Authors disavowing games

Heya. I don’t mean to make this into a big deal, but I was wondering about it and thought I’d try and verbalise my thoughts.

Adam Cadre has been, it seems, disavowing some of his games. Nemean Lion is off his server (so I put it in the archive), and apparently so is I-0. If I-0 is still there, apparently it’s been changed so it no longer has his name on it. IFDB has been suitably updated. This is potentially old news - the name author change on I-0 is from 2014!

On one hand, his decision should be respected. He’s the author. He no longer wants to be associated with those games. Fair enough for him… but what does something like this mean for the archive, the IFDB, the archival of games, the community? I mean, both the Nemean Lion and I-0 are relevant games, important to the history of modern IF.

I don’t really have any more to say. I’m faintly perturbed by the notion of rewriting history, and yet respect that his wishes, as the author, are paramount (then again, don’t players have the right to know the history of what they’re playing? Then again, maybe they don’t if the author doesn’t want them to. Argh…).

Any throughts?

I think everyone’s got the right to say they changed their mind about something they’ve done, and I believe them if they do, but I mostly don’t agree with them being able to take that original thing out of my sight if they published it in some sense. If they placed it into systems designed to share it with others and keep it in sight.

Buuuuut, I think material delivered to the early internet is in kind of a grey zone in relation to this idea.

Today, we’re all aware that things placed online could be out there forever. I think very few people from the early internet had that expectation or outlook. Some may have had that hope yet still may not have predicted that material from the early internet would persist in its original form, which tons of it does.

So, work released into that earlier internet context is probably still more widely available, in a global sense, than many major commercially published works from the same period of time, which may now be out of print or forgotten, and whose spread may have been physically limited. Such a work may not be more visible or popular than the commercial works but may still be instantly gettable if someone wants it, because there will be digital copies about the place the author doesn’t control and/or can’t find.

In that sense, I can understand someone’s annoyance that a thing they made, and that they now hate, and that they never thought would persist, has persisted.

Still, if they deliberately sought to share it with others, I think deep down I still slightly favour my original stance. If you put it out, it has its own life. You can tell people you now think it sucks, but I don’t think you are granted a guarantee, or right, to eliminate it. I’m all for people collecting anything they like for historical or personal interest purposes.

-Wade

We’ve never heard of them, so we game them a try on IFDB, and are rather puzzled as to how exactly they are relevant.

Or important, for that matter. The first is a tiny joke on automated actions, the second a juvenile and sexist romp. The author knows numerous synonyms for female masturbation. Apparently, he thinks this makes him wicked and cool.

Regards Marie and Roman

No-one has claimed that I-0 is a particularly good game by modern standards. It is historically relevant because it’s the first game by a well known author, in the same way the first painting of a famous painter would be historically relevant regardless of whether it’s a good painting by itself or not. It’s also relevant because it pioneered some techniques that were virtually never used at the time, like aggressively branching plot and freedom of choice. And, it’s relevant because it won two XYZZY awards (including Best Game) and was nominated for six more.

[size=85]edit: word choice[/size]

I’d never heard of the Nemean Lion before but I’ve heard people talking about I-O for years. Whether it’s good or nor I couldn’t say (I’ve never played it), but it’s certainly relevant and important.

Nemean Lion is a jokey take on the “recursive implicit actions” mechanic that I used (non-jokily) in HL.

I think I-0 is childish, and I don’t like it as a game, but it has several features that set it apart as an innovative game. I’m going to write up an essay on it in the next day or two as my next XYZZY post. After all, there was a lot of terrible AIF back then that didn’t win awards.

I view IFDB as an impassive database as far as information like this goes. It’s not an author’s personal homepage where they can control everything. Whether it’s online or not seems kinda beside the point. I’d feel the same way about a library storing a physical book and putting accurate details into a card catalogue. Which is to say, I’d support an accurate card catalogue. I don’t want an author removing a card to stop people from searching the system properly.

The same updates have been made to IFWiki, though not universally. (I-0 is still listed Cadre’s individual profile, but Cadre is not listed from I-0). Also, he’s still associated with I-0 on Wikipedia.

Considering that I-0 won 2 XYZZY awards and was a finalist for 6 more, I would certainly call it an important game. And I think it’s entirely reasonable to write about I-0 in the context of an article about Cadre, or discuss Cadre as the author in an article about I-0. However, I support Cadre’s decision to remove his name from his works on the IFDB and IFWiki, and I don’t think it would be appropriate to “fix” the entries.

If Cadre had decided to put out I-0 under a pseudonym, we wouldn’t (I presume) go out of our way to replace the pseudonym in all places with his real name. By swapping out his real name for Anonymous, he’s essentially doing the same thing - just retroactively. It’s been a long time since 1997, and I don’t really blame Cadre for wanting to disassociate himself from some of his earliest works. He deserves the chance to move on past them.

(Post removed by moderator action.)

I think it’s reasonable for an author to disavow what they view as juvenilia or as subpar work, even if others consider it important or significant or worthy of archiving. We should honour the author’s wishes and take their name off the work, at the very least.

Personally, however, I don’t think I’d do what Adam did. I would certainly put in a note, in-game and on the site I’m hosting the game on, that I’m not fond of the work and expand on why (space permitting), but my personal standards for honesty and disclosure on my past mistakes prevent me from – personally – taking the route of just quietly taking down the work and removing my name from the credits. I think I have an obligation to own my mistakes, though it’s not necessarily an obligation I think other people have, when it comes to creative work.

If I could, I’d pull back all copies of Cattus Atrox and remove the icky ending. But oh well.

There is also the fact that in 2016, an employer is monumentally more likely to Google somebody than in 1997 – in fact, Google-the-search-engine didn’t even exist then. A text adventure is probably too high a barrier to entry for most employers’ cursory searches to care about, but a text adventure that you can pretty easily guess is porny without playing it? That is more likely to raise concerns.

(Lions lead to regret.)

There are several reasons why a writer might want to alter or unpublish earlier work, some more justifiable than others. However, I can’t support rewriting history. That path leads from Star Wars: Special Edition to “we have always been at war with Eastasia.”

A player would have to type “>masturbate” in order to elicit any of those synonyms. Can the player reasonably claim to be offended after having done so?

This raises the broader question, particularly for sandbox games that offer a wide range of action, of whether a game ought to be criticized for obliging a player who requests a distasteful action. The author thought of the action and implemented it, but it remained latent until the player also thought of it and initiated it. There was a meeting of the minds.

Counterpoint: It’s a text adventure. Maybe 12 people are going to care about your hypothetical Alan Smithee-ing and/or Life of Pablo-ing of it.

Counter-counterpoint: Adam Cadre is a well-known author of both IF and static fiction. I’d heard of him long before I played any of his works. And I-0 is referenced comparatively often.

Which makes it trickier to disavow.

Re Nemean Lion, I think it’s important but maybe it’s just me, so I’ll put it down to a personal preference. It parodies (and, like all parodies do, exposes) both a highly convoluted babel fish puzzle with some guess-the-verb and read-the-author’s-mind (hardly unheard of in “straight” IF!) and a system of implicit conveniences for the player which try to streamline the experience and end up solving the game FOR the player, which is also a relevant thing to say! It even finishes by providing an ending which makes full use of these conveniences in yet another way: “I said to do this and the game did something else instead”. Also an issue in design.

So, maybe it just struck a bigger chord in me. Certainly no one else has chimed in to attach any importance to NL. I just thought I’d explain why I brought NL up at all.

So are you against intellectual property in general, or just in the specific type when someone wants to unpublish/modify something previously published, or…?

So content in a game can never be bad as long as it is prompted by player choice?

Generalising like this is unlikely to be helpful. Vlaviano is talking about a specific game that can be played without using, and I believe without hinting, the verb “masturbate”; the player has to arrive at that command of their own accord. If they do, it’s unreasonable for them to claim to have gotten offended - similarly, if you are very put off by the command “rape” in Aisle, then, well, how did you come to type it in the first place?

It is possible for a player choice to prompt questionable content, and the player may be unprepared for it, and the player may severly dislike it, and have the right to complain. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case here, in vlaviano’s argument.

Regarding intellectual property, that was a bit of a leap. I know you were talking to vlaviano, but I share his point of view. Surely you can understand that it’s possible to respect intellectual property and at the same time prefer that history is not rewritten? It’s possible to understand the author’s wishes to disavow a particular work and still wish to study that work within the larger framework of the author’s opus - because it will have a place there, and there’s plenty of scholars salivating for that disavowed work.