Using “Text Adventure” Games (Interactive Fiction) to Improve Literacy

Interactive Fiction (IF), also known as “text adventures”, is a type of game where the player interacts with the game world primarily via text. Written descriptions of a location are displayed, and the player can then examine individual items, pick up and use objects, combine objects; explore the game world and much more via text on screen. IF is a great way of combining game play with reading in order to improve literacy, in addition, many teachers find it is also a compelling tool for teaching writing, and history. A list of vetted educational titles can be found on Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling blog. Many of the most popular games can also be downloaded for free from the expansive Interactive Fiction Archive,  although some of titles found here may not suitable for young students so be sure to screen them before using them in school or simply stick to Emily’s list.

That said, the genera has reemerged as a educational tool and is growing in popularity in the UK with the development of new tools that do not require coding skills that companies like Interactive Opportunities (iO) have developed.  They would like to engage with as many teachers as possible to develop this game genera as an educational tool and will be launching a contest soon for teacher interested in trying this game genera out with their students.

Andrew Goff, Director of iO said,

“This kind of game was popular in the early 1980’s, in the days before computers were powerful enough to handle graphics. Hot titles like Infocom’s Zork sold literally hundreds of thousands of copies, over 379,000. 30 years later, Zork is still hugely popular. However, creating your own interactive fiction still required basic programming skills, that is until Quest made this possible.

Working in collaboration with the UK School, Hamble College, iO and Quest ( are launching a competition for teachers to enter to better understand the options for learning that are available in this area of Game Based Learning. For more info about Interactive Fiction you can download a pdf booklet iO has created for UK teachers. For more info about the competition or to receive more information directly from iO teachers can register here. For questions about the competition Andrew Goff, the organizer, can be reached via Twitter at @andygoff.


  • Helena

    I work with children (grades 3 – 6) in an after school program. Obviously, after they’ve been in class all day, it’s difficult to keep them calm, much less seated. They often ask me to play games like Bingo or Connect Four with them once they’ve completed their homework, but I’d much prefer lead somewhat educational/academic activites with them.
    Maybe some of you know ‘The alphabet game’ (drinking game) – where a group keeps a rhythm while simultaneously naming off words in alphabetical order… I do this with them sometimes (minus the alcohol of course)… but I’m looking for new interesting ideas.

    Any suggestions? Maybe activities that you’ve found useful in the past? Please consider groups in number from 2 – 20 students. Seated games preferably, that don’t require actual purchased material. I’m thinking games that need nothing more than ourselves, and maybe writing material if anything.
    Thanks a bunch in advance.

  • andrewg

    Hi Helena!
    My students always liked playing a game called 2 truths and a trick. 1 student would make 3 statements about themselves: 2 of which were true, and 1 which wasn’t. Then the other students playing would have to guess the untrue statement.

    Another game helps build observation skills. 1 student would step outside the classroom while the kids in the room would change 1 thing about their appearance (like maybe someone turns around their hat, or someone puts their backpack on) The student then comes back into the room and has to identify who has changed their appearance.