So, let me explain a bit more about what problem I’m trying to solve.
I’m trying to ensure that all games (especially jam/comp winners) get archived, and to ensure that they have working Play On-line buttons on IFDB.
It would be easy for me to just download every game in ParserComp, upload them to the IF Archive, and then link to those games from IFDB. But I don’t necessarily have the legal right to do that.
So, what I’ve been doing is trying to find contact information for every author in every Itch-based competition, reaching out to them, and trying to ask their permission to upload to IF Archive. Sometimes I can’t find contact info; sometimes they just don’t reply. Of those who do reply, basically everyone eventually agrees to allow archival.
The IFComp rules for authors includes this rule:
You retain the copyright to any games you enter, and may do whatever you wish with your work after the competition ends. 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.
As a result, the IFComp organizers (or anyone, actually!) can upload IFComp games to IF Archive. IFDB can link to there with “Play On-line” buttons.
The Spring Thing competition has a similar rule:
Free: the festival version of your game must be freely available both during the festival and in perpetuity afterwards on the IF Archive.
For ParserComp, I propose rule language like this:
You retain the copyright to any games you enter, and may do whatever you wish with your work after the competition ends. That said, by entering ParserComp, you grant the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (which runs the IF Archive) the non-exclusive right to distribute, without limit, all material you submit to the competition.
With this rule in place, I can just download all of the games by hand, and upload all of those games to IF Archive, and both my problems are solved. I’d no longer have to go hat in hand to each author asking their permission to upload games to the archive; I could just do it myself.
I don’t really see how that would work, or solve the problems.
You could certainly put some language in the rules, “Please upload your files to IF Archive, so they can be archived.” That makes the archive “opt-in” in some sense. But, in my experience, for competitions and jams hosted on itch.io, people don’t lift a finger to do it.
This still forces me to reach out to authors to get their permission to upload.
And, what if the competition winner happened to be from an author that refused archival? Would IFDB simply have no Play On-line button then? Would we just never archive the winning game, like, ever?
Maybe the organizers could reach out to all authors, and get them to explicitly tell you whether they want their game to be archived? But how would I know which ones agreed to upload to IF Archive? Would I upload those games to IF Archive, or would the competition organizers do it?
By far, the easiest and simplest thing to do is just to add a rule like the one I propose. I’ll take care of archiving. (Or anyone else could!)
Again, how would this work? Authors would tell the competition organizers that they didn’t want their game(s) to be archived? But if I’m doing the archiving, how would I know which are which? And what if the winner refuses archival?
More broadly, I think of archiving as not just a community norm for authors but a community norm for competition organizers.
IFComp requires archival. Spring Thing requires archival. Every IF competition should have this rule, because the IF community cares about our history, and ensuring that games aren’t lost for all time.
History matters more to us than for other game-industry competitions, because IF games are typically text-based, and are typically timeless. Players today still enjoy IF written in the 80s and 90s, and I expect that the winning ParserComp game will be enjoyable ten or twenty years from now.
And “Play On-line” buttons matter, too. Having reliable, online-playable games has transformed the newbie experience for IF players. It used to be that we had to teach newbies how to play our games, like this:
Welcome to IF! But, before you can try our games, first you have to download an interpreter. You have to understand what an interpreter is, and understand which interpreter you need to play the game you want to try, and figure out which interpreter(s) work on your computer/phone. Then, you can download a file, open it in the interpreter, and play!
The “Play On-line” button means we can just link a player to IFDB and they can click the blue button and start playing, on a computer or phone, no download required.
Archival matters. I’m sure it matters to you, the competition organizers. Archival matters enough to make it a rule.