[IF] The Baron wins a XYZZY!

The XYZZY Awards are the Academy Awards of the Interactive Fiction community: all pieces published in the year before are eligible; in a first round of voting, five games are nominated in one of ten categories; in a second round of voting, one winner is chosen in each category; and finally, there is a ceremony on IFMud where the winners are announced.

That ceremony was yesterday, and I am happy to tell you that (1) The Baron was nominated in seven of the ten categories (best game, best story, best writing, best NPCs, best PC, best individual NPC and best use of medium), and (2) also managed to actually win of them: Best Use of Medium. This makes me very happy, especially since exploring the potential of the medium was my most important aim.

The other winners were:
  • The Elysium Enigma, by Eric Eve (best game, best individual NPC)
  • Floatpoint, by Emily Short (best setting, best NPCs)
  • Delightful Wallpaper by Andrew Plotkin (best writing, best puzzles, best individual puzzle, best PC)
  • The Traveling Swordsman, by Mike Snyder (best story).
All of these are well worth playing.


  1. congratulations Victor.

    I saw your request for beta testers for Fate, but I'd rather play it fresh when it's released :)

  2. Thanks George, and keep an eye out for the start of the Spring Thing. :)

  3. the baron should really have won Best Game (i voted for it!). i assume the subject was too risky for many players though. like the oscars, the xyzzies like to play it "safe".

  4. I just played through The Baron. It's the first piece of interactive fiction that I've made it through. I liked how the story went into the motivations of the reader and that it wasn't awkward to navigate, like most interactive fiction that I've attempted. I like how you integrated emotional and philosophical issues into the game. I've always thought that games could be an interesting medium for interaction with philosophical issues, and here I see some of these things manifested.

    It seems ridiculous to me, given that interactive fiction is text-based, that most of it focuses on a geometrical layout of rooms. I find it almost impossible to remember the geometrical layout and I don't want to be drawing maps while I'm reading. If it's text-based, it should be possible to avoid or minimize the issues of visual geometry.

    Anyway, I was really drawn into reading The Baron. Congratulations on the award.

    I would like to get more into interactive fiction. If you have any suggestions for other titles for me to read, I would love to hear them.

  5. Hey Karl, thanks for the kind words.

    Let's see what other things I could recommend to you.

    One game that immediately comes to mind is Whom the Telling Changed by Aaron Reed (do get the latest version, I think it's version 4). This game dispenses almost entirely with moving through a game world; at its core lies a telling of an episode from the Gilgamesh epic, on which the protagonist can remark in an attempt to sway the crowd either to a pro-war or to an anti-war stance. Also keep a look out for the same author's Blue Lacuna: there already is a (vast) sneak preview available, but you might want to wait for the final result and play it in puzzleless mode.

    A famous puzzleless piece is Adam Cadre's Photopia, though it doesn't really allow you to interact with philosophical issues. Worth play, though, and I don't think you'll have any trouble getting through it.

    Also very good is Andrew Plotkin's Shade, which takes place in the protagonist's flat and becomes increasingly surreal. It's not 100% smooth, though, and you might get stuck; if so, my advice would be to try actions that had a result a couple of times.

    Emily Short has written some games that are light in puzzles and rich in ethical content. I recommend Floatpoint and especially City of Secrets.

    I hope that gets you going. :) Don't hesitate to aks again here, or to come along on the rec.games.int-fiction newsgroup, which is probably the best place to get recommendations. (Or check out ifdb.tads.org.)

  6. Thanks for all of those suggestions!

    A few years ago, I was thinking that it would be interesting to model changing philosophical perspectives within a video game. Since then, I've come to the conclusion that this would be very difficult to accomplish given that video games are usually about performing physical actions. As a result, video games gravitate to the kind of content you would see in an action movie. It's difficult to achieve the internal voice that would be needed. I came to the conclusion the books are probably the best medium for communicating about philosophical issues, especially when they involve emotions.

    Playing your interactive fiction gave me a first step towards the kind of philosophical experience that I was imagining before. Keep it up and I'm looking forward to your next game.

    (And keep up the good work on the PhD. I finished mine (in engineering) not long ago.)

  7. I do in fact have a "next" game, which is called Fate. I didn't recommend it to you because it contains a fair share of puzzles (with which I am not totally happy, but it was worth trying at least once); it does however explore some ethical issues, and might be of interest to you.


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