.

Note you can often download walkthroughs with the game. I do not explain how to here, but it is the same process as downloading any other file from the internet. If you do download them, they are usually just simple text files that you can open in Notepad. Often they are unnecessary as the game will provide hints to you if you get stuck (or if you type HINT or HELP).

5) Play the game

Close your internet browser, you don’t need to use it anymore. Now open the folder you created on the desktop in the previous step and double-click on the game you downloaded. It should open in your game player and look something like this:

I prefer to maximise the window by double-clicking the title bar, but this is optional. Read the descriptions, then when you reach the end there will be an arrow > . Type in a command, for example ABOUT to read about the game, or type X SELF for a short description of your character. Most games also allow you to type HELP or HINT.

Have fun!

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