You play a young teacher whose life is in shambles: your beloved grandmother died, your girlfriend left you, and you're out of a job. When you're offered a place at Hogwarts College in Scotland - far away from memories of that girlfriend - it seems like a godsend. When you finally meet the headmaster, however, you discover that you're in way over your head... and soon you're trying to process the fact that there's a secret world you never knew about, while simultaneously saving a passel of wizards from magic gone wrong.
Please be forewarned: although Muggle Studies is intimately related to the Harry Potter series, it contains strong language which some people may find offensive, and it occasionally references sex. On the other hand, violence is not used in any of the game mechanics and is rarely referenced. Consider yourself informed, and make informed play decisions!
You can play Muggle Studies in your browser using the purple button above, or you can download it to your computer and play it over the course of several sessions. Instructions on how to download and install the game are below.
1. Pick an interpreter. In order to read an ebook, you need to have ereader software. In the same way, in order to play interactive fiction, you need to have IF interpreter software. IF interpreters are almost always freeware, and there are many options. Personally, I recommend Gargoyle, which works on Mac, UNIX or Windows alike; it has excellent typography, but does not support text-to-speech. Filfre is a Windows interpreter that apparently supports text-to-speech, though I have not tried it myself.
2. Download the game file. You will receive a zipped package which includes some PDF documents as well as the game file itself. Read the PDFs - they include a manual (in old Infocom style) and several "feelies" - and then open the game file using your chosen interpreter.
3. Play! If you've never played interactive fiction (or "text adventures") before, you will probably want to read either a lengthy guide to how to play interactive fiction, or a short reference card. Remember, you can also type “help” within the game to access some possibly-useful help menus.
Brave New World, by Aashby. A new, Muggle teacher comes to Hogwarts and must deal with the existence of magic - and many other complications besides. This story was a primary inspiration for Muggle Studies.
Stealing Harry, by Sam Storyteller. One small divergence from canon creates an alternate universe where Sirius Black gets custody of Harry as a very small child. Also features a romance between Sirius and Remus Lupin.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Less Wrong. This story will please any philosopher: it's about a Harry who makes relentlessly logical choices. (The original version of Muggle Studies centered around Muggle technologies' superiority to wizarding ones.) Be warned: some people may find this story disturbing, as it includes extremely morally repugnant acts.
HP Widdershins, by Didodikali. The first chapter is entitled “In which Harry Potter grows a brain.” It deals with many of the Muggle/wizard conflicts that interest me, and it's illustrated! (Also, if you don't want to risk being triggered by Methods of Rationality, this is a more reader-friendly choice.)
Blue Lacuna, by Aaron Reed. One of the most complex works of interactive fiction ever made, heavily influenced by Myst and featuring plenty of touches to make the game friendly to inexperienced players. Explore a dream-like landscape, solving puzzles and piecing together memories.
The Dreamhold, by Andrew Plotkin. A classic Sorcerer's Apprentice situation, again with extensive tutorial options. A little more typical of the text adventure genre than Blue Lacuna, and full of magical themes that may appeal to Harry Potter fans.
Bronze, by Emily Short. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, featuring helpful maps. Its source code is also published, if you wish to learn to write IF in Inform 7.
Written, designed and coded in Inform 7 by Flourish Klink. Uses the extensions Small Kindnesses, Smarter Parser & Poor Man's Mistype by Aaron Reed; Menus, Basic Help Menu & Basic Screen Effects by Emily Short; Unicode Interrogation, Quip-Based Conversation & Reactable Quips by Michael Martin; Conditional Undo by Jesse McGrew; Adaptive Hints by Eric Eve; and Default Messages by David Fisher.
Testers: Tablesaw, Scott Hammack, Sam Kabo Ashwell, Nick Montfort, Jizaboz, Jake Wildstrom, Jacqueline Lott, David Picariello, Stet, Darius Bacon, Darius Kazemi, Jon Blask, Ruth, Zorb, Chris M. Dickson, Meredith, Meng Lu, Jenett Silver, and Adri.
Cover designed by Flourish Klink, using a photograph by Daniela Vladimirova, “Creative Juggling.” Illustrations for the manual provided by Stephanie Falcos. Minerva McGonagall's handwriting provided by Molly Sauter. The snippet of poetry on the broadside on Alice's wall was suggested by Elfwreck, and is from Percy Bysshe Shelley's “The Witch of Atlas.”
Special thanks to Emily Short and Juhana Leinonen for never-ending coding help; Dan Shiovitz for coming up with one of the puzzles; the members of ifMUD and The People's Republic of Interactive Fiction for general motivation; and Nick Montfort, my in-house bartender and punching bag.
25 copies of a “collector's edition” of Muggle Studies were released, sent as thank-yous to people who supported the creation of the game. Essentially, they put the game's feelies into physical form.
The “collector's edition” includes:
This work of interactive fiction is released under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. It is believed to be fair use of the Harry Potter universe under United States copyright law, as it is a not-for-profit transformative work.
To put that in plain English: I'm pretty sure it's legal for me to use the Harry Potter universe in this way for a variety of reasons. First of all, I think that Muggle Studies falls under the legal definition of “parody,” which is to say that it substantially comments on the Harry Potter novels and their moral universe. Secondly, the work does not compete with any other Harry Potter products - it can hardly be considered in the same breath as console video games or even as the Pottermore website. Finally, I am not making money on Muggle Studies. I produced 25 "collector's edition" copies of the game and distributed them to friends as gifts, and the game is otherwise available for free. What's more, interactive fiction as a genre has not been commercially viable since the early 1990s. I'm not trying to make money, and I'm not even sure I could.
This work of interactive fiction is not endorsed, sanctioned, or in any other way supported, directly or indirectly, by Warner Bros. Entertainment, the Harry Potter book publishers, or J.K. Rowling and her representatives. Harry Potter, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.