ParserComp 2023 - final few hours before the deadline!

Dear Friends

The long wait is over - it’s time to put away your knitting and finish off the jigsaw, because we are delighted to announce…

Parsercomp2023 compressed

… the annual competition for new, parser-based text games.

  • Submissions open on 1 May

  • Deadline for game submissions: Friday 30 June 2023!

This year’s competition will be held over on, as before; head over there to join the jam, read the FAQs and spend time, with a glass of Madeira and the cat on your knee, familiarising yourselves with this year’s rules (what better way to spend an evening?)

Ask any questions that you have on the Discord, the jam community pages, or right here on IntFiction.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with this year!

Fos1 & Christopher


Love the banner!

Great to see ParserComp boldly waving the lantern!


Wish I had an entry to submit!


You have until the end of June to write one! You can do it!


@AmandaB , I appreciate the encouragement, but I’ll still be finishing my four-year-long monster in that time, and I’m aiming for IFComp…


Great news!


Gruescript, where “using a clickable keyword interface optimised for mobile devices” is ok, but games where “the primary mechanic is clicking through passages of branching text” is not, and nor are graphical point and click games that contain elements of interactive text (ie text you can click on?)

Also Rule#3. What about non-commercial fan fiction of copyright material?


I can make some great high-res lamp pictures with transparency masks if you need any more. Different colors, burning and not burning etc.


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Can I request an amendment to the rules?

I’d like to request that authors would agree to allow their ParserComp submission(s) to be submitted to the IF Archive.

I ask both for the sake of historical posterity, but also because many Z-Code/Glulx games on aren’t directly playable online. has the ability to play any game with a direct download link, but doesn’t offer one of those.

(Many authors of Inform games will use Inform’s “release with a website” feature, but not everyone does that.)

With a one-line rules change, we could upload the ParserComp games to the archive, and then they’d all be conveniently playable online, including a “Play On-line” button in IFDB.

(To be clear, I’m not requesting that authors upload their games to the archive, but just that they grant permission for us to upload them. I’d be happy to gather the games together and upload them to the archive myself, when the time comes, but I’d need to ensure that all of the authors have granted permission, first.)


Yes, but let’s not spend too much time hand-wringing over the fine print. Common sense is applicable. If it’s purely a choice-based thing, it’s not really a parser game; if it’s purely point and click, it’s probably not really either; if it’s something fuzzier with a parsery thing going on, put it in the Freestyle category, if it’s bread and butter Inform or similar, put it in the Classic category.

Sounds fine to me - if said copyright holder decides to instigate cease and desist proceedings, we’ll send them the author’s way (unlikely to happen).

It’s in the nature of these competitions that we can define rules but are limited in our power (or desire) to absolute enforce them to the letter.

Useful to know, thanks. If we need another graphic, we’ll know where to turn!


Happy to add this as an opt-in rather than an absolute condition for entry. What would we be asking people to do? Make their game available as a download as well as play online (if possible), then agree to your harvesting the downloadables from and uploading to IF Archive?


As the rule’s currently worded, I’d also read it to prohibit fanfiction type stuff. If you’d like to move in a looser direction, one potential tweak to the wording of that rule would be to say that the entry does not violate copyright law in any relevant jurisdiction - since if an entry complies with American fair use doctrines, which are the only ones I know anything about, even the use of someone else’s copyrighted material wouldn’t actually be a violation.

(This is not legal advice, I’m not even a pretend lawyer, etc.)

This seems like a good idea to me – basically just saying “hey we’re going to put the entries on the archive if you’re cool with that”, same as IF Comp does. Maybe make it opt-out rather than opt-in to make clear this is already a bit of a community norm and no big deal?


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, 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.


In terms of workability, you could just ask authors opting out to add a short note saying so at the bottom of their game’s itch blurb. But I’d agree that a blanket rule would be a better option.

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OK, understood, and thanks for elucidating the isses - but an opt-out is actually fine. I’ll add some wording to the effect that a downloadable version should be provided if possible, and that authors give IFTF the right to archive their games unless they opt out. Its easy enough to add a tick box at the game submission stage, and we can notify any opt outs to yourself or whoever else wants to the archiving. You can just ask us (easier than asking each author their permission).

So be it - it’s their work and if they don’t want it archived for posterity then that really is up to them.


But Mike, I’d been operating on the principle that you were! To think of all the times I’ve dispensed advice to friends and colleagues in the form of “well, of course I’m not qualified to comment, but this pretend lawyer friend of mine says…”

Anyway, we’re not in the business of prohibiting fan fiction, so will amend the rule accordingly.

Thanks for comments and advice, everyone! It is much appreciated.


Even granting that an opt-out is “fine,” it’s not clear to me why you feel that an opt-out is better than a blanket rule.

Ultimately, the rules of a competition are meant to embody the values of the organizers, which are, in turn, informed by the values of the community.

This is why ParserComp has rules about form and content (text-based games, previously unreleased, content warnings). If we didn’t value those things, then we could delete those rules, and say:

  • It’s their work, and if they don’t want their work to be text-based, then that really is up to them
  • It’s their work, and if they want to release their game to the public before the competition, then that really is up to them
  • It’s their work, and if they decide not to include content warnings for sexually explicit material, then that really is up to them

I think you and I may not agree on the value of archival, which is why you’re inclined to make it opt-out, but I’d still like to persuade you to adopt my values. (I’m also curious to hear what @fos1 thinks about the value of archival, and whether or not it should be a rule.)

So, with the understanding that we’re talking about value judgments, I have three questions about your values around archival.

First, do you think anybody will opt out? I think it’s plausible that literally no one will opt out, and that it’s therefore wiser to just make it a rule instead. (I’m not aware of authors who oppose the archival rule in IFComp or Spring Thing.)

Second, do you share the IF community’s norm in favor of archival? (For example, do you think archival is basically good, but not essential, perhaps?) In other words, in your opinion, should ParserComp and the IF community honor a winner who is opposed to archival?

Third, do you think that having an archival rule would help communicate IF community norms to authors?

Let’s suppose that we do as @DeusIrae suggested, and have authors announce publicly that they opt-out of archival. Let me tell you, I’m gonna vote against any game that does that, and I’d recommend that others do the same, in the same way that I would vote against a game without content warnings, if that hadn’t been a rule.

But I think that will be extremely frustrating to the authors who I vote against. These competitions can be settled by very tiny vote margins, and I think authors might have been thinking that opting out was a purely personal choice, when, in fact, it could mean the difference between winning and losing.

If I were an author who opted out, I think I’d have said, “I wish you’d never asked me whether to opt out, and just made it a rule. I didn’t know (I couldn’t have known) that I was opting out of winning when I opted out of archival! The organizers and the IF community kinda conspired to set a trap for me, and allowed me to walk in to it.”

For my part, I think nobody’s gonna opt out, and that if anyone does, they’ll effectively opt out of winning, and that sucks for everyone involved. For these reasons, and because I think archival is very important, to me and to the community at large, I still think we should have a rule.

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That logo is GREAT.


I’m not proposing to argue about this at any length, but simply to say that a) the option to opt out can be made private on itchio, and b) respectfully, I find the argument about opting out of winning (because you’d refuse to vote for an author that had opted out of archiving and would encourage others to do the same) rather absurd and not behaviour that I would like to see or could condone.


It will be a matter of public fact if a game doesn’t appear on the archive. (It’s going to be extra obvious if/when games don’t have a “Play On-line” button.)

We can’t just keep it quiet/private if an author decides to opt-out of archival. This isn’t just a private personal decision.

If someone opts out, we’re going to want to talk about it, and should talk about it.

Uh. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Authors are and should be given the last say over what’ll happen to their work in the end. I mean, they’re the ones who made it in the first place and then chose to put it up there on the Internet. Whether they want to opt for archival or not, whether they’ll want their game to stay up for eternity, that’s really their choice.

I can understand where you’re coming from on the value of archival. What I can’t understand is why you seem so insistent on subjugating authors to some kind of shame game just because they might not agree to archiving their game. Maybe ParserComp can have archival as optional for this year and then some? Over the years, if no objections rise and/or if everyone opts in, then it can become a more mandatory thing.


I will be surprised if anyone opts out. However, it is their decision. Why should their choice be an object of discussion. Why should it be talked about?