Cover Photo: This map shows parts of the land you can explore in the interactive game Zork 1. It includes various places you can explore in a the forest, a house, a canyon, and more.
Map from 'Zork I'

Branching Infinity: Exploring the Many Structures of Interactive Fiction

The difference between interactive and traditional fiction isn’t a clear binary at all: Both require an approach to structure that balances openness and control, and each contains lessons for the other.

required

This reads: You are facing the north side of a white house. There is no door here, and all the windows are boarded up. To the north a narrow path winds through the trees.

Zork IZork I

Text reads: Go north

GrapefruitThe Garden of Forking Paths

Twine

Text reads: This is a path winding through a dimly lit forest. The path heads north-south here.

Zork I

image by the author, created using Twine

Text reads: One particularly large tree with some low branches stands at the edge of the path.

Image shows a graphic of a a neat, mathematically branching tree
example of fractal canopy by Claudio Rocchini

Night in the Woods

Queers in Love at the End of the World

Queers in Love at the End of the World

Harlowe

Text reads: You are about 10 feet above the ground nestled among some large branches. Beside you is a small bird’s nest.

Zork Iyou should

Text reads: In the bird’s nest is a large egg encrusted with precious jewels, apparently scavenged by a childless songbird.

Zork I

Text reads: Take egg

Text reads: Climb down

finished

Text reads: Go east

Text reads: You are at the top of the Great Canyon on its west wall. From here there is a marvelous view of the canyon and parts of the Frigid River upstream. Following the Canyon upstream to the north, Aragain Falls may be seen, complete with rainbow. The mighty Frigid River flows out from a great dark cavern. To the west and south can be seen an immense forest, stretching for miles around. A path leads northwest. You can go anywhere from here.


Nat Mesnard is a writer and game designer based in NYC, where they teach Narrative Design at Pratt Institute and co-host the podcast Queers at the End of the World. They did their MFA in Fiction and taught at the University of Illinois, and have published work in Bodega, Blackbird, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. New work includes poetry in WE WANT IT ALL, an anthology of radical trans poetics, and a tabletop roleplaying game, BUSINESS WIZARDS. Nat has taught at the Hudson Valley Writers Center and with the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop.