Deleting low-quality games from IFDB: good or bad?

We should absolutely remove games upon request by the author. I’ve wanted a game of mine removed from IFDB for a long time. I removed it from the IFArchive a couple of years ago so no one can even find it as it is (unless they’re so thirsty for it that they find an old mirror or backup or something.)

I was a literal child when I added some games onto the archive. They are not interesting. No one would mourn them if they were gone. The author’s wishes should always be respected in this regard.

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You need to start thinking of yourself as someone whose newer games will be so great that people will want to see what you did before, and will be pissed off when they learn of the forbidden fruit that was yanked from history!

-Wade

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I don’t remember this game specifically, but the IF Archive handles these requests on a case-by-case basis. Notability is one factor.

To draw an obvious line, we wouldn’t remove an IFComp entry from the Archive (unless there was a legal requirement).

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I can’t remember who I spoke to about it (it wasn’t you, Zarf) but I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t ask why I wanted it removed. I’m disappointed it’s not standard policy to comply.

I appreciate the sentiment, but this is something I take very seriously.

Listen, imagine if someone were to transition and a game they have on ifdb is published under their deadname. Or if someone is undergoing sustained harassment and doxxing (something which happens on this very board far too frequently for my liking!!). Or, like me, they were a kid when they uploaded their game and didn’t understand the implications of having their thing on the internet forever. People should have some measure of autonomy over their presence on the seething maelstrom that is the Internet, and it really bothers me when people are more concerned about the “history” of their hobby over the human beings who actually make them.

Here is a very specific example: Adam Cadre has a few earlier games that he really doesn’t like, and has taken his name off of them from IFDB. Some of them are very notable; one of them, I-0, is the second game to ever win the XYZZY awards, and was influential in many ways. If Adam asked to have the database entry removed completely, with all of its information its accumulated over the last decade, do you think we should do it?

That’s why I’m bringing this up now, because I saw some people asking for a way to delete games they didn’t like on IFDB, and I’m pretty sure at some point a really big game is going to go. In the worst case scenario, if someone with tons of popular games got mad at the site and asked to take them down (like Choice of Games or Emily Short), is that something to do?

And it can never completely be deleted. Peter Piers deleted his IFDB account and all of his reviews and comments, but I have several old IFDB backups and I’ve read his reviews in them every now and then. I’m 100% sure that several people still have a copy of your game out there (including Peter Piers, he tried to collect everything), and that one day, maybe multiple times in multiple places, maybe after you’re dead decades from now, someone will upload it to the internet again as part of a big game dump of older things. It’s like reading Shakespeare’s will or reading the graffiti in Pompeii; at some point, our actions and our creations are no longer our own and can’t be contained.

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Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if I wrote I-0 and 1981 I’d be embarrassed as hell too. (I shall refrain from my Cadre opinions at this time.) But I do believe he has the right to have his game removed.

Sure, okay - then who cares if it stays or goes? If I-0 is taken down, to use your example, people will be able to find it elsewhere. I mean, everyone who’s interested in this stuff knows that I-0 was written by Cadre. I don’t think notoriety is a good reason to not respect the author’s wishes.

I am certain that, like, 98% of games that are up on IFDB won’t encounter this problem. I don’t imagine that someone who made a game in 1998 is likely to come across it again and ask to have it taken down. But in the case that someone does, it’s just standard courtesy to comply. If CoG or Emily Short asks to have their oeuvre removed, that’s a bigger question that I don’t have the answers for, but - as I think you know - that’s a very unlikely scenario. I really encourage people to consider the scenarios I brought up in my earlier reply - if you wanted a game with your deadname removed, or were being harassed, or whatever, we shouldn’t hesitate.

This really comes down to what we want IFDB to be. Right now it’s the Wild West - anyone can add anything, everything sticks, and nothing can be removed. But now that we’re adding moderators and curators, we… still demand everything stick? Why?

This really comes down to what we want IFDB to be.

That’s the real question, and no one person can answer it. I know exactly what I want it to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

You didn’t mention IFComp games, but Zarf did. For IFComp games specifically, the author signs over the right for their game to be distributed. I believe that IFDB should not agree to author requests for removal of IFComp games.

  1. That said, by entering IFComp, you grant the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (IFComp’s organizing body) the non-exclusive right to distribute, without limit, all material you submit to the competition.

Maybe the best rule would be something like this: people can remove games, but people can add them back, too. But the same person can’t keep going back and forth (like Wikipedia’s 3 revert rule). I do agree that individual people have too much power in some directions and not enough now, but I think big decisions are better resolved by group discussion instead of unilateral action.

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I’m with @mathbrush on this one: once a game has been released, and had effects on the world, removing it from an index doesn’t erase those effects. They’re part of history, and trying to erase the traces they’ve made never really removes those traces. I’m talking here not just about the “you can never really delete things from the Internet” discussion that’s used to finger-wag at children getting their first social media account, but the deeper issue that creative and expressive works change the people who encounter them as well as affecting the people who produced them. That’s the deal with producing a creative work: it needs a viewer/reader/player/interactor/encounterer to have any meaning in the first place, and putting it out into the world is necessarily accepting that bargain (and, usually, intending to enjoy at least the positive aspects of it).

To take an example from a different genre (and intentionally not commenting on the game in question, which I cannot identify and probably have never played): Arthur Conan Doyle said some pretty racist and misogynistic things in some of his fiction. That doesn’t mean “he wasn’t a good writer” in some other ways, but it does mean that he said racist and misogynistic things in print, and that’s part of his legacy. That he didn’t know any better than many people in his society at the same time isn’t the same thing as not having those things. But more to the point, the things that he wrote are a valuable way of looking not just at the question of what he, personally, believed, but also of getting at what Victorian and early 20th-century society thought about race and gender. Covering up those things doesn’t just bowdlerize Sherlock Holmes to rehabilitate Doyle, but also presents a cheery but false picture of what British society as a whole thought about those subjects at the time.

Or, to take an example from a much different genre, again not commenting on the game in question: the last president of the US had a habit of saying particularly vile things on social media, then deleting his posts after a few days. But those things still went out into the world and influenced his followers before they went (in Orwell’s phrase) down the memory-hole. But even after they were deleted, it matters that he said them: they worked to build up the kind of society he wanted to build up before they disappeared. People who archived them were, I think, doing valuable work, despite the fact that the person writing them had reconsidered what he’d said, and whatever basis he might have had in an individual case for reconsidering that decision, it still matters that he said them. it had tangible effects on the world.

To pick an example closer to home: the original Stiffy Makane is a terrible piece of IF on a lot of levels, from its many forms of misogyny to the epic over-promise in the title and its terrible design. But it’s had an impact on (and outside of) the community, in part by inspiring spoof games that are much better than it is, and in part by serving as an example of many things not to do when writing interactive fiction (and writing in general). But it’s also a data point for anyone looking back at any intersection of the end of the twentieth century, interactive fiction, pornographic writing, misogyny, narrative … It should continue to be indexed, because it doesn’t just reflect on the author: it reflects on our society, on the community, on the possibilities for interactive narrative. Pretending it never existed would be deeply dishonest in many ways. Now that it’s out there, it’s part of the world, and that’s a decision that the author made, underage as he was at the time, when he released it. Other people have built upon it, and it’s had an influence on many other people’s lives. It doesn’t just belong to him any more; it belongs to everyone who’s built on it, played it, or had their lives affected by it, directly or indirectly. De-indexing it because it’s embarrassing to the author is not just dishonest, but a violation of other people’s experiences.

Though I am not trans and have never transitioned, the “should we keep using the deadname” question seems to me like a poor analogy here. Using a person’s post-transition name, even for works written before they adopted that name, seems more like a question of updating the metadata for a published work than pretending that that work never happened. I know scholars who prefer to be referred to by their post-transition names, even on work published before they transitioned. I don’t know scholars who ask that no one ever refer to their pre-transition work on the basis of their transition.

I’m not saying that nothing should ever be removed, nor am I saying that the author’s view doesn’t matter. But I am saying that once something’s been published, it doesn’t just belong to the author any more. If communication is happening at all, it affects other people, and a massive index should include things even if the author regrets them.

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In the specific case of people who’ve changed their names (not all of whom may consider their previous name(s) to be “deadnames”) I think it would be right to use their new names in the IFDB authors field. If they can update the name that appears in their stories, great, the IFDB should link to the updated files too.

If they can’t or won’t, I don’t think the entries should be removed from the database. I think there’s a shared responsibility here, and it’s not the responsibility of the IFDB management to update other people’s creations, but nor should someone be able to dictate that a historical artefact be removed, as long as it was submitted to the IF Archive legally and in good faith in the past.

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I think this is veering into two separate questions: removing/changing some metadata of a game (especially the author’s name) and removing the game itself.

As you can see in the update history, I-0 was one of IFDB’s original entries in 2007. In 2008, Adam updated the entry to provide additional details (“cover art, publication date, genre, Web site URL”). In 2014, Adam changed the author to “Anonymous.” I-0 - Details

At that point, a very gradual edit war began to unfold, as various contributors added Adam’s name back onto the page. One of the contributors seemed to change his mind on the same day as his edit, first changing the author to “Adam Cadre (as Anonymous)” and then changing it back to “Anonymous” a few hours later.

Adam himself changed the author back to Anonymous in 2017, and then again in 2019.

IMO, I-0 should in no case be entirely removed from IFDB, but it’s certainly OK by me if Adam wants to remove his name from it, and in no case does it make sense to force Adam to have to keep watching and editing the page to keep his name off of it.

Similarly, any author who changes their name should feel free to update their games to reflect their current name, either changing the author to “Jane Doe (as John Doe)” or just changing it to the new name, at the author’s preference.

Furthermore, note that allowing authors to change their names (or mark the game as “by Anonymous”) takes the pressure off of needing to delete a game from IFDB to protect an author’s reputation.

As for deleting low-quality games, as long as authors can change/remove their names on IFDB, I think it only makes sense to delete a game when the game was not intended for publication, e.g. if the game was auto-submitted.

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Maybe games should be able to be flagged as “unindexed” and have a reason assigned |(most of which are discussed above). An author could request it, it could be for grossly offensive or illegal content, it could be that there is some kind of dispute with regards to the information in the game.

By default the site could only show games that are not unindexed, and by default all games are indexed, there is just a dispute mechanism that will allow a game to be “unindexed”. All users should be able to access “show unindexed games” in the search, but perhaps this isn’t a front an centre checkbox.

I’m very much against removing content unless the indexed information itself is illegal (such as a title that is a incitement to violence). Better to have a transparent way of filtering out low quality or contested content, and let users of the site have the option to see everything. I think this benefits everyone without playing the role of index censor. Indexes generally speaking should censor as little as possible
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All of this is technical work on the site, and even if it is a reasonable solution to the problem, I can understand why it may not be implemented soon or never if there is no current development work going on in the site.

Just an idea anyway.

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That is an excellent idea.

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I probably agree with most posts, that low quality is not a reason for deleting a game from IFDB. Only illegal stuff, spam etc. should be deleted, and each deletion should be based on thorough consideration.

Similar to this, the IFDB administrators should consider requests from authors and be able to lock a field, e.g. “Anonymous” in the author field.

The case of Quest games added to IFDB by the textadventures.co.uk-robot is a very special case. I propose this:

  1. Make a list of all games added by the textadventures.co.uk-robot.
  2. From this list, remove those which have ratings or are on somebody’s wishlist or have been edited by someone.
  3. Before deleting the games on the list, make a post on the forum at “textadventures.co.uk” a month or two in advance, that IFDB intends to remove these games from IFDB unless anyone objects. If anyone objects, those games are removed from the list.
  4. The games still on the list are removed by the IFDB administrators.
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IMHO (suggestions), the best function of IFDB is user searchability. Game files (and often original documentation) can be located on IFArchive, but that’s not the place to find information, hints, walkthroughs, reviews. IFDB should direct users to where they can find the game if it is available, and provide metadata and credits, polls, comp histories, etc. as it does.

In the service of user searchability, any user with an account should be able to search for tags, or mute specific tags to omit games with them from their personal searches. If they don’t want games with adult language, they mute that tag. If I don’t want games about kangaroos, I can mute that tag in my account.

As far as deleting game entries permanently from the DB, that should be something the author or creative team can request, whether they made the listing or not. Authors should also be allowed control of editing entry data, such as for name-changes, even if they didn’t create the entry. Stray and broken or duplicate entries could come down after staff review via a sort of flag system.

If a legit game is taken down by a personal request, perhaps there could be a static page left in place that says something like “Farting Simulator 2020 was removed per special request and is specifically not listed on this site. Please do not make a new entry for this game.” - just to avoid the situation where people are confused when they get no search results.

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This is a great solution IMO, particularly with regards to notable absences.

EDIT with an additional thought: I also just want to encourage people here (who, it appears, are mostly men) to think beyond the “I regret this game” or “I’m embarrassed by this” narrative that seems to be permeating this discussion. There may come a time where someone comes forward with a reason to remove their game that involves or hinges upon their personal safety, and we should strive to be as respectful of those requests as we can. There are more important things than the “historical record.”

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I do like the idea of a locked stub-entry that acknowledges a game exists but disallows edits and is only searchable by manual opt-in.

I don’t think an author disliking a game is reason enough for that status, but issues of harassment and safety should certainly be honored.

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I agree with your main point. But there’s a difference between ‘games can be removed for personal safety reasons’ and ‘games should be able to removed for any reasons without specifying what they are to make it easier for those people who need games removed for personal safety reasons’.

If someone needs an item removed for personal safety reasons, they can just say that to the IFDB team who can then remove it. As far as I can tell, that’s the policy on essentially every major website: reporting that something needs to be removed, giving a reason, then having it reviewed by moderation to make sure it’s not in bad faith (like someone maliciously trying to take down someone else’s game).

(Edit: I guess a parallel here would be DMCA takedowns).

Edit edit: Also, I realized that I’ve talked a lot in this thread, and that this is a group discussion where different voices need to be heard. So while I’ll maintain my position, I’ll hold off on answering others for a while; if other people feel the same way, they can speak, and if not, my position shouldn’t be forced on IFDB despite others’ feelings).

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