External Links

Story file (latest version)
The most recent version of the game, stored at the author's website.
Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Story file (comp version)
The original version of the game, as entered into the 2010 IFComp.
Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Source repository
The game's Inform 7 source and skein files, shared on GitHub.

Have you played this game?

You can rate this game, record that you've played it, or put it on your wish list after you log in.

Playlists and Wishlists

RSS Feeds

New member reviews
Updates to external links
All updates to this page

The Warbler's Nest

by Jason McIntosh profile


Web Site

(based on 90 ratings)
11 reviews

About the Story

Surely the reed bank counts as a wild place. While it gives you so much, you've never tended it, not really, not like you do with your garden. It's something like the forest, then, but much safer to search without attracting attention. So here you are.

Game Details


9th Place - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010)

Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Story; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 2010 XYZZY Awards

34th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2011 edition)


The author has shared the game's Inform 7 source and skein files on GitHub.

Also, the current release (available from the download links on this IFDB page) now point to Release 22. It fixes a typo found by Daniel B.
Reported by Jason McIntosh | History | Edit | Delete
Expand all | Add a news item

Editorial Reviews

Play This Thing
The gap between you and 'you'
The Warbler's Nest is an interactive fiction about perception: what seems to be going on may or may not be what is actually going on.
See the full review

If you play only one game from this year's comp I would heartily recommend The Warbler's Nest, with some slight reservations. The genre that would describe it the closest would probably be "psychological thriller."

As is the usual case, the game starts with little to no information and gradually tells the player what's going on. The clever part is that at some point your perception of the setting changes to something completely else, and it's not a Shyamalanian "Look! A twist!" but the player comes to the chilling conclusion gradually. The restrained style of writing supports the big picture perfectly.
See the full review


- View the most common tags (What's a tag?)

(Log in to add your own tags)
Tags you added are shown below with checkmarks. To remove one of your tags, simply un-check it.

Enter new tags here (use commas to separate tags):

Member Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 11
Write a review

Most Helpful Member Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Quiet and contemplative horror, February 19, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Many pieces of interactive fiction have played with a difference in knowledge between the player and the protagonist. Often, the protagonist knows more than the player, since he or she is supposed to be familiar with the fictional worlds; but sometimes, the protagonist is so naive, stupid or self-deluded that the player understands things the protagonist does not. The Warbler's Nest falls into this latter category, although this time the knowledge difference is generated by the protagonist living a long time ago and having beliefs that we know (or at least strongly believe) are false.

In a sense, this is a horror piece, but horror of the most quiet kind. The horrific "revelation" is obvious well in advance, so the interest of the piece has to come from a contemplation of the beliefs, fears and hopes of the protagonist. Jason McIntosh conveys these very clearly, and the fact that they are simultaneously so understandable and so alien, and are combined with the potential for disaster, makes for a stimulating experience.

If one had to complain, one would probably point out that there is not much of a game here, but given the short time it will take you to traverse this piece, this is not a very serious complaint. I would like to see more pieces that are as quiet and contemplative as The Warbler's Nest.

One question that this piece has raised for me: can a story be considered a tragedy if none of the people in the fictional world consider it to be such?

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | View comments (1) - Add comment 

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
The age-old conflict between head and heart, May 21, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)

My predominant mood after finishing this game is one of contemplation. I am not getting where the horror or sorrow mentioned by others comes into play. But I found all the possible endings without much trouble, and each of them says something about the player character as a person. I found that the character was both believable and easily identified with. There is a dark side to her that I could appreciate, as well as a dutifulness that I could respect.

The writing is rather spare and minimalist. In fact, there aren't really many places to explore. But IF conventions are honored. You're told what you need to do, and cut scenes give relevant backstory but are vague enough to have the player wondering what's being alluded to. Even now, I'm unsure about a few points. Perhaps reading more about the game will bring some insight.

Really, though, the central point of this game is a moral choice, so emotional impact comes from the various endings.

There are no puzzles in this game. Everything you need to do is simply achieved, so that all focus goes to the story and setting. But setting falls down for me because not everything was implemented. (Spoiler - click to show)The reeds rustle, but you can't hear the river. No ability to touch things, either.

I think there are clear links between the tasks at the beginning of the game and the protagonist's backstory, as well as a juxtaposition, a mirroring, of reality and the character's internal monologue. This creates a pleasing symmetry.

Because of the sparse prose, which doesn't really do it for me aesthetically, I rated this game as average. But it has a good story and doesn't take any significant time. Everyone should play it at least once. Not much commitment and worth it for anyone who cares about the literary side of IF.

Edit: I upped the rating because the impact really hit me hours after finishing the game, when I realized I was still thinking about it. (Spoiler - click to show)The horrifying barbarism probably perpetrated on innocent children and unfortunate mothers.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Quietly sinister short story set in a reedbank, May 1, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic

You are searching amongst the reeds for eggshells. If you believe the tailor, these are what you need to take back what is yours.

The Warbler's Nest doesn't immediately give up its story, but rather reveals it both through cutscenes and through environmental detail. This is aided by the mechanic, which is basically a treasure hunt. Given that this game is rather short, though, to reveal more about the story would spoil it. All I will say is that this game taps on faerie folklore and rituals related to them. It follows the interpretation of faerie folk as being intensely selfish yet bound by immoveable, arcane rules, which gives a quietly sinister air to the game as a whole.

Overall: understated horror is one of my favourite genres, and I really like how The Warbler's Nest handled that. This is a gem of a short story, well worth the 20 or so minutes it takes to play.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

See All 11 Member Reviews

The Warbler's Nest on IFDB

Recommended Lists

The Warbler's Nest appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Something Moving Under The Bed recommended IF by Something Moving Under The Bed

Great games in a mostly realistic setting by MathBrush
These are games that for the most part don't contain magical elements or futuristic technology. This includes games where there might be magic or futuristic technology, but you don't know until the end. So several of these games do...

My Favourite Literary IF by Janos Honkonen
These are my favourite games which I consider to be more story than puzzle based.


The following polls include votes for The Warbler's Nest:

Highly atmospheric and immersive games by Cryptic Puffin
I'm looking for games with effective use of location, language, etc. to really immerse you in the locale and the story, no matter the genre-- any game which you felt really taken with the atmosphere would be great. Thank you!

Mother-Daugher Relations by matt w (Matt Weiner)
What are some IF works that involve a relationship between a mother and a daughter? Not necessarily as the center of the work, but as something that impinges on it at all.

Unreliable narrators by verityvirtue
I'm interested in games which hinge on the 'unreliable narrator', from amnesia to a plain distorted worldview. The more this distortion affects the storyline, the better.

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 11 of this page, edited by Lance Campbell on 17 May 2020 at 8:44pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page