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Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction Paperback – February 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Twisty Little Passages is, quite simply, one of the best books on hypermedia, period. This book not only made me reconsider the importance of interactive fiction as a genre within hypermedia, it also made me devote a hefty portion of my graduate courses to IF -- and Twisty Little Passages. Hell, after reading it, I even went out and bought every Infocom title I could lay my hands on. It's that good.

(J. Yellowlees Douglas, author of The End of Books or Books Without End: Reading Interactive Narratives and I Have Said Nothing)

This is a thoroughly researched history of interactive fiction, as well as a brilliant analysis of the genre. Reading it makes me itch to fire up that old DEC-20 and start writing interactive fiction again!

(Steve Meretzky, Creative Content Director, WorldWinner.com, and interactive fiction pioneer)

Nick Montfort's excellent book puts interactive fiction into its literary context for the first time. Just as groundbreaking studies of romance and the gothic novel have broadened our idea of literary fiction, so Montfort makes a powerful case for recognition of this extraordinary new form of art: of the poetry that must live within the machine. Newcomers will find all that they need here, while those who are already aficionados will be constantly informed and surprised.

(Graham Nelson, St. Anne's College, Oxford University, author and critic of interactive fiction)

Anyone interested in the use of technology for artistic and cultural purposes should crack open Twisty Little Passages.

(Book Bytes)

About the Author

Nick Montfort is Associate Professor of Digital Media at MIT and the coauthor of Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (MIT Press, 2009).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (February 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262633183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262633185
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Montfort writes computational and constrained poetry, develops computer games, and is a critic, theorist, and scholar of computational art and media. He is associate professor of digital media in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, president of the Electronic Literature Organization, and director of The Trope Tank.

In addition to his books, Montfort has done digital media writing projects including the ppg256 series of 256-character poetry generators; Sea and Spar Between (with Stephanie Strickland); the interactive fiction system Curveship; Ream, a 500-page poem written on one day; the group blog Grand Text Auto; Implementation, a novel on stickers (with Scott Rettberg); The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 (co-edited with three others); and several works of interactive fiction: Book and Volume, Ad Verbum, and Winchester's Nightmare.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Paul O'Brian on January 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Just over ten years ago, I was holed up in the University of Colorado at Boulder's Norlin library, researching interactive fiction. I was a grad student in English, and had a final paper due in my Literary Theory class. Activision had recently released the Lost Treasures of Infocom bundle, reawakening my childhood love of IF, and I felt inspired to write a paper that connected reader-response theory to the actual reader-responsiveness of text adventures. I wanted to cite and to engage with previous academic work on IF, but unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, it had received very little serious critical attention. Sure, I found a few articles here and there, but what I really needed was something substantial, something that offered a critical vocabulary for talking about interactive fiction, that placed it in a literary context, and that presented a basic history of the form.
What I needed was Nick Montfort's TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES. How strange and funny that ten years later, the paper I wrote for that class finds itself cited in the first book-length academic treatment of interactive fiction. Sure, the citation only occurs in a passing (and correct) dismissal of reader-response theory as anything but a very limited way into talking about IF, but it makes me feel like part of history nonetheless. Montfort's book is just what IF needs to establish its rightful place the scholarly discourse surrounding electronic literature, and indeed literature, full stop. It never fails to be informative, and frequently succeeds at being sharply insightful about the literary elements of IF.
However, TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES is quite suitable for readers outside the ivory tower as well.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Tresca VINE VOICE on November 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Twisty Little Passages, by Nick Montfort, addresses a much needed gap in gaming analysis and history: that of interactive fiction. The precursor to Multi-User Dungeons, interactive fiction was a form of text-based interactive game that sprang to life in tandem with the rise of the personal computer. Single player in scope but capable of taking its players anywhere the programmers could imagine, it relied primarily on the written word to share its world. Although the games initially started with VERB NOUN responses (e.g., "get book", "read book", etc.), they eventually advanced to natural language parsers.

Throughout the book is a history of interactive fiction and its development through the eighties and nineties. It also analyzes the comparisons between hypertext fiction and interactive fiction and the inequalities in how the two or treated. If you can't guess, interactive fiction isn't treated very well.

Montfort seems to have an axe to grind, citing shoddy research that conflates certain interactive fiction as being fantasy adventure games and confuses the origins of Adventure (or ADVENT). Montfort corrects all these misperceptions and more through personal interviews with Will Crowther, creator of Adventure, and Dave Lebling, one of the creators of Zork.

Twisty Little Passages seeks to redress these inconsistencies, positing that interactive fiction is more than just a game but a form of literature in its own right. Montfort makes a convincing argument, but then as an administrator of RetroMUD for over a decade, I'm one of the converted. It's unlikely that literature snobs are reading his book.

Although occasionally defensive in tone, Montfort's retrospect and analysis of interactive fiction is a welcome addition to any game developer's library. It's important to know what went before, and this book addresses an important part of gaming history that has been all but forgotten.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Handsome Dave on August 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like this book. I really do, but I'm a nerd. It's very, very dense. it reads like a long research paper on text-adventure games. But that's because it basically is a research paper on text adventures. However if you like a serious approach to the history of gaming then this book is a great pick up and read. If you're looking for some light techno-babble about how awesome video games are, it's not this. This is not so much a beach read, but it's an interesting experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roy Wagner on April 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you ever "played" an Infocom "game" and want to know more about how they came to be, this book is for you. It is an in depth study of the history of interactive fiction. A very complete and enjoyable book.
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