Announcing a new set of Interactive Fiction Awards

Thread for nominations: Nomination thread for IF People's Choice and IF Authors' Choice awards
Polls about timing: Poll about timing and privacy of IF People's Choice and IF Author's choice - #2 by mathbrush
Poll about rules about promotion: Poll for new IF awards public discussion/sharing/promotion rules
Poll about names, and list of rules: Proposed ruleset for IF awards comp and name poll


This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. In the last few years, the IF community that interacts with this website, IFDB, and IFComp has shifted and diversified, and one of the best trends has been having multiple competitions that are strong, healthy, and complement each other, like IFComp, Ectocomp, Parsercomp, and Spring Thing, among others.

I’d like to do the same thing for yearly awards, which currently has the XYZZY awards. I’d like to make a new set of awards, not to replace the XYZZYs, but to fill in some of the gaps that they leave.

I haven’t discussed this with anyone yet at all outside of a message posted on a subforum last night.

What are the awards?

I’m currently proposing two new sets of awards, both involving IFDB:

-The Interactive Fiction Author’s Choice Awards:
These are awards voted on entirely by IFDB members who have written games, as shown by having a game connected to their user profiles. A game with multiple authors would only qualify one of its participants.

This competition would parallel the Miss Congeniality contest in IFComp, where authors vote for their favorite games.

-The Interactive Fiction People’s Choice Awards
One big problem people have encountered as they move into this IF community from other communities is about self-promotion. How many times have we had to warn people about ‘ballot stuffing’, or about flooding the community with votes from outside the community? I remember it happening with Choice of Games, have seen it happen with people from tumblr getting a lot of friends to vote on IFDB, etc.

But what if that was allowed? This competition would literally be a popularity contest. As much promotion and campaigning as desired. Only literal sockpuppeting or botting would be banned, but otherwise, this would be an awards ceremony that encourages advertising. I think this could help draw more people into the community and would especially help games that touch on the popular market more than most IF.

What are the goals of these awards?

The goals of these awards are to fill in the gaps left by XYZZYs.

Currently, the XYZZY awards have moved around a lot in date and have ended up close to the end of the year. I’ve offered with some others to help with XYZZYs, but I learned that there is already a search in progress for new leadership. I plan on these new awards having a regular schedule, and also having an automatic article in place that allows anyone to get them started if I or the current maintainer doesn’t start them in time.

One of the biggest recent roles for awards is as resume-boosters. I have helped write recommendation letters for academics citing awards, and Choice of Games has put XYZZY awards on their game covers when selling. Authors have gotten jobs from awards. These two new awards should help with that.

Finally, like I said before, I think having an advertising-and-campaigning allowed awards system will fill a nice gap we’ve had.

How will it actually work?

I have a basic framework, but will need some feedback from the community, as I’ll add later in the post.

The basic framework is I’d prefer everything to be done by the end of February.

The IF People’s Choice Awards will be a monthlong set of IFDB polls. The highest number of votes wins. This will essentially replace the ‘for your consideration’ polls that I (and others) have run the last several years.

The IF Author’s Choice Awards will either take the form of an IFDB poll or private comments. If people are okay with public votes, than this could be the same poll as the People’s Choice Awards, just counting only author votes. However, this is where I need feedback.

If enough people get on board, and if it is desired, we may be able to figure out a way to run anonymised IFDB polls as an alternative.

What still needs to be determined?

Several things!

First: What categories will there be?
I absolutely want to include Best Game or Game of the Year, as it fulfills the resume-boosting mentioned earlier.

Outside of that, I don’t want to reproduce the XYZZY awards list of awards, as I anticipate the XYZZYs functioning healthily for decades to come. I want this to complement that.

One idea is to have an award for a specific authoring system of cluster of authoring systems. This is mainly to help smaller communities or large communities detached from the main one. So if the itch/tumblr group of Twine authors wanted to have ‘best Twine’ or if Adventuron and Punyinform wanted to include 'best C64 parser game), we could do that.

For this first year, my plan is this: I will open a separate thread from this. People can respond to that thread with a category idea. People can ‘like’ categories they plan on voting in. If at least 15 people ‘like’ a category idea, it will be included in the main competition.

Second: when will this run?

If people are okay with public votes, we can just run this as a single set of polls in the month of February. That gives people the month of January to let the games of the last year process, and then in February, people can see games that are ‘in the running’ and start trying them out.

Otherwise, they can be run sequentially. If people want the Author’s Choice to be private voting, untainted by the public polls, we can have a ‘nomination phase’ for it in the first fifteen days of January, followed the rest of January for voting. Then the People’s Choice awards can run publicly in February.

Alternatively, the order could be switched, so the public polls run in January, serving as a kind of first-round nomination, with the Author’s Choice running privately after that.

I’ll put up these options in a separate poll.

What if I think this is dumb and don’t want it to happen?

Well, all of this is just made up. We’re just a bunch of grown-up kids having fun and putting stickers on each other. All of these competitions and awards only have power because we give it to them in our minds.

Nothing will kill this idea faster than lack of participation, so if it doesn’t interest you, I just wouldn’t participate, and it will slowly founder and die.

I’m interested to see your thoughts, and will soon create the additional posts. Good luck!


Thanks for setting up this idea, sounds exciting! I always appreciate your enthusiasm and community spirit! In terms of categories and filling gaps left by the XYZZY Awards, I think having individual awards for different styles of game might be helpful. The XYZZYs descend from a Usenet era where it was assumed that releases were within a contiguous slate of games that could be highlighted for different categories, but IF has grown pretty diverse over time, with different clusters of comparable works. As Garry mentioned, he prefers old school parser puzzlers, and that niche meant his 2021 favorites weren’t represented in the XYZZY Awards. Similarly, someone who prefers the jam community might have their own slate of favorites that wasn’t represented. So maybe celebrating each style with an award might provide breadth: “Best Old
School Puzzler”, “Best Parser Narrative Game”, “Best Jam Entry”, “Best Twine Story”, “Best CoG Game”, etc.


In a similar spirit, I like the idea of a “best game that received neither nominations nor rewards in a competition or festival”

Or the possibly adjacent “best game with a play time of greater than 2 hours”


Ah. And just one more: “best debut/first game”


These are great ideas. I’ve opened a thread for voting on categories. Would you mind putting the ones you’ve mentioned on there, in separate posts?

Just the ones that can be formulated easily


I can’t think straight atm, so please forgive the lack of an articulate response.

1.) I like the idea.
2.) I’d like to acknowledge that the lateness of this round of XYZZY’s was acknowledged and announced right at the start. I fear unintentionally beating a dead horse. Please don’t stop the XYZZY’s.
3.) Differentiating awards to separate authoring systems is by far the best idea and the biggest single reason to support this venture. Different authoring systems have unique challenges and draw specific audiences. For example, Adventuron or PunyInform could hypothetically run their own “best of 2022” for their individual communities, but there’s something added by outside validation. Apples to apples.

:apple: vs. :apple:

Again. If that’s a little muddled, I’m sorry.


I like this idea, but I worry that getting too specific will lead to category overload. I would suggest one set of system related awards (best choice, best parser, etc) and one set of other awards (best gameplay, best writing, most fun) to keep things simpler.


As a side benefit, being eligible for awards will incentivize folks to better tag and describe their games on IFDB. It’d be tragic to not be found amongst the options because the +Adventuron tag wasn’t added.


I am all in favor of more awards with different criteria, to balance out the ones we have.

However, a philosophical point:

All our awards and competitions are already popularity contests. So I think “People’s Choice” is the wrong way to present this idea.

The questions are (a) what community do you want to survey popularity in, and (b) what counts as cheating? We have to deal with people creating sock-puppet accounts to vote multiple times. We have to deal with people who are more interesting in seeing some games lose than in seeing any particular game win. We (perhaps) have to deal with people voting who have not played any of the games but want a particular author to win. Or lose.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t do it. And I’m having trouble coming up with a better term. “Public Awareness Awards”? I know that’s clunky…


I agree that category overload needs to be managed. You don’t want to get too specific, or you just flood the awards. However, I think the purpose of identifying specific siloes is to recognize the kinds of works that get lost when bunched up in a parser/choice binary. Like, how can you design a category such that a game like Uncle Mortimer’s Secret could win? How can you design a category such that Creating Goncharov could win? These represent vibrant parts of the IF ecosystem that the XYZZY Awards might not be good at capturing, thence the value of a new set of awards.


I agree that several issues could arise. Based on things that have happened in the past, one person could create several extra, fake accounts and have them all vote for their game. More disturbingly, an alt-right group could hijack the awards and promote some violently bigoted game to the top; similar things have happened on IFdB in the recent past.

That’s the main reason I’m encouraging awards for sub areas. For instance, one of the largest IF author groups of all time is Choices and Episode authors. Even some students in my school have written for those platforms. If somehow they heard about the awards and millions of them voted for a Choices game, as long as we still had a Twine and/or Parser category, smaller groups could still be preserved.

Right now, my ideal voting community would be this forum, ifdb regulars, the French, Spanish, German and Italian communities (those are true ones I know, others are also of course great), choice of games forums, and the itch/tumble twine intersection.

I’m not convinced that the XYZZY awards are a straight up popularity contest right now; it has a feeling more of an academy style voting, and I’ve heard sentiments over the years that new people feel weird voting in it. I do believe sometimes large groups have descended on it to vote en masse, but my personal feeling is that by making voting and votes public and encouraging self-advertising, this would provide a voting system that feels more democratic, even if there is no actual distinction in the process.


This was the first time I voted for the XYZZYs. For years and years I thought the XYZZY winners were appointed by a Distinguished Interactive Fiction Author’s Guild for the Acknowledgement and Promotion of Excellence.


Even after I learned that there was no official such comite, I still felt that a mere mortal such as myself had no business meddling with such Important Stuff. And such…


I’ve made a post announcing this on choiceofgames, and invited them to participate:

I’d be happy to post similar announcements in different communities. If you’re part of a group and think they might want to be represented, please feel free to share!


This sounds like such a fun idea! I kinda blew in from the Choice of Games forum for this, but I’m really looking forward to get to know IF games made in other kinds of systems/coding languages. I know of Twine, but that’s a little too visual-oriented, both in writing and reading (yes, most of it is limited to formatting things like text color and font style, but especially the convention of linking a specific text color to a specific character’s dialog is a big no-go.), so it’d be nice to get to know what else is out there when it comes to IF :slightly_smiling_face:


This is really fascinating to hear, since I can only think of one or two Twine games in last year’s comp that do this. I know the intfiction/IFDB crowd is only one corner of the greater Twine community, so it’s interesting to hear about what else people are getting up to outside our bubble. (Even if it sounds like they do occasionally commit CSS crimes!)


Well, if it’s a crime, I’ll gladly embrace my criminal lifestyle.

(I only did the colour-coded dialogue in two of my games, but I liked the concept since I first saw it in LucasArts point-and-click adventures. I had no idea some people dislike it so much!)


Yeah the games I’ve seen in this sphere that do it generally do it pretty well, including yours! (The other game that sprang to mind was Cannele and Nomnom, which had overall great visual design so it didn’t feel out of place). I can see how it can easily be done poorly though, which I suspect is the issue.


I think it would be nice to get some Tumblr people involved. Big IF community there that doesn’t always overlap with this one here. I posted about it there, but I have ten followers :stuck_out_tongue:


Sometimes it works well, like in Limerick Heist, where it reduces the need for dialogue tags cluttering up the meter. But I don’t have very good color vision, so anything that’s conveyed solely by color (and not by anything else), I’m liable to miss. If a puzzle or a key story beat depends on it, I’m out of luck.

And of course there are screen readers.


Well I just found out right now that people outside of the imaginary DIFAGAPE can vote on XYZZY awards, I had no idea how they were voted on up until this point!

Still, I beg to differ that encouraging self-advertising is democratic in any way, and I don’t think that I would have a fun time participating in that one if that’s the framing of it. I have an allergy to social media and what followers and friends I do have in significant numbers do not give one iota of a damn about interactive fiction. Given said allergy, I don’t think I could stand to convince them and thusly I would lose and feel bad about it.

Maybe the “people’s choice” awards could be more of a promo competition that authors can opt into submitting their games to, and the competition is how many votes you can get via the various crowds…I don’t think that’s a very good idea I suggested, but I like it better than the idea that I would willingly submit games to IFComp (or other competitions) to get judged based on merit, then have them go through another judgment I didn’t ask for based on popularity to randos.

I might be really misunderstanding the whole suggestion though.

In any case, I think the author awards are nice and I like the idea about separating into categories. Maybe there could be “best category-defying game” too?