Twisty Little Passages

Twisty Little Passages

An Approach to Interactive Fiction

By Nick Montfort

A critical approach to interactive fiction, as literature and game.





A critical approach to interactive fiction, as literature and game.

Interactive fiction—the best-known form of which is the text game or text adventure—has not received as much critical attention as have such other forms of electronic literature as hypertext fiction and the conversational programs known as chatterbots. Twisty Little Passages (the title refers to a maze in Adventure, the first interactive fiction) is the first book-length consideration of this form, examining it from gaming and literary perspectives. Nick Montfort, an interactive fiction author himself, offers both aficionados and first-time users a way to approach interactive fiction that will lead to a more pleasurable and meaningful experience of it.

Twisty Little Passages looks at interactive fiction beginning with its most important literary ancestor, the riddle. Montfort then discusses Adventure and its precursors (including the I Ching and Dungeons and Dragons), and follows this with an examination of mainframe text games developed in response, focusing on the most influential work of that era, Zork. He then considers the introduction of commercial interactive fiction for home computers, particularly that produced by Infocom. Commercial works inspired an independent reaction, and Montfort describes the emergence of independent creators and the development of an online interactive fiction community in the 1990s. Finally, he considers the influence of interactive fiction on other literary and gaming forms. With Twisty Little Passages, Nick Montfort places interactive fiction in its computational and literary contexts, opening up this still-developing form to new consideration.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262134361 302 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 2 illus.


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262633185 302 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 2 illus.


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

    Book Bytes


  • 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,, 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