Emily Short is an interactive fiction (IF) writer, perhaps best known for her debut game Galatea and her use of psychologically complex NPCs, or non-player game characters. She has been called "a visionary in the world of text-based games for years", and is the author of over thirty-five works of IF in addition to being chief editor of the IF Theory Book. She wrote a regular column on IF for Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
In June 2011, Emily Short, with Richard Evans, co-founded LittleTextPeople, a game studio which specialized in exploring the emotional possibilities of interactive fiction. This was acquired in early 2012 by Linden Lab.
In 2014, Short was made redundant by Linden Lab, marking an end to the project she was working on, Versu.
In September 2016, Short joined Spirit AI, a company working on AI, machine learning and natural language processing. She was promoted to its board of directors in 2018. She was later promoted to Chief Product Officer.
In January 2020, Emily Short joined Failbetter Games as creative director.
Work as an interactive fiction author
A number of Short's works have won acclaim at the XYZZY Awards, an annual popular-choice award for interactive fiction. Her work has been described by reviewers in terms that range from "mesmerizing" to "frustrating". Her 2003 work City of Secrets was originally commissioned by a San Francisco synth-pop band, but after they left the project, she completed it on her own.
While many of Short's early games were written in Inform, she later experimented with a variety of formats. One such format was Versu, an engine for plot-heavy and story-rich interactive fiction that Short helped develop, and which was later scrapped by Linden Labs, the company owning the engine. Other formats include Varytale, for which she developed the game Bee, and a custom engine by Liza Daly (with help from the company inkle) for the game First Draft of the Revolution. Both formats use an interactive fiction engine based on hyperlinks.
Short has played a major role in the development of Graham Nelson's radical new interactive fiction development system, Inform 7. Her more conspicuous contributions include writing most of the 300+ programming examples in the documentation, and creating two full-length demo games for release with the Inform 7 beta.
Selected IF works
- Galatea (2000; winner of the 2000 XYZZY Award for Best Individual NPC and Best of Show in the 2000 IF Art Show)
- Metamorphoses (2000; 2nd place at the 2000 Interactive Fiction Competition, Best Writing in the 2000 XYZZY Awards)
- Savoir-Faire (2002; winner of XYZZY Awards for Best Game, Best Puzzles, Best Story, Best Individual PC)
- City of Secrets (2003; winner of the XYZZY Award for Best NPCs; Runner-up for Games' Best RPG/Adventure 2004)
- Floatpoint (2006, winner of the 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition, winner of 2006 XYZZY Awards for Best Settings and Best NPCs)
- Counterfeit Monkey (2012, winner of XYZZY Award for Best Game, Best Setting, Best Puzzles, Best Individual PC and Best Implementation)