IFDB Spelunking - Report

Wait a second… this page appears to have been vandalized. When I check the history, it turns out that the page was totally different. In fact, it seems that there are three games, all of them by Malaika Shard, which were changed to “[x]” on September 6, 2020. That’s something I hadn’t seen before – attempts to erase games from the IFDB by changing the page into a blank slate!

Is there a way to revert to a previous version of a page, on IFDB?

Seems more likely that this was the author removing any trace of their game, rather than an act of vandalisation.

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Maybe you are right. Delving a little more deeply into the history of these pages, it seems that they were ‘defaced’ by the same account that originally created these pages. Could very well be the author, though it’s not conclusive proof. Though if so it’s pretty ineffective: the older versions of the pages are still findable, and the games themselves still seem to be hosted on the IF Archive.

I have no moral problem with playing the game that was given to me by the random list, since it’s still on the archive. But I do wonder what to do with the IFDB pages. Ask the admins to restore them? Assume that it was the author who tried to remove them and ask for them to be removed? Do absolutely nothing? Write a review, or not write a review? (Thoughts appreciated.)

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It’s a curious case. I don’t think the committee has any precedent for what to do here. We can try to contact the author, of course, and likely there will be some discussion.

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If you can contact the author – I suppose the IFDB at least has an email address that goes with the account that created and then ‘removed’ the game pages – that would be great. (A quick google of the author’s name did not turn up anything useful. Only IF Archive pages, really.)

It’s possible that the author (or someone else?) was ineffectively trying to delete the entries, but it’s also possible that they only wanted to exclude the entry from IFDB search results while preserving the direct link. Is there a better way to do that on IFDB, and should there be one?

It is now possible to “bury” a game on IFDB, which does more or less what you are asking about. It is intended for cases where the terms of service or code of conduct has been violated.

I don’t know if this sounds strange, but spontaneously, I’d say that simply doing nothing would actually be the best course of action.

The current state of the pages may be the coincidentally happy medium between availability and the author’s presumed wishes (and potentially, the right to be forgotten):

  • The IFDB pages don’t seem to turn up when you google for the games (in some combination with “twine” and “game”, of course), nor when you google for the author’s name, nor in the IFDB search on the site itself. So they are almost invisible for all practical intents and purposes, except on the rare occasion when an explorer goes IFDB spelunking :wink: or when someone stumbles upon them in a comprehensive listing of all games with the “slow” tag (for example).
    So, if the author does not wish to be associated with the games any more, then the current state seems to serve that reasonably well, I think.

  • But also, the games are not lost from IF history, and people who are really determined to play them (and/or critically analyse them, or put them into the context of works from that period of time) can find out the links via the page history.

We can still have the full debate on another day, if the need really arises sometime. As the saying goes, let sleeping games lie. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’m rather moved by how your second spelunking expedition has encountered a lot of fascinating questions about the ethics of archival and the complicated nature of artworks existing beyond their intended forum of engagement. I think the real poignancy and charm of your expeditions are how they interface with the idea of a database itself, an enduring collation of things which were initially singular and fleeting. There’s a contextual discovery that delves the human interstices between games which, on a database, seem to emerge as if from the void. I think that’s one of the things that really marks the digital as not so different from the analogue after all.

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I’ve read your review of 9/21: My Story and, maybe because I’m getting soft in old age or that I have kids in that exact age, I found it very moving and got emotional.

Well written review and thank you!

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We got in touch with the author and eventually decided to remove the game entries at their request. So, no reviewing of it will be possible on IFDB I’m afraid.

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Okay, good to know. I don’t have a strong opinion on the committee’s decision in this particular case, but I do hope it doesn’t automatically extend from these games (which had no reviews and few ratings) to works that have been more publicly visible. For instance, I think it would be simply wrong to allow me to remove all my games from the IFDB; they’ve been in competitions, people have written reviews of them, and so on and so forth.

Anyway, probably not really something to discuss here in this thread, but I wanted to express the concern I felt!

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Currently our collective opinion seems to be that the more well-known or interacted with a game is the greater burden of proof there is for the necessity of deleting it. It would probably take an international treaty and/or the acts of several countries’ legislative bodies to delete Zork, for instance (okay, maybe exaggerating a little…)

(if anyone disagrees with this interpretation feel free to chime in)

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But but but…
I don’t like the thief.

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Finished my second spelunking expedition! I’ll do a write-up later. Really enjoyed the first part of it, and discovered some really nice pieces, but unfortunately the last four games were all awful. Happy to be back in the sunlight.

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Report of the second spelunking expedition! (I’ll put links to initial lists & final reports in the opening post. If anyone else uses the topic for their expeditions, I’ll add links to their initial and final posts too.) It was quite a different experience from the first expedition. There were two games I could only play on my phone. There were two games I had already played. There was a game that was no longer available, but I contacted the author and was able to play it anyway. There was a game that the author had tried to hide on the IFDB and which has now been entirely removed (though it’s still in the Archive). There were only three parser games. There was a Spectrum game (which wasn’t good, unlike the previous two Spectrum adventures I played), an MS-DOS game, a BASIC game and an Atari game. And there were THREE terrible instant-death CYOA-style games. Anyway, it was an adventure!

I find it hard to rank these games from worst to best, since many are at more or less the same level, and some are hard to compare to each other. Nevertheless, here’s my attempt.

  • Escape from S.S.A.D.B. There’s a lot of competition for the bottom spot of this list, but I’ve chosen this ultra-primitive parser game written in BASIC because it is such a pain to interact with. The parser is terrible, guess-the-verb issues abound, the prose is extremely terse, the puzzles are at the same time clichéd and illogical.
  • Assignment 46. Kind of James Bond in space, but playing this Atari game mostly consists of replaying it in order to find out which of the choices do not lead to instant death. Actually, this is also true for the next two games on the list, which are not substantially better or worse.
  • Hippy’s Quest. Become a hippie! The choices make slightly more sense than in Assignment 46, but it’s still a terrible instant-death CYOA… and this one has the added insult of shareware protection that you can only circumvent by sending $10 to the author. Not being able to continue felt like a blessing.
  • The anonymous game . It’s not actually called that, of course, but I’ll leave its identity a mystery here. I probably wouldn’t have done that if it were any good, but I’m pretty sure nobody will want to check out a timed-text instant-death CYOA where all the choices consist in choosing between several coloured doors. This did have nice writing and graphical effects, though, which puts it ever-so-slightly above the previous two games.
  • Shore Leave. A Quill adventure with a lot of parser issues and a heavy reliance on desperate and immature humour. Still, I think some people might enjoy it for the zaniness and the puzzles, so it’s clearly better than the previous four offerings.
  • 9/21: My Story. Perhaps not exactly good, but I found it an intense and moving document of a terrible time at middle school. I understand why the author has taken it offline, but I also feel they don’t have to be ashamed of it.
  • Choices: And the Sun Went Out. This is a huge commercial choice-based game for mobile platforms that I bought and played sometime last year. I didn’t play all of it, because it never gripped me. The story is a breathless tale of adventure and intrigue, but it never really goes anywhere – it’s breezy pulp without depth or meaning. It’s very competent and rich in content, and some people have enjoyed it greatly.
  • Basilica de Sangre. I prefer the emotional intensity of Poppet and the humour and polish of Lovely Assistant: Magical Girl, but Basilica de Sangre is a worthy game in the Bitter Karella oeuvre. Fun puzzle mechanic, but some parser issues. (I had played it in the 2018 competition season.)
  • Hyper Rift. A free mobile game available for Android and iOS. It’s a choice-based game with navigation on a graphical map, and it will take you all over a large alien-infested space ship where you have to rescue and lead a ragtag band of survivors, solve some mathematical puzzles, and find your way to the many, many endings. Polished and fun.
  • Three Mile. Putting this at the top spot is certainly controversial, and if someone prefers Basilica de Sangre or Hyper Rift or even C:ATSWO to Three Mile, I can’t really argue with them. But I was blown away by this small multi-media horror Twine, which went to places that I certainly didn’t foresee at the beginning, and managed to be both subtle and extreme.
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There’s a strong temptation to generate a third list, but I’ve decided to forego that pleasure for now and keep some time and energy for the upcoming Spring Thing festival.

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I’m enjoying your reviews on IFDB Victor, but I find it slightly strange to hear you refer to ZX Spectrum games as a “body of work”, and expect them to be of a consistent quality. The Spectrum is just a platform. The games are by different authors and are bound to differ in quality.

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Sure! But I got the impression (from some of the discussions here) that the Quill games were written by a tightly knit community of authors most of whom knew each other and played each others’ games. That’s why I opted for that phrase.

The Quill was used to make commercial games in the 1980s. All you needed to be a software publisher back then was a twin cassette deck, access to a photocopier, a pile of jiffy bags and enough capital to take out a quarter-page ad in one of the major home computer magazines. As such, it wasn’t so very different from the hobbyist scene today, except that there was no Internet as such, so the authors certainly wouldn’t have known each other. The community came much later, in the post commercial scene, but even then I doubt it was as tightly knit as the modern scene is.

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