A slight change in choosing games to review

I really enjoy reviewing interactive fiction. One thing that drew me to this area is that there is enough IF that you can pretty much always find more, but few enough that you can really get a broad feel for the scope of things.

In the last few years, the amount of IF produced per year has really taken off; simultaneously, I’ve discovered other communities of IF that have existed for a long time.

In parallel to this process, there has been a growing number of people who have decided not to archive games in publicly available free archives, instead using itch to monetize or to retain control over analytics. I definitely support author freedom, but I believe that as a cultural shift this overall a big negative.

So, my current plan to strike a balance between these two is that I will no longer go out of my way to review games that are not in an publicly accessible, long-term archive such as the IF-Archive. This includes itch-hosted competitions and IFComp or Spring Thing games that are only accessible online or self-hosted by the author. I might still review them, but I won’t feel obligated to the way I do about other games. This will also help from getting overwhelmed by the huge amount of games out there, many of which have not invited criticism.

In my point of view, reviews serve as a long term way to help future players see others’ perspectives on games. Without future players, there is not really any need for this type of reviews. I believe that reviews can also serve to hone author’s craft, but that is not the main reason I review games.

If any author particularly wants a review for a self-hosted or otherwise unarchived game, I’d be happy to write on request. This is just more of an overall thing. And I think it will make more people happy, as many itch-only people have recently requested that people do not review or archive their games.

Speaking of which, I need to submit the Spring Thing archive to the IF Archive! It’s been 6 months and I still haven’t done it, so I’ll get on that!

Summary for those who don’t want a wall of text: I’m only going to review free-access archived games unless an author requests a review or I feel like it.


This might get tomotoes and whatnot tossed at me as well, but I’ll go on the record that I strongly agree and support your efforts here. Obviously, we cannot, and probably should not, force anyone to archive their game; it is their game afterall, but creating incentives and passive pressure to do so is definitely defensible and probably the better way to go instead of a black and white policy choice.


Reasonable position. There are so many games that just disappear forever because they were hosted on a website and the website went down. Some of these do interesting stuff that people in the future are going to want to see! Like, Cold As Death was an interesting experiment in real-time-IF, and it survives only as a walkthrough and a review, the website dead within two years of the game coming out.


This is completely reasonable. When there’s a wealth of media to consume, one must decide what to focus on. Sometimes that pool can be reduced to a more manageable size with a hard impartial cull.

With a lot of non IF writing like screenplays and novels, one of the natural ways to get through a submitted slush pile is to immediately reject if there is a typo or grammar error on the first page regardless of quality. If an author didn’t take the time to make the first page/impression perfect, you don’t have the time to make a serious review.

It’s harsh but necessary based on volume and time. I’ve been to theater ensemble auditions where they had more than enough applicants and would summarily dismiss anyone shorter than 5’8 and taller than 6’ without an audition so the remaining pool of potential is of uniform height and won’t stick out in a grouping.


In addition to liking your reviews, I can see others might follow this initiative more or less. So I am a bit curious: How do you look at EctoComp and ParserComp? Do the authors have to do something active to get things archived?

I think it should be a team effort so all the games from a certain competition are put in the same place on the IF Archive. If they were put in all kinds of different folders, such as if-archive/games/glulx you would have a hard time searching the IF Archive for games you review. For instance, EctoComp games do not seem to have been archived since 2016 - at least not in Index: if-archive/games/mini-comps/ectocomp

Otherwise, you might not notice the games were uploaded to a particular folder or it might be delayed until after the competition etc - they are busy on the IF Archive too I guess.


Those are good questions! I guess it would apply to those competitions, too. It would be nice to have a convenient way for authors to preserve/archive their games from those comps if they wanted to; I have a couple past games from those comps that I’ve manually uploaded to ifarchive but I have a couple more that I never did.

One thing I should say is some games are impossible to fully archive due to heavy use of graphics, but I’ve seen people just archive the code or text portion. Or, even more creatively, the author of the Kuolema submitted screenshots of the google forms so that his game could be preserved , even if it couldn’t be in its original form, and I thought that was really neat!

Also I think there are options outside of IFarchive (although I think it’s a great place to store IF). For instance I think philome.la is still being maintained by the IFTF (though you can’t put new stuff on there) and there are other file-sharing sites that allow copying and sharing.


I would really appreciate an option, as a Comp or Jam participant, to request that my game be archived as part of the Comp or Jam. Something as simple as an affirmative statement with an optional checkbox next to it. That way, organizers can upload submissions to the archive without concern that the author would disapprove.


That’s what we did for the SingleChoice Jam (though I’ve filled up the unprocessed box because I tried to upload too many at once…)!


No one owes anyone reviews and people should do whatever they have to do to keep their review loads manageable, but I do think that most people aren’t taking a stance against archiving of games when they submit something to an Itch-based comp or jam and don’t upload it to the IF Archive. It is extra effort to do, and extra effort to keep the file updated in multiple places if you’re making updates during the comp. Many of the people not on these forums may not know the IF Archive exists (and from previous discussions here about where to host games, I’m not convinced that there are that many alternatives out there; I don’t think philome.la really counts if you can’t upload new things to it anymore).

So basically, I think in 99% of cases “is this game archived or not” comes down to “is this comp/jam archived by the organizer(s) or not” rather than a considered decision on the part of the author about whether they want their game to be preserved, and if this were adopted as a widespread reviewing philosophy (although I don’t know how likely that is), I think it would just end up shafting people who submit to Itch-based comps/jams whose organizers don’t do archiving.


This makes sense when the competition’s “home base” is the IF Archive. I’m not sure it makes sense as an opt-in thing. We’d wind up with a folder for FooComp with exactly one game in it.

In general, searches start on IFDB, not the IF Archive. IFDB comp info should be sufficient.


I don’t think not reviewing is a punishment necessarily. I’ve honestly been seeing a lot of people recently who just don’t want public critical feedback. Especially on the tumblr/itch intersection, I’ve seen people asking others to remove comments about bugs or other issues with the game, or asking not to have review pages at all. In a way, the ifcomp/xyzzy scene is unusual in the sense that authors genuinely want to improve and reviews try to give feedback in a way that could lead to improved games.

Even in the ifcomp community, we’ve seen several people recently delete accounts or trash their pages and posts because they don’t like negative feedback and don’t want to be remembered.

I don’t think this is progress or regression, I just think that current IF world is evolving and not everyone is long-term growth focused. So I just want to spend my time with people who want that. The easiest way is just asking, so if anyone asks me to review their game, I will, archived or not; but public archiving is an easy way to sort through what kind of culture people ascribe to more, since giving away your game for free is a sign that you’re more interested in the discussion of the game than you are in popularity or monetization, and archiving it with others is a sign that you’re looking to the long term and aren’t likely to want to erase your internet presence.

Edit: Also I might just be plain wrong. I could try this and have it not work at all. That’s what happened with the IFDB awards having two categories, everyone told me it was a bad idea and they were right!

Also I don’t really see my reviews as a ‘reward’ or a positive thing in general for an author; some people like them and some people don’t, and I want to hone in on where it’s wanted.


That all makes sense, and like I said, everyone should prioritize what to review in whatever way works for them; you, in particular, are insanely prolific, and as new comps/jams enter the rotation and older ones get more and more entries, I completely see how it’s not sustainable for you to keep reviewing absolutely everything from every major event.

But I was reading this in the context of all the discussion we’ve had in the past about archiving games and how to get people to do it (or allow someone else to do it for them), and so I just wanted to say that if anyone was thinking about doing this as a means of incentivizing archiving, I don’t think it would have that effect; I think mostly the result would be newbies and people who aren’t very plugged into this forum outside of comp times wondering why no one around here seems interested in their Ectocomp game. And also that I would love to see more Itch-based events offering the option to archive the game like the Single Choice Jam did, though I do understand that that’s more work for the organizer(s).


I wonder if there’s any way to accelerated the process of adding games to IFArchive? IFcomp and Spring Thing games seem to be uploaded quickly; is there a way to do something similar for other jams/comps? Organizers can download jam games from itch.io and package them together for a bulk upload, maybe…

Right now, this seems to be a major barrier to getting itch.io games uploaded to IFArchive.


This thread has prompted me to make sure all of my own games are uploaded to the IF Archive, and it seems I’ve been very remiss in doing so.

Unfortunately I’ve fallen at the first fence, as the upload button is disabled: “upload directory is full”. Is this because everyone else has had the same idea?

I will instead collect all of my games into a Google Drive file until uploads are enabled again.


Almost none of my games are on the archive: every time I decide to wait to upload a postcomp version that will correct the inevitable bugs that pop up. And every time I forget* :worried:
As an author, I agree that the ideal is the Spring Thing and IFComp model where the organizer deals with it. But I understand that that means a ton more work for the organizer. Perhaps having a thread on the forum here after every comp where authors can all announce that they uploaded their game to the archive would be a helpful reminder/norm reinforcement tool.

*I’m away from my computer for a few weeks, but if I haven’t gotten around to adding my games by the end of September, please feel free to nag me.


I think that’s the key for me, in most of the IF communities I frequent, no one has heard of the IF Archive, or even IFDB, it’s just not on their radar. They put games on itch, because that’s where they have seen games, it makes sense.

If people want more games on the archive, there needs to be more of a drive to visibility of the archive, and perhaps its usability as a source of game discovery. As a non-archive user, looking at it makes me think I’m browsing a 1990’s FTP directory, not a modern game discovery tool.


Does IFComp automatically upload games to the IF Archive?


Yes, they do!


I uploaded the spring thing archive yesterday which was a ton of games, that’s probably what did it!

Also while I definitely support archiving and hope people do it, I did also plan to use this to cut down the number of games I review, so I’m okay if there are groups out there who still don’t archive. I think there’s room for both paradigms, and the big twine communities that use a lot of images and graphics might not be as easy to archive as the smaller IFComp games.


Well, dammit, if not uploading my games to the archive means no review from Mathbrush, I’ll bloody well upload them! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: