I’ve heard rumor this will be the biggest IFComp ever. The previous record holder was 2000, with 53 entries.
I am almost certainly not reviewing all of them. This is not just because of the sheer volume but also because I have professional writing obligations at this time (a totally different kind of writing, but it does use some of my precious brain fluids).
Q: You don’t use numbers?
A: There’s a couple reasons for this, the primary being I tend not to have any numbers until I’m at least halfway through comp-play. I rate based solely on a should-X-be-rated-higher-than-Y system where after I gather enough games I start to get a general idea of positioning, but where I will sometimes shift entire tiers just to fit something in.
Also, I just happen to like the simplicity of Dan Shiovitz’s three-tier system (Highly Recommended / Recommended / Not Recommended) but even placing in that system requires I stew for a while.
Q: What’s with the quotes? I notice you like to start your review with a quote from the work.
A: When I’m talking about prose specifically, I think it’s only fair to lay out some of the prose in question.
Additionally, excerpts can sometimes convey the plot in a sort of shorthand that doesn’t require me to just paraphrase the game’s blurb.
Occasionally in a bad game there might nevertheless be a slice I want to preserve. Everything eventually drops out of my memory except for the part I saved.
Q: Why are some of these so short?
A: I am cursed/blessed with a compact writing style where after writing 3 sentences I automatically want to rewrite them into 1. Plus, to reference Dan Shiovitz again, some of his best reviews are only a few sentences long.
There’s also the nasty syndrome of “not knowing what to say” which I might weave around this year by not worrying about reviewing every entry.
Q: So what do you judge based on?
A: I hate being tied down on this, but I give weight to both traditional story metrics like “are the characters and plot well-made” but also “does the interactivity make sense”?
Q: How does interactivity “make sense”?
A: It’s hard to describe because different works set up different expectations. I enjoyed Venus Meets Venus from last year but I caught fairly early on it was going to be a “kinetic story” and I shouldn’t expect to to have any agency. In a story where the player is the protagonist, I’d expect more freedom and less railroading.
Given I enjoyed Deadline Enchanter which was a parser game where literally the only commands that worked were the ones from the in-game walkthrough, there is room for latitude. (It was designed as an “artifact from the world universe” so the weird restriction made sense, but it was the sort of trick that only works once.)
Q: I’m an author! Could I ask you more about a review you wrote?
A: You can find my contact info on the About tab.