The Beast

The BeastThe first successful alternate reality game, this project never had an official name or website, but involved writing and work in other media being distributed across the Web on thirty sites; on other Internet servies; via phone, fax, USPS, bathroom walls, and live events; as well as on TV. It never advertised itself as a game and in fact declared “this is not a game.” Microsoft developed this non-game, which centered on the mystery of the death of Evan Chan, to promote the movie A.I. Thousands worked to solve what came to be called “The Beast” — which involved interpreting nearly 4,000 documents (in four languages), constructing a nightmare database, decrypting from the WWII Enigma code, and so on — a feat only possible with many readers cooperating online.

The Unknown

The UnknownThe encyclopedia hypertext novel The Unknown tells the story of a group of successful authors (who call themselves “The Unknown” and happen to be named William Gillespie, Scott Rettberg, and Dirk Stratton) on a drug-crazed cross-country book tour. The Unknown has been publicly read more than three dozen times, in readings where the audience is invited to interrupt and take things in a different direction whenever linked text is read. See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.

The Carl Comics

The Carl ComicsThe author of Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics has invented several new comic forms for the Web. In “The Carl Comics,” McCloud offers an “expandable” comic and a “Choose Your Own Carl” that branches and recombines at numerous points, offering different horizontal and vertical paths. More than a thousand readers offered suggestions, participating in developing this “fully interactive, multiple path, reader-written, death-obsessed comics extravaganza.”

afternoon, a story

afternoon, a storyafternoon, a story is one of the most widely-discussed works of electronic literature. It is the story of Peter, a technical writer who (in one reading) begins his afternoon with a terrible suspicion that the wrecked car he saw hours earlier might have belonged to his former wife: “I want to say I may have seen my son die this morning.” See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.


GalateaShort’s all-text simulation lets the interactor converse with a statue that has come to life. Depending on how the conversation affects the mood of Pygmalion’s creation, and where the conversation goes, different secrets will be unfolded and different (sometimes incompatible) backstories will be revealed. Galatea won the 2000 IF Art Show and set the standard for compelling characters in interactive fiction. See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.


FaçadeFaçade, a finalist 2004 Independent Games Festival, is an interactive drama that is visually rich and dramatically deep. A first-person-shooter interface accepts typed conversational statements and allows the animated characters, Trip and Grace, to speak back to this drama’s “player” as their marriage dissolves.


ShadeIn this brief work of interactive fiction, Plotkin (a.k.a. zarf) causes the ordinary actions of looking for a glass of water and searching for plane tickets to turn terrifying, transforming an ordinary setting. Shade is a very unusual entry in the classic “one room game in your apartment” category.


fray{fray} is an online storytelling community, linking writers of personal stories with talented designers, and encouraging story readers to share their own stories in response to those published on the site. Although fray stories typically make minimal use of electronic enhancements, the site is an excellent example of the power of a collaborative online writing community.

Patchwork Girl

patchwork girlPatchwork Girl is one of the most widely-discussed and inventive works of hypertext in Storyspace. It is a feminist retelling of the Frankenstein story that asks “What if Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein were true? What if Mary Shelley herself made the monster – not the fictional Dr. Frankenstein?” Robert Coover has referred to Patchwork Girl “perhaps the true paradigmatic work of the era.” See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.


DakotaThe pounding vortex of Dakota reworks Cantos I and II into a furiously driving, but still legible, loop of animated text. Young Hae-Chang’s piece seems to please everyone: It was shown at the Whitney Museum and is taught in college classes, but it also has made its way onto more popular Flash forums. See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.