2016 Interactive Fiction Competition


I think I agree with you. I’m frustrated with myself for calling everything a game!

But still there is a sense of free play in a playground even if there are no rules.


Yes there is, and that’s why I resisted Vlaviano’s point at first, but when you stop to think about it, you can accept that there is a sense of free play AND that it’s not a game at the same time.

It’s rather liberating, to tell you the truth. Things get clearer, without downplaying anything about a non-game. It’s simply a different experience. Thus people who want to play Photopias, Shades, Alabasters, will be looking for IF, and people who want to play Brain Guzzlers, Bronze, Counterfeit Monkey will be looking for TA.

I’m on the fence with some other titles. Slouching Towards Bedlam? Probably IF, right? Coloratura… can’t tell. Leaning towards TA. Legion is definitely TA. Spider and Web - that’s TA, right? Haven’t played it properly yet… Delightful wallpaper, hmm, probably TA… Hoist Sale for the Heliopause and Home, TA?

Bah, a great deal of subjectivity remains even so.

I don’t think the point is to cathegorise and therefore impose two diferent styles, but rather accept that they exist - and they keep on existing - and allow people to choose more clearly what they’ll be playing. I love Hoist Sale - I think it’s pure poetry. As far as the mechanics go, though, it plays to me more like a game than not. Whereas Shade doesn’t feel like a game to me at all.

If this is to be accepted and used, it’ll be hard to define it properly. :stuck_out_tongue:


What would the admission criteria for Adventure Comp be?

conservative: only games gargoyle can play
optimistic: a panel votes


The author considers the entry to be a text adventure game, and the competition organizers don’t disagree.


Or alternately, people enter whatever they want, and the judges can pan games which don’t succeed within the comp’s criteria. Hoist Sail is an interesting edge case to consider; I’d call it interactive fiction rather than text adventure because it constrains your choices so severely. It’s a wonderful dramatic effect at the end, and I think it’s the reason the work succeeds so well. But my enjoyment derived more from the emotional impact of the writing than from playing it. But it’s a fine line, and I could be persuaded the other way; leaving it up to the authors to decide, and then seeing if the players agree or disagree, seems the fairest metric.


maybe we should just call it a Play - you know, we get dressed as a character in a story, given some lines and general goals and then just act it out. An audience may give us a score of tomatoes or clapping hands for how well we’re doing so far…

IF as is is fucked and everyone wants a piece of it. I personally don’t consider it a game or story alone and can’t quite stand pure games or static fiction pretending to be IF.


You’re a hard costumer. :slight_smile: But you’re not the only one, which is why I thought at first this wouldn’t be useful. But I don’t think this is meant to be clear-cut or to create divisions. After all, games that fall on the GAME side of the spectrum are as varied as Zork, Speculative Fiction, Olivia’s Orphanarium, Terminator, The Baker of Shireton, A Flustered Duck, The Mulldoon Legacy. There’s tons of sub-cathegorisation here, and games which are totally not alike. But it’s recognisable that anyone who wants to play these will approach them as games.

Let’s put it this way. If we had to cathegorise games with tags and labels, such as in IFDB, some games might get the TA tag, some others might get the IF tag, and some might get both. Being both TA and IF (like Hoist Sail!) might give a good enough indication of gameplay expectations.

I mean, these are not exclusive definitions, are they? Because some works really are not exclusive. Rather than saying they’re a middle ground, or edge cases, we can say they’re both.

EDIT - We’re not just arguing idly about names, I think. That’d be silly. IF has come a long way in a short time, it’s offering very different experiences - games like Anchorhead and Christminster, once considered the cream of the crop and which still attract players who love them, also has newcomers being befuddled because they are not ready for TA; they discovered IF instead, and that’s what they’re looking for.

Rather than divide, this may simply provide a space for people to play the games they are looking for, and to enjoy them thoroughly.

Right now, there’ll be plenty more IF than TA, of course. There’s more people writing IF, and it’s much easier to implement. TA afficionados will have to make their peace with that, and I rather think they will, because their preferences will finally be acknowledged.

People who don’t much care for the distinction and are just looking for works/games they enjoy can, on the other hand, ignore the whole thing and carry on as they are.

It sounds pretty sensible…


no, they discovered hypertext instead

they are static fiction readers who just want to click next rather than flip a page. That’s not IF, at all.


There’s no need to get stymied by terms if we don’t find such helpful. Writing “game” is easier than writing “authentic interactive experience,” and writing “fun” is easier than writing “desirable outcome.” However, since these abbreviations have connotations which may cause confusion, we can ignore them if they’re counterproductive. I didn’t agree with much in the article glitter cited earlier, but there was one important point there-- induction is superior to deduction in matters such as these.

I thought Fair from this year’s IF Comp was a well-designed experience, because the author provided numerous alternatives for the audience to explore the work in whatever way might be interesting to each audience member (“player”). One can peddle books, explore the building, attempt to judge the science projects, etc-- or not, in each case. This is the sort of work I enjoy, which serves as a good model of the sort of interactivity I consider satisfactory.

Whatever a “game” is, How to Win at Rock Paper Scissors definitely is that. I say this because of the bizarre narrative-- why, oh why, would I (through my avatar, the player-character) run around murdering? banishing to hell? tormenting for sheer pleasure? my best friends as well as innocent bystanders? If this is a common practice in that game’s world-setting, how could such a society persist? In other words, the entry presents a set of rules which, though internally consistent, bear little relation to any experience I’ve ever had. In this sense, “gameplay” is little different than Pac-Man.

I would also argue that Fallen Leaves offers far more meaningful interactivity than Riot. The former allows the audience (“player”) opportunities to actively participate in constructing a “narrative” of significance to themselves. Riot, on the other hand, limits the audience to exploring a quite narrow perspective and is little more than a political polemic. This was one of the works to which I was referring earlier when I wrote of lack of narrative options leading to disconnection and frustration from a tendentious narrative.

Perhaps a too subtle distinction, but I enjoyed Wolves– which one might argue is (in a generic sense) little different from Riot in terms of interactive narrative structure. There is a signficant difference in the settings, but I think I would argue that Wolves is inherently more amenable to audience input in the narrative (through the use of imagination).

Does anyone else have examples of entries this year that reflect some of the questions we have lately been discussing here?


LOL. now I can understand the nonsense “reviews”


I suppose it’s hard to write good reviews without a functioning brain - as in, one that still has blood coursing through it. On account of being alive. Which Billy Mays no longer is.

It doesn’t seem right to appropriate someone else’s identity even if it’s for something as innocuous as being in an IF forum, does it? I mean, I used to go by Peter Pears, and eventually it just felt wrong to me, even though I never appropriated Sir Pears’ photograph.

Mind you, I have nothing to say against the forum person going by the name Billy Mays. Well, except that I dislike his “I’ll write a two-word review then go fill it later” habit for very similar reasons to my it when people add WIPs to the IFDB. You create a game entry when the game exists; you write the review when you have a review to write.

Unless we’re living in such a crazy world that the idea of creating hype, or slapping down and making a spot for something that’ll theoretically happen, is far more important than the act of actually releasing a game, or actually sitting down and writing a review.

Heh. I’m fighting a losing battle against progress and I know it. I still find it hard to deal with the a Facebook-enabled world. :slight_smile: Even so, the idea that you only release something when you actually have something to release seems sensible. :stuck_out_tongue: (trailers and demos do count, of course. But what, is a two-word review a demo?)

I mean, what are schools like today? Are kids raising their hands randomly and telling their teachers, “I don’t actually know what you’re talking about, but in a couple of days you’re going to be so wowed with me”?

(No, I’m not 60. I’m 30. I know, I know. For me, Victor Meldrew is a cautionary tale)


seems like he was a soap seller and his clone is all but sanitizing the IFComp with some hillarious reviews with a preference for the most trashy from the competition.

reminds me of someone. Then again, this is the internet and many exuberant personas are most often than not just the same sad person… :confused:


namekuseijin, could you elaborate? Seems like this Mays has something to do with that other forum I have no interest in even visiting, so a summary would be helpful. Has something controversial happened there? Or were you just saying it’s funny for dead people to vote? The latter is no big deal these days; for example, getting votes from dead people has been a key electoral strategy for Chicago mayors for decades now.

If you take a look at almost any gaming or modding forum, this nonsense is rampant. People announce projects, talk about them interminably while making ludicrous claims that would make PT Barnum blush, and then… a year later… two, three years later… still no work to show. The entire charade is an exercise in hype, and these sorts of things go on all day every day.


his Billy Mays reviews the IF Comp 2016 is pretty fun read, from all those threads with anonymous reviewers one of the best, despite most of his choices for best IF.

ah, crowdfunding hype and eBegging are some of the worst aspects of creative endeavour these days…


I don’t know about that. Crowdfunding made some things possible that just wouldn’t happen otherwise. It put the executive decision in the hands of the fans and the public (“We want to see this!”) rather than in the hands of publishers (“We don’t think enough people want to see this that’ll give us a profit”). I mean, Hadean Lands itself was kickstarted…

Not as far as I’m aware, and I suppose this should be cleared quickly. Apart from using a dead identity and writing reviews placeholders on which he went back later to elaborate (which, by the way, he really did - he didn’t just leave the stubs and forget about them), the guy appeared recently, has been nothing but interested and supportive in his posts, and shows no sign of being a sock puppet to a troublemaker, quite on the contrary.

But geez, actually using the dead guy’s photograph as his avatar… well, lack of taste is not a criminal offence.


come on! He chose Ventilator for winner of this comp! how surreal is that? lmao

had he put Toiletword in first place it’d be much clearer his “cleaning” behaviour…


I’ve read a few of Billy Mays’ reviews and I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. If he’s a troll or a sock puppet, he’s not a very obvious one and so far he doesn’t seem to have done anything but post reviews of games. No flame wars, no baiting, no arguments.

namekusejin, I realise you hate Inf.fiction and everything it stands for, so do you think you might be assuming everyone there has a sinister motive when in fact some of them are perfectly ordinary?

Of course, maybe Billy Mays is some kind of Pudlo troll / sock puppet - and him using the name and avatar photo of a dead guy is kinda creepy - but so far he doesn’t seem to be falling into the usual troll / sock puppet patterns. If his reviews are supposed to be “hilarious”, I guess the joke must be lost on me.


perhaps I just shouldn’t think aloud and type it away. It’s a bad habit :blush:


The competition is probably far enough along at this point to abandon my previous reluctance to discuss particular entries.

I thought Color of Truth was a top-tier entry this year. The keyword system was slightly cumbersome, but the narrative was engaging and overall I like the idea of an experience based almost entirely on conversation.

Ariadne in Aeaea was also a favorite of mine, though I predict it won’t do very well over all (upper third, but not near the top). It’s too much fun, and too much of a “traditional game” for most participants. I say this based on experience in past years, though I may be wrong-- I was quite surprised last year when Brain Guzzlers from Beyond won, because it was also my first place assessment and my picks usually never align with everyone else. For example in 2012, I rated both Body Bargain and Killer Headache pretty high, but neither broke into the top 5 (which was dominated by entries I quite disliked, apart from Andromeda Awakening).

Are others usually divergent from the pack as well, or do your own picks usually align with the general consensus at results time?


Billy Mays was a huge help to me for fixing bugs and adding ideas. I think he’s posted on here occasionally too?

If he’s a first-time reviewer, I think maybe there will be things to iron out as he gets his procedure down. There’s no shame in mistakes. In fact it’s a good idea to try to take risks.

And the thing is–as an author I remember (on a bad day with lack of sleep) being annoyed by a review that I read the next morning and it was actually favorable, just pointed out a few things to fix. And as a reviewer I remember utterly missing something that made a whole game click. So I’m inclined in general to chalk up any confusion and annoyance to just, well, there are no official guidelines to reviewing, and Billy chose to dive in head first, which is not a bad way to do things. He’s shown he wants to do better already by modifying his reviews. Many people double down on their reviews and that’s not cool, but people who are willing to compromise or revisit things deserve a lot of credit.

The thing is, I think a lot of new reviewers worry they have to make a splash when straight-up “I liked this/I didn’t like this” may not do so, but it’s a lot more useful for authors and potential players.

Well, we’ll have people taking fictitious names like Gyarados or Sephiroth or CloudStrife and people know they’re fake, and people will often just take these names. And I’d think taking a dead person’s name would be a sort of way to honor them. So that’s okay by me. I’ve never felt the need to–in fact only my twitter nickname is a psuedonym and one I made (OK, I pulled my gmail from a nonsense word I read)–and I think I’m lucky that way to have that identity.

As for 2-word reviews, a better way might be “this was next in my review order but I got stuck and pushed through.” And that’s ok to do, but many people don’t know that. So I think there’s a lot we can chalk up to non-deliberate ignorance and enthusiasm.