We have an interesting competition this year. “Variety” is the only summary that comes to mind. I didn’t mean to make quite such a marathon of it right from the start, but in the past 48 hours I examined 35 of the 58 entries-- 5 parser games and 30 html games. I’m having trouble forming any generalizations, as there are many different styles on display.
The highest score I’ve marked so far is 6, though one of the sixes could be easily be promoted to a 7 (or higher) depending on what I find in the remaining entries I have yet to explore. I have a huge glut of entries scored at “4,” so after I’m finished I’ll have to think more carefully about those and move some up or down to clear out the traffic jam around that number and better utilize the full range of scores. I only marked four "1"s thus far, so it seems certain I won’t even begin to approach the epic number of "1"s I handed out last year when there were so many entries that could best be described as “busted junk.” Thus, I think we can say the general level of competence demonstrated by authors this year is the highest we’ve seen in some time-- which is good news for all participants.
There are an unusual number of entries this year peculiarly obsessed with death in a quite morbid fashion (and this is in addition to the usual handful of neurotic nonsense), which seems strange to me. However, I’m not complaining, as these dark themes are a welcome relief from the typical barrage of half-baked political ideology sermons (which seem strangely sparse this time around, unless they’re all in the entries I haven’t yet examined) to which we are often subjected at IF Comp time.
I continue to be impressed by the relative depth of interactivity offered in many of the html-based entries this year. There are several entries, though, that utilize what could be described as a “let’s write a diary” format that I think simply doesn’t work well at all. If you don’t inform me when we start about my character so I can role-play, I will portray myself in the scenarios you present. The trouble, then, is when I rarely or never see options that represent what I would do under X circumstances. I’m typically left feeling frustrated-- which is to say, the work has failed to engage me, and therefore has probably not succeeded in communicating whatever it was the author hoped to accomplish.
Overall, I’d say this year has many innovative, intriguing entries, entries with notably higher average quality than we’ve seen in recent years, and this will probably be a remembered as a good year for the competition as an institution or tradition.
In other words, I wouldn’t worry much about anything said over there. Those folks some time ago lost the right to be taken seriously by reasonable adults.