The 13th annual interactive-fiction competition, IF 2007, is now underway. Voting is a bit involved, demanding a fair amount of your time, but totally worth it, in my opinion, if you’re into interactive fiction at all. Downloading the text-based games is entirely free, available via .zip or .torrent. There are 29 IF entries this year, so you can choose to be very, very busy indeed…
As both art and programming, interactive fiction has a very, very long history and legacy which continues quite strongly today. There is a lot of variety and material to choose from, be it playful roleplaying and puzzle-solving, or more deep and serious interactive prose.
There is plenty of software to get you going creating your own interactive fiction, too, like TADS, Hugo, and Inform, among others. I use Inform 7, personally (which is freely available). Inform’s latest version uses a fairly sophisticated natural language model to create IF, so you might write/’program’ something like this regarding your kitchen and refrigerator:
which then gives you this experience as the player:
Much more complex interactions are possible, of course…
The IF community is really great, willing to answer questions, offer suggestions, all ultimately toward helping to keep IF alive. Most if not all share their games and their code, too, so you can play their games, read their stories, and participate in their created adventures, or use their code to help you learn how to better your own.
If you’re interested in playing old Zork and other Infocom/Adventure International/etc text adventures/games, quite a few of them are available online to play, usually for free. A Google search should find quite a few of them for you. And again, you’re strongly encouraged to try to create your own sometime!