When I was in elementary school, my father brought home a text-based video game and said, “Play this.” The game was Zork, one of the earliest text adventures, and he bought it because I was a terrible speller. Because text adventures require the player to read a small paragraph of information and then type out brief instructions such as “go left” or “take rope,” interacting with the game not only showed me the proper spelling of words, but it forced me to learn how to use those words, too, if I wanted to keep moving through the story.
These games are a fun way to practice reading and writing skills by interacting with words in short bursts. They allow the player to enter a story, becoming a character and changing the plotline as they make decisions.
Entering a Text Adventure
Text adventures, also called interactive fiction, follow the same format. They give you a description of what you’re seeing. For example:
West of House
This is an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
Underneath that description is a space where you can type what you want to do next. If you type “examine door,” the game gives you a little more information about the door:
I see nothing special about the door.
You can knock on the door, open the mailbox, or walk in a few directions. Anything you can think of doing, you can type into the dialogue space and the game will either give you more information that you can use to make a decision or take you to another space. You can pick up objects you encounter (you’ll often need to be holding them to solve puzzles later in the game) and interact with other characters you meet.
The nicest thing about text adventures is that the vast majority of interactive fiction is offered online for free through the Interactive Fiction Database.
So how can you work text adventures into aphasia therapy? First and foremost, the passages are usually brief, sometimes only a few words. You can practice reading the passages aloud. Instructions are also brief. In fact, most games have trouble with long sentences and do better receiving two or three words at a time. For example, “go north” works better than “walk in the north direction.”
If you’re having trouble typing, you can state what you want to happen next and have another person tap out the words. (This is a great activity to do with two or more people!) If you’re not having trouble with typing, you can still say the words aloud before typing them into the dialogue space.
Some people find text adventures frustrating because they contain puzzles. If you can’t solve the puzzle, you can’t move forward. While there are usually hint guides built into the game and sometimes whole walk-throughs if you search online, there are also non-typing interactive fiction games called choice-based games.
Time’s Game of the Year for 2014, 80 Days, was a choice-based game placing the player inside Jules Verne’s story Around the World in 80 Days. There are plenty of other games like 80 Days in the app store or online (search for “Twine games” in the Interactive Fiction Database) that have players read a brief passage and then tap on two or more choices to make a decision and move the story forward.
Have you ever played an interactive fiction game? Let us know if you try one!
Image: Dave Catchpole via Flickr via Creative Commons license