Thoughts as the IF Comp begins

The Interactive Fiction Competition has started again. The last time that the winner of the Best Game XYZZY Award was not an entry in the IF Comp was 2002, when Emily Short's Savoir-Faire won. One is justified to suppose, then, that the best game of 2009 is among this bunch.

Or is one? In fact, 2009 is an extremely successful year already. We have seen Blue Lacuna, Alabaster, The King of Shreds and Patches, and Make it Good, among others. This is a list that makes some other years pale by comparison. I haven't played Make it Good yet, but about the other three games I am perfectly willing to claim that they are better than the Best Game XYZZY winners of at least the last two years (earlier games I'd have to replay to refresh my memory). Violet and Lost Pig were good games, but not, I think, as good as these.

Indeed, I would be surprised if any game in the IF Comp manages to change my vote for Best Game! But it would of course be a pleasant surprise, so I'm going into this competition with a big smile on my face.

I'm not quite sure I'll spend a lot of time with the comp games, though. On the one hand, it is a great social event in the community. On the other, it means wading through a lot of half-baked games, and with the number of people participating, my votes are hardly necessary to make the event a success. Perhaps the time is better spent playing some non-comp games that are still in my to-do-list, finishing my next essay for SPAG, coding... and then playing the winners of the comp once it's finished.

We will see.

Since I'm rambling anyway: I was totally blown away when I saw how many registered members the IFDB has: 1322. If I had had to make a guess, I'd have put it at maybe 10% of that number.


  1. I do plan to play and rate all the games this year, but I don't think I'll write an individual review of every game. I feel like I'm starting to run out of ways to say the same thing -- namely, did anyone (even the author) ever test this thing?

    24 games is quite a small tally. Part of me is glad, as I'm really, really busy right now and I'm not sure I could realistically play too many more than that. I wonder, based on this data point and the unusual number of high-profile non-comp games this year, if the IF world is starting to move away from its Competition-centric focus just as it is also becoming less focused. If so, I think that on the whole is a good thing. The Comp has its valuable place -- October just wouldn't feel like October without it -- but it shouldn't be the be-all end-all in the world of IF. Perhaps, thanks to new organs like Play This Thing!, authors are starting to realize they can find a substantial audience outside the traditional, insular IF community by releasing their games outside of competitions.

  2. I've gone through and made my list of games I actually intend to play, leaving out the ones that won't run reliably on my computer (ADRIFT games often do badly in translation on the Mac, and Windows games obviously not at all) and the ones that list no beta-testers (six of the remaining 20). That leaves a short list of 14 of, I hope, a slightly higher average quality.

    And definitely play Make It Good: it's really hard but well worth the effort.

  3. Emily, I should have followed your scheme, rather than play the first game in my personal randomised list.

    Maybe there should be a rule that a game is automatically disqualified if there are more than five language errors in the opening paragraph.

  4. I'm focusing on reviewing games that fall short of perfection. My reasoning is that these are the authors who we should, as a community, be cultivating.

    Also, to some extent errors and problems show up the essentials of an art form better.



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