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PC Gamer UK Interview: Adam Cadre

Richard Cobbett [R.C.]: Your website comments: "I found that freed from commercial concerns, "text adventure games" had morphed into "interactive fiction" -- an increasingly experimental medium with every bit as much potential as straight prose". Although your own games certainly live up to this, which others would you cite as proof, and why?

Adam Cadre [A.C.]: Galatea by Emily Short, a work whose "gameplay" consists entirely of conversing with and learning about the title character. This would be death at whatever the computer game equivalent of the box office is, but I personally find talking to and getting to know people much more interesting than carjacking. Especially when the conversation can go literally scores of different ways depending on the directions you take it.

Shade by Andrew Plotkin, a story which starts off seeming perfectly mundane and gradually evolves into something... else... without ever leaving the protagonist's apartment -- unless you think it does. This is a work which requires some heavy interpretive thought for it to make sense -- and richly rewards that thought. It's not just obscurity for the sake of obscurity. But because it requires people to really think about what they read, I can't imagine a commercial publisher greenlighting it.

There are others -- My Angel by Jon Ingold, say, or Rameses by Stephen Bond -- but I'd quickly end up repeating myself if I went into the "why" part of your question. These aren't "adventures" at all, but are instead narratives of all different types which incorporate interactivity in various ways. And that's what I'm interested in.

R.C.: Several of your games -- notably Shrapnel -- involve darker subject matters than a standard adventure. How would you say the games industry as a whole succeeds or fails at tackling such issues?

A.C.: Oh, I have no idea. 15-20 years ago I could look at a wall of PC games and see a dozen things I couldn't wait to play; nowadays I look at such displays and nothing really catches my eye.

R.C.: Who would you cite as your primary influences while writing -- other designers or otherwise?

A.C.: I'm influenced by other games in that I often try to invert their tropes in my own stuff. Otherwise, no, I certainly didn't learn to write by playing IF.

R.C.: Text Adventures and Interactive Fiction are often seen as two rough but distinct camps -- the former principally focusing on its puzzles, the latter on storyline. Which side, if either, do you feel is the most important when creating a game?

A.C.: I have virtually no interest whatsoever in solving puzzles (though designing them can be sort of fun). As I said earlier, to me the whole draw of IF is that it's narrative with some sort of participatory component. If that participation is limited to figuring out how to fix a broken machine or wander around collecting keys or what have you, my desire to play on is likely to be nil.

R.C.: What would be the most important piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring IF author?

A.C.: The player should always have a pretty compelling reason to type something other than QUIT. The fact that something came out of your head may by itself make it fascinating to you, but you'll have to put in some other source of interest and motivation before players will find it so. And just giving the player a goal isn't enough. The experience of achieving that goal should be rewarding. Every diegetic piece of text should have something to recommend it: a joke, a nice bit of imagery, a character insight, something.

R.C.: Summed up in a sentence -- why should a non-initiated reader care about IF?

A.C.: Assuming that this non-initiated reader does like to read stories, the answer's easy: interactive fiction is just fiction in which the reader can participate in some way. The best IF offers the experience of reading a good story plus the feeling of having been there in more than a purely vicarious way.

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An extract from this interview was printed in PC Gamer UK, issue 118 (Jan 2003). Reprinted with permission.

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