The City of IF Story

The City of IF is a web site dedicated to the art of interactive storytelling, in which author and audience create a story together. The site was created by Mark Keavney, PhD, a web designer, writer, and longtime roleplaying game player. Below is a six-part history of the City of IF, which includes some general thoughts on myth, roleplaying, and interactive storytelling, and a vision for the future.

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1. Myth and Roleplaying Games: Seven Treasures and Five Dragons
2. Lost in the Wilderness: The Many Paths of Interactive Storytelling
3. Storygaming: On This Land I Will Build a City
4. The City of IF: Past and Present
5. The City of the Future
6. You



The previous parts of this history have told the story of the City of IF from its earliest beginnings to our vision of its future. In this final section I'm going to talk about how you can be a part of that future, and why you'd want to be.

What the City of IF Offers You

Whoever you are, whatever your age or skills, wherever you live or however you spend your days, if you like stories you're welcome at the City, you can help build it, and it has something to offer you. Joining is free. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • The Community: Above all, the City of IF is a community of like-minded souls. If you're looking to meet people and make friends who share a love of stories, games, and myth (such as Greek mythology or ancient Roman and Greek gods), look no further. We're a friendly group and we've started lots of conversations throughout the forums - about stories, storygaming, our favorite myths, or life in general - so pick one or start your own, and add your voice to the City.

  • The Storygames: The storygames are reason behind the community, and what makes the City of IF unique. As I've said in the earlier parts of this history, storygaming combines the best elements of free online RPGs (roleplaying games)—such as problem solving, teamwork, and spontaneity—with the creativity and mythic storytelling of traditional linear stories. And playing is easy: you just need to read the story and either say what you think you'd do next, or vote on someone else's suggestion. There are dozens of new and established storygames throughout the site, so you're sure to find at least one that you like.

  • The Stories: There are hundreds of different stories, past storygames, and roleplaying games on the site - lots of things to read and ways to entertain yourself even if you never decide to play a storygame. Most of the stories have a mythic fantasy aspect, but there's also science fiction, horror, humor, mystery, and other genres. And if you want to try your hand at writing but aren't ready to write a storygame, you can post a linear story and get feedback, or enter a story-writing contest.

  • The Authoring Challenge: If you're a writer who's looking for a challenge and a new way of communicating your art, writing a storygame is for you. Storygame writing exercises all the skills you use in linear story writing and then some: you not only have to describe scenes, develop characters, and move along the plot, you've also got to figure out where to break the story into chapters, how to balance the decision point so that all paths are equally plausible, how to lead wandering players back into your story arc, and when to follow them into the unknown. It's a difficult art, but the rewards are as great as the challenges: your readers get involved not as recipients of your writing or even fellow authors offering feedback, but inside the story, as players of your character. That makes your character "come alive" and gives your story a quality that you can't create any other way. It's also a lot of fun.

    You're free to start a storygame in any genre, topic, or character you want in one of the new storygames forums. If enough people play and like it, you may be nominated for New Storygame of the Month, and if you win that, you become an official Builder of the site and your storygame gets its own forum.

  • The Artistic Challenge: The City of IF is text-heavy right now: there are lots of great stories but not so many great visuals. As I mentioned in the previous section, graphical and animated storygames are a big part of the City's future; if you have these skills your contributions are welcome, whether you're adding images to your own storygame, creating them for someone else, or collaborating with a writer on a text-and-graphics storygame. Since we're at an early stage in the development of storygaming, you can take the lead in defining how visuals will be a part of the form.

  • A Part of the Future: The last and maybe most compelling thing that the City of IF offers you is the chance to help create a new form of art. At certain times throughout history, technology has opened the door to a new field of human expression, and artists have rushed ahead to explore it. For example, the invention of the motion picture camera in the late 19th century made possible the art of cinema, along with all the films, film genres, artistic roles and theories, methods of filming, and bodies of knowledge that we've created over the last hundred years. More recently, the rise of computers made possible video games and free RPG games you can play online, a medium that's just gaining respect as an art form and developing its own set of methods, principles, and recognized masterworks.

    I believe that the same thing is happening today with storygaming. Before the Internet, it wasn't possible for interactive storytelling to develop as an art form, for all the reasons described in the first part of this history. But now that there's a technology allowing massive numbers of people across the world to interact, a new form of collaborative storytelling is being born. You can be present for its birth and be a pioneer of the new art.

So now we've reached the end of the City of IF story, or at least the end of the story so far. I've done my best to show you the City sights; what happens next is up to you. I'll end with an invitation and a question, the same question I use to end my storygames. We invite you to join us.

What do you do?

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