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Interactive

I’ve played 30 of the 58 games in the competition this year. I hope to play and rate all of them. These are my personal favourites so far:

Choice

Stuff and Nonsense

The Little Lifeform That Could

Thaxted Havershill And the Golden Wombat

Cactus Blue Motel

16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds

Parser

Color the Truth

The Game of Worlds TOURNAMENT!

Hill Ridge Lost & Found

Zigamus: Zombies at Vigamus

Ariadne in Aeaea

Dear IFComp voter:

Thank you very much for helping to judge the 2015 IFComp! I have discovered a problem with the software behind the ballot, and I’d like your help in confirming that your votes look like you expect.

Thanks to the observant efforts of two judges (who I won’t name here, since ratings are publicly anonymous), I’ve discovered that the ballot has been quietly ignoring ratings of “1″ (and only “1”) since late October. Today, to the best of my knowledge, I have isolated and repaired this problem.

So: If you have given a rating of “1” to any of this year’s games, please revisit the ballot page to confirm that these ratings are present. If they are not, please re-cast them. If you wish, you may then reload the page to confirm that they “stick”.

The ballot page will remain open for your examination until 11:59 PM Eastern time on Sunday, November 15, per the usual competition schedule. Naturally, all judges may feel free to visit the ballot page and double-check the numbers there no matter what ratings they have cast so far.

I apologize for this inconvenience. I very much appreciate your helping to rate the competition entries this year, and I thank you for your further help in making sure that your registered votes match your expectations.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about this, or any other aspect of the comp.

Jason McIntosh

http://jmac.org

My top 10 Interactive Fiction Competition entries so far, in alphabetical order. There are a couple of weeks until the judging deadline so you still have time to try the games and vote if you haven’t done so already.

Autumn’s Daughter, by Devolution Games
Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder, by Ryan Veeder
Coloratura, by Lynnea Glasser
Dad vs. Unicorn, by PaperBlurt
Further, by Will Hines
Ollie Ollie Oxen Free, by Carolyn VanEseltine
The Paper Bag Princess, by Adri
Saving John, by Josephine Tsay
Vulse, by Rob Parker
The Wizard’s Apprentice, by Alex Freeman

I still have five works to try, so there could be changes.

Bell Park, Youth Detective, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
Blood on the Heather, by T. Orisney
The Challenge, by ViRALiTY
Robin & Orchid, by Ryan Veeder & Emily Boegheim
Threediopolis, by Andrew Schultz

Autumn’s Daughter is a short hypertext story made in Undum/Vorple. Text can be enlarged nicely. Auto-scrolling (automatic focus on choices) can take text off the screen prematurely. A log of the story remains on the screen after each choice. No option to share the story. I couldn’t find a way to undo choices or to restart (but reloading the web page goes to the title screen). It was a little frustrating having to go back to the beginning to try different paths.

There is a sidebar with a “character” status.

You are young and beautiful.

I was under the impression that the position of a village girl in South Asia is much like Cinderellaput upon and abused might be more true to life.

It was difficult to place the genre at first, send a man to evaluate a girl’s game: fictionally raped in marriage, frequently raped, a murderer, a suicide – he unerringly picks out the most violent fates. Girl’s game?! It’s not a literary read. Bad outcomes for permitted marriage and a possible romantic ending for elopement read like a polemic. A sort of grim fairy tale or wake-up call for rural girls drifting into arranged marriage. Can many village girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan can read English? But it could be translated.

I played release “1.1”. Sometimes status didn’t update during the ending so that, in seeming bad taste, you could see “You are hopeful” for a violent ending. The risk associated with trusting a strange woman is explored (for a moment the player takes the role of fate in an uncanny choice) – but although the heterosexual romance can fail I would have liked a choice which showed that running away with a man isn’t a guarantee against an abusive marriage. In general, chance has a big role in life but not in the story.

The endings were unbalanced; one so abstract that it could have been a sweat shop or a brothel. I thought that a girl’s game would refrain from being explicit but other endings tell of recurring marital rape, show personally committing spouse murder, or show and esteem personal suicide.

Another interactive fiction competition entry, Impostor Syndrome is a static hypertext story in which you play the role of an IT worker presenting a talk who is subject to the titular condition.

Given the anxiety and self-doubt of impostor syndrome, the story is understandably earnest and humourless. It is written in the second person “You see… You feel…” like most interactive fiction, but I think I would have liked it better written in the first person. The pseudonymous author captures nerd culture well with comments on a fictional programming language and amusing thinly-veiled references to tech companies e.g. Goggle.

Make sure to try all the choices. I often find it difficult to detect implicit choice points in a mostly linear narrative. There may be many choices at a node; some are just cycles returning to the node; the expectation is that there is one choice that escapes to the rest of the narrative as is usual in a linear narrative; but, rarely, there is more than one exit when there is a branch in the narrative.

Narrative branches are more likely near the end (imagine how frustrating it would be if your first choice out of a hundred tacitly determined if you have a good or bad ending) but in the first play it can be hard to estimate progress – although where you are in the story offers a clue, atemporal choice cycles complicate the relation between playing time and narrative time.