Well, there is a little money in text games. Though fans of text games now number barely in the thousands, if not hundreds, the form still finds markets. As steaming atolls, newly formed from the ocean depths, soon grow green with moss and lichens, so are some new gadgets instantly colonized by text adventurers, gaming's hardy pioneers. A few early mobile phone games were text, and now you can buy text games for your iPod. (You read the text on the display and make choices even while you listen to your songs.)

But some IF fans seek a higher destiny. They foster ongoing discussion of whether and how text games qualify as a genuine art form, a branch of literature. Stephen Granade, who runs the popular IF site The Brass Lantern, has argued IF fans must become "literate gamers":

"I think that IF can be more than entertainment. It is an art form, and at its best it does what all good art does: It sheds light on the human condition. But for IF to be art, IF must have its cadre of literate critics and creators. [...] One problem which plagued science fiction criticism for the longest time was that works of SF were compared only to other works of SF. Little attempt was made to connect SF to the larger realm of fiction. We can fall prey to the same mistakes when critiquing IF. It's not enough to say that a game was good 'for an adventure game.' We need to be willing to subject works of IF to the harsher standards of literature in general."

Granade's writings show the devotion of not only a literate gamer, but a hardcore fan - the uncompromising commitment you'd encounter in a crafter of birchbark canoes, lace doilies, or Commodore code. "As you grow in experience, it becomes harder and harder to just 'enjoy a game,'" he writes. "Bad games seem ten times worse than they are; reasonably good games become disappointments. The reward, though, is a heightened enjoyment of IF when it works. You'll be playing a game, going through the motions, when you'll hit a scene which works. All the drudgery of playing IF, all the time you've spent suddenly becomes unimportant. For a brief moment a glow will surround you, and you'll marvel at the craftsmanship and artistry of the author."

This glow, however brief, shows little sign of dying.

A brilliant flash of green light seems less unusual when followed by the appearance of tentacled aliens, as is the case with the current flash of green light. The tentacles wrap roughly around you as you faint.

After an unknown amount of time ... Well, let's cut the crap. 7.3 hours later, you wake. Your head feels as if it's been run over by several locomotives, or at least one very large locomotive, and your clothes are now unrecognizable ...

- Steve Meretzky, Leather Goddesses of Phobos

Allen Varney is a freelance writer and game designer based in Austin, Texas. His published work includes six books, three board games, and nearly two dozen role-playing game supplements.

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