With videogames and digital media playing a rapidly growing role in today’s cultural discourse, parents and educators should try to diversify their children’s media palates with a range of literary and artistic games. “Interactive Fiction” (think the “Choose You Own Adventure” books of 80s, but digital), in particular, is becoming increasingly noteworthy, thanks to the ready availability of free tools used to create such work (see our post about Twine), as well as the familiar form these works take: mainly text and hyperlinks. Indeed, the 2017 Whitney Biennial even gave game designer Porpentine her own room in which to feature her various interactive fiction works. Readorium has already ventured into the medium’s potential for education. See our free science-themed interactive fiction pieces: Cell City Mystery, and Atomic Dating Game.
Here, we recommend some free interactive fiction titles, suitable for teens.
1) Cactus Blue Motel, by Astrid Dalmady
Somewhere between New Mexico and Arizona, three friends were driving through a barren desert of red rocks, and wide empty skies. It was the end of summer, the end of high school, the end of so many things.
And then they found the Cactus Blue Motel.
Cactus Blue Motel takes the familiar “teens on a roadtrip” story and adds a magical realist twist in the form of a mystical roadside motel. Friendships are tested, secrets are uncovered, and decisions are made about what to do with your life after high school A neat coming of age story, or perhaps a story of not-wanting-to-come-of-age…(your choice!)
2) Space Princess Coronation, by Marie Vibbert
Space pirates attack the coronation ship! Only the princess can access the controls to save everyone.
A lighthearted jaunt into outer space, where you play a space princess struggling with both your royal responsibilities, as well as invading space pirates. While not as thematically deep as some of the others, it’s a nice, funny read, perfect to get kids engaged and interested in reading.
3) Birdland, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
Fourteen-year-old Bridget’s summer camp experience takes a turn for the bizarre when her otherworldly bird dreams start bleeding into reality.
Onto a background of a summer camp filled with awkward campers and annoying camp counsellors, Birdland paints a story of young love, teen detectives, and surreal dreams populated with anthropomorphic (and highly formal) birds. Hennessy’s heartfelt narrative explores how teens choose to define themselves, and how their actions reveal more about them than they may realise.
NOTE: Birdland contains a few mild sexual references.