IF Week Part 4: Five IF Personalites

Emily Short

Notable games: Galatea, Metamorphoses

Aliases: None so far

Website: Emily's website contains many interesting essays on the topic of IF, as well as an absolutely fantastic list of recommended IF games.

Biography: Emily Short is notable for being the most prominent female author in the IF community. Her attention to the details and complexity of an NPC is notable, and she has also been responsible for starting some very interesting competitions, such as the fascinating WalkthroughComp.

Short's first game, Galatea, drew absolutely rave reviews for aspiring to a new level of art in interactive fiction. The complexity of the titular NPC can not truly be discovered until the conversation has been played through multiple times, and the layers of psychology involved have been examined deeper. Who knows how many times it takes to see everything in this game.

She continues to be active in the IF community, and I look forward to her future offerings. I thank her for submitting her answers to my questions as well.

How did you get started playing text adventures?

My parents are both pretty tech-aware, and my mother in particular has been programming professionally since before I was born. So they bought and played Infocom games, and I watched them play (and eventually played them myself). This was when I was five or six years old, so I don't remember it very clearly. But I do remember that even then I badly wanted to make a game of my own. I used to draw little maps, and I once typed in a BASIC text adventure from a book, which then played on my Vic 20. It wasn't very satisfying, though. I tried again later, when I was twelve or thirteen — still in BASIC. The results were pretty dreadful, because I didn't understand the concept of a parser, let alone have any notion how to write one. The game would only respond if you used exactly the correct commands. Needless to say, that didn't get finished either.

When I was in college, a friend of mine (who knew about my early love of text adventures) introduced me to the world of modern amateur IF, and at that point I realized I actually had a hope of writing something on the same level of technical sophistication as the Infocom games.

What IF work of yours are you most proud of, and why?

I have a soft spot for my first game, Galatea, which consists of a conversation with a single person. I enjoy writing IF partly because I like trying to push the boundaries of the genre and do things that have not been done before, but Galatea was a bigger leap than anything else I've written since.

Galatea is also the game about which I've gotten (and continue to get, years after releasing it) the most powerful responses from people. I've received artwork and music that people created in response to playing it — which is, in my opinion, the hugest compliment possible.

Besides your own works, what is your favorite work of IF from the past eight years?

Andrew Plotkin's Spider and Web. It has, to my mind, a nearly perfect combination of plot and puzzle: none of the puzzles feel out of place, and they are all significant and advance the action as well.

Do you generally enjoy graphic adventure games?

The few that I've played, I've enjoyed a lot. I'm a graduate student on a small budget, however, and I have an aging Mac laptop without very much memory. So when I play graphic adventure games, it's usually because I'm using a friend's computer. And I don't have a very good sense of the state of the field.

Do you think being female changes your perspective on game design?

I want to say no on general principle. I tend to alternate fairly evenly between writing male protagonists and female ones, for instance. I've written the occasional romantic plot, but so have male designers. And I've heard it suggested that I am especially interested in non-player characters because women are naturally more attuned to human interactions than men are, but I think that's mostly bogus. There are certainly other female authors — Suzanne Britton and Kathleen Fischer come to mind — who have also devoted a lot of effort to their NPCs. But then so has Adam Cadre, say.

So I don't really think there's anything serious to extrapolate here. As with most gender-related questions, I think there may be trends — women are more likely than men to do thing x or thing y — but those trends are just general statistics, and in any given case may be overridden by a person's individual background, talents, and personality.

Continued on the next page...




About the Author
Stinger's avatar
Evan Dickens
Staff Writer
Evan Dickens is the former editor-in-chief of Adventure Gamers. Now semi-retired, he meanders about on his front porch firing his slingshot at passing cars and griping about "the old days". Full Bio



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