IF Writer's Festival

I’ve been thinking the last few days about writing IF, and IF craftsmanship, and community, and the IF community, and it occurred to me that one thing I’d really to have, as an IF author and player, is an IF Writer’s Festival. We have a lot of competitions encouraging people to release new works, and a lot of ad hoc craft discussion, but we don’t really have any events that deliberately bring people together to share their craft and enthusiasm. (Online events, that is - I know there are various offline get-togethers, but not everyone can make it to one.)

I haven’t thought this through very thoroughly yet, and I’m certainly not committing to anything, but I wanted to put out some feelers to the community. Is this something other people would be interested in “attending” and/or contributing to? If there’s enough interest, I can start looking seriously at how practical this is for me to run. I’m also very open to suggestions and ideas.

My thoughts so far:

Well, firstly, it has to be an online festival - I can’t very well host anything live from my rural corner of Western Australia. I’d want to make it easy for people all over the world to join and contribute, so I imagine the “talks” being written material that I can post on the festival website over the duration of the festival. I’m open to a variety of formats: articles/essays; interviews; panel discussions if there’s a group of contributors who’d like to share an email or IM conversation. Heck, if someone came up with a suitable workshop format, that’d be fantastic.

Time-frame: what about the middle of the year, maybe June? There’s a space in between the Spring Thing and IFComp. Just before IFComp opens seems like a good time to start getting people enthusiastic about writing some IF! Depending on how many people were interested in contributing, I could space the posts out over a few days, or a week.

I’d really want the festival to be a showcase of the diversity of voices and practices in recent IF, and to be an opportunity for people who might not normally talk craft with each other to share what they’re doing. So I would be looking at inviting people from various IF communities to “speak”, as well as people from outside the wider IF community who are doing interesting IF-adjacent work. I’d also like to have a curated showcase of recent works available for people to play, with the same intention of highlighting a diverse range of voices and creative practices. It would be great to be able to promote this to people outside of the IFsphere as an introduction to what’s happening in IF at the moment. (Yes, I’m aware that this entire paragraph is hugely ambitious!)

So… thoughts?

I love this idea.

Since Spring Thing has been reconceived as a festival, would this make more sense as an expansion of Spring Thing? Or does the past history of Spring Thing as a competition interfere?

Well, I did spend some time thinking about the possibility of offering a juried prize or audience choice award or something for the showcase games, but I was leaning towards avoiding all trappings of competition.

A bigger distinction is that Spring Thing is still a venue for releasing new games, whereas I wanted the writers festival showcase to be more curated. There’d definitely be advantages to piggybacking on or merging with an existing event, though, so if Aaron were interested, we could talk about how it might work. Maybe the Writers Festival Showcase could be a third category alongside the Main Festival Games and Back Garden. Maybe the IF Writers Festival could be a sub-event of the Spring Thing, like the Perth Writers Festival is a sub-event of the Perth International Arts Festival.

I am super-interested in principle, although it’s difficult to say very much without knowing more about the shape of the thing.

Well, what shapes would make you more or less interested?

I think “festival” might be a bit confusing. Spring Thing is a festival in the sense of “film festival,” a showing of new work. It sounds like you’re suggesting something more like a workshop or convention?

Well, I dunno. The Sydney Writers’ Festival is a mixture of

(a) authors come to read from and promote their work, participate on panels related to their work or on other stuff, and

(b) forums/panels talk a bit about writerly topics, then open the floor to audience questions.


Writers festivals and literary festivals are a thing - for instance, the Perth Writers Festival I mentioned earlier. I suppose they are more or less writers’ conventions!

I wasn’t intentionally posing the idea of an IF writers festival as opposed to an IF convention when I made my original post. It’s certainly an unconscious reflection of my biases about IF and video games, though. I’d like to think that framing it as a writers festival rather than a convention would prompt different kinds of conversation. In the context of games, I tend to read “convention” as “fan convention”, whereas I’m envisioning a writers festival as authors sharing their work/craft/techniques with other authors.

This is, to be fair, not such an accurate portrayal of your average writers festival either (which tend to be authors talking to a mixture of fans and wannabe authors, and as Wade mentioned, involve a fair bit of self-promotion). And some people might chafe against the implied traditionalism/elitism/snobbery of a “writers festival”, which is fair enough.

Honestly, I’d be pretty happy with an IF equivalent of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, if that’s possible. Even though I feel in general we have more IF theory than we either know what to do with or are already using.

One thing though is that Spring Thing participants can’t really be waxing lyrical about their games (I mean that in a kindly way) while people are still playing/solving those games. I’d throw virtual tomatoes and tell them to shut up! That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be something going on with Spring Thing, but I wouldn’t do That particular thing.


Perhaps “symposium?” I understand the notion of a writer’s festival but I think Aaron kind of already set a precedent of what “festival” means by making Spring Thing a cinema-like festival rather than a literature-like festival.

Edit: This isn’t to say I don’t find the general idea intriguing; I do.

I like the idea of a live, on-line, multi-participant IF event. Say one had the absurd idea of combining the IF Theory Reader, a live IF meetup, and a chat room. What would that mean?

Curated: Someone (or a committee) selects events and speakers. Panel discussions, group IF play-throughs, people presenting talks/articles. Focus on the craft of creating IF and the critical discussion of IF, not just “hey IF exists”.

Public: The event is promoted in advance as something that game developers and game journalists might be interested in.

Live: Events occur at scheduled times over a period of N days. When the festival ends, the site remains up as a record and resource, but it’s now in past tense – “this is what happened during IF Festival 2016(whatever).”

Recorded: Each event leaves a permanent record on the web site (the text of the article, the transcript of the panel, whatever). Citeable for academics, etc.

Social context: There is a chat channel for people to discuss the latest event, and to keep hanging out afterwards. This is accessible and inviting to the interested public. (Not transcripted, or transcripted in an opt-in way.)

Note that I am not talking about technological solutions here. First decide what we want, then decide how to build it.

Nothing really to add except to say that I think this idea is pretty cool and I hope it works out. It would be a nice way to add a lot to our already thriving community. :sunglasses:

It sounds like a fun idea, perhaps, with meetup groups in Boston, London, Seattle, etc. you could even combine live and online events of an IF World Festival at the same time.