Participate in the 2023 Interactive Fiction Top 50!

Perceptions can be deceiving. I have never considered text adventures to be the domain of men, as many of the greats from the golden age of text adventures in the 1980s were actually women.

In the modern age, there’s probably an even greater proportion of female authors. The dominance of narrative-based and choice-based interactive fiction has been largely responsible for that, but there are also a lot of women producing parser-based interactive fiction (including yourself), and that’s a good thing, if you ask me.


I see what you’re trying to say, but I feel like that misses the point. It doesn’t matter if the insiders think it’s not a boy’s club; it doesn’t matter how many women have written great text adventures. The problem (if you think it’s a problem) is the perception of outsiders like past-Amanda and others that they don’t belong, regardless of what the reality may or may not be…


There are several different threads of IF history, and how women were treated differ in them.

I know that in the era of type-ins and magazines like Garry is discussing, women were more prolific (including my boss; she ran classes for young girls in the 80s to write text adventures).

In the Usenet->ifcomp->xyzzy awards->intfiction thread of history, women were ostracized a lot. A quick check of the XYZZY Awards show that no women were even nominated for a single award (out of around 40 nominations per year) for the first two years, and only 2 nominations were received for a woman-written game in the third year.

Suzanne Britton and Emily Short were early prominent authors, but Emily Short has mentioned receiving frequent harassment and was often asked if she was a man in disguise, while Suzanne Britton quit the community after events such as the game Futz Mutz being entered in IFComp containing a diatribe calling her several profane words for a woman.

So it all depends on which part of history you were a part of. The type-in/magazine/illustrated adventures seem to have been less misogynistic than the ifcomp/xyzzy group.

Edit: I was wrong about there being no nominations in 1996; see the reply below by St John Limbo!


Whoa, I consider myself part of the modern audience, and I still think Citizen Kane is a lot of fun to watch.


Without skewing the conversation too much: If Emily Short was not such a celebrated member of the Inform 7 community (back when I had picked up I7), then I would never have made an account on this forum. Women having respect and recognition in a community is usually a primary litmus test that people of certain minorities use when gauging if they’ll get harassed and dismissed upon joining or not, or how welcome they might be to share their experiences and offer input.

A lot of people don’t generally want to enter a community “under cover” to scope it out first, and then have a “coming out” later, because a lot of us already have to do that enough irl and it’s exhausting. So a lot of us might check some external indicators to see if it’s even worth the effort, or if we should cut our losses and move on.

Also, this indicator isn’t 100% perfect, of course, but it’s a useful-enough statistical trend that it can be used to avoid getting too comfy with a community and, one day, discovering that everyone is totally okay with tossing hate speech around and saying horrible things about the other parts of you, which you have kept secret during your time there so far. At that point, you cannot feel like you matter anymore, and it completely defeats the point of sticking around.


Emily Short was my entryway into IF because of reading her blog and finding a link to SpringThing. I waffled over submitting anything, mostly out of anxiety- though the blurb on the website went a long way into feeling comfortable enough to submit.

Spring Thing especially welcomes diverse voices and populations traditionally underrepresented in gaming, including women, people of color, queer and LGBT+ folks, and blind, neuro-diverse, or disabled creators. People from all walks of life should feel encouraged to participate as players, authors, or reviewers.


This, 100%.

I do not want to minimize the accomplishments of women in IF before 2000, because I know they were there and doing brilliant things. The point is, I did not see them. All the great games I read about, heard about, and played were by Johns and Grahams and Andrews and Adams. Plus, there was (is?) a whole societal cesspool of ugly about women gaming at all. So the perception I had as an outsider was both true and false, and it would take a while to unpack all that if I wanted to.

But back to topic-- old games staying on favorites lists-- my favorite Shakespeare play is still A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Not because it’s his best play; it surely isn’t. Almost every other comedy he wrote was richer and deeper, not to mention the wealth of the tragedies and histories. But it was the first play I GOT. It was the first time I felt capable of reading, understanding, and enjoying Shakespeare (for a 14-year-old, the way in is always a good butt joke). So Dream stays high on my list of favorites, because every time I read it, I remember and re-experience that thrill. Plus, Wall is truly freaking funny. Same with many older games.


I’m not disagreeing about the general point, but I think that there’s a small inaccuracy in this part, and also that one could make the overall point maybe more by referring to IFDB data than to the XYZZYs specifically. (Maybe you just meant this as a sort of pars-pro-toto, but I wasn’t sure.)

The inaccurate bit is about the first awards. It’s not correct that no women were nominated there, as “Night at the Computer Center” was nominated in 1996 for a Best Setting XYZZY, and the author Bonni Mierzejewska is a woman, as far as I know.

The other aspect is that while there were indeed very few nominations for women in the first XYZZYs, there were also, apparently, very few games written by women during those years at all, at least according to IFDB (which may not be infallible, of course).
So there were not many women in the pool of XYZZY nomination candidates to begin with (which ties in well with the general point made by you and others in previous posts, which I don’t disagree with, as I said).

For 1996, IFDB lists 109 games.

Going by the authors’ names (a method which has some caveats, of course, but can give a rough approximation, I think), I see 5 games which were written or co-written by women, namely:

  • The Great Aussie Adventure, by Dorothy Millard (this was originally written for the C64, which of course doesn’t make it ineligible for the XYZZY awards, but it might explain why it wasn’t nominated by enough people among the RGIF/XYZZY crowd; I dunno)

  • two games which were originally commercial and for the ZX Spectrum (which again doesn’t make them ineligible for the XYZZY awards, but it might explain why they weren’t nominated):
    Rhyme Cryme, by Karen Tyers; and The Search for the Wonderful Whotsit, by Karen Tyers, Derek Shaw

  • The Second Pit, by Sue Medley, Andrew Craig, and Tom Craig

  • Night at the Computer Center, by Bonni Mierzejewska (1 XYZZY nomination)

Just to show I’ve hopefully done a reasonable amount of due diligence :slight_smile: , I’ve listed some games behind the following details tag where the authors are anonymous or pseudonymous or whose names are inconclusive; or where the names appear inconclusive but they are male (AFAIK).

Click here to expand:

BSE, by Chris Smith
Moist, by Scarlet Herring (Adult IF, pseudonym)
Silence of the Lambs, by Anonymous
Witchfinder, by Kanga and YAK
Yoshi’s Birthday, by Chris Kugler

Sagamore, by Anonymous (author identified as male in the linked EamonAG review)

Shit Game, by M. Spiridonenko (presumably Maksim Spiridonenko)

SPIRITWRAK, by D. S. Yu (Daniel Yu)

All in Russian, therefore unlikely to be nominated for XYZZYs anyway:

  • Crystal Dream Members in East Ukrainian State University, by Crystal Dream
  • Fredy McNeford, by DJ Hooligan (1996)
  • Fredy McNeford 2, by DJ Hooligan (1996)
  • LSF, by Impact Creative Group (1996)
  • Magicians Land, by Precision Group (1996)
  • Medieval History, by Protein, Adrenalin (1996)

In Dutch:
De ontsnapping, by Alex Dijkstra

In German:
Anal frustriert, by Robin Haberkorn (also, in Germany, Robin is almost exclusively used as a boy’s name)

For 1997, IFDB lists 107 games. Out of those, going by the names again, 7 were written or co-written by women:

  • two German games: Die Zeitreise, by PIVOT, Patrick Hennig, Ingo Schüler, Vanessa Traude, Ole Petersen, Thorsten Wolf, and Bernd Röhling; and Papa wird vermißt, by Ulrike Pilz and Uwe Pilz

  • a Spanish game: Aventura en el Siglo XXIV, by Ricardo Villalba Martínez and Elvira Villalba Martínez

  • two games which were, AFAICT, originally commercial and for the ZX Spectrum:
    Hide and Seek, by Edwina Brown; and There’s a Hole in Your Bucket, by Karen Tyers

  • The Family Legacy, by Marnie Parker

  • Travels in the Land of Erden, by Laura Knauth (who wasn’t nominated that year, but was nominated in 1999 for “Winter Wonderland”, with which she also won the IF Comp)

For 1998, IFDB lists 153 games. Out of those, going by the names again, 8 were written or co-written by women:

  • two games which were, AFAICT, originally commercial and for the ZX Spectrum:
    Feline Sleepy, by Edwina Brown; and A Hero for Sorania, by Karen Tyers, Doreen Bardon

  • Bloodline, by Liza Daly

  • Chickens of Distinction, by Liza Daly

  • Firebird, by Bonnie Montgomery

  • Sisychickenphus, by Lelah Conrad

  • Trapped in a One-Room Dilly, by Laura Knauth (placed 8th out of 27 in the IF Comp)

  • Mother Loose, by Irene Callaci (2 XYZZY nominations, and placed 6th out of 27 in the IF Comp)

Again, as I said above, this post was specifically about the XYZZY aspect. I’m not disagreeing with the general points about the “boy’s club” impression. I mean, the lopsidedness of the cited IFDB data by itself already indicates that women were underrepresented among IF authors then. (And/Or that they did actually write more games than are listed on IFDB, possibly in connection with other communities, but that those games haven’t been entered into IFDB yet.)

Anyway, it’s cool to see people join the community who enjoy this hobby and who feel welcome and comfortable to share the fruits of their creativity. :+1:


Yes exactly. And obviously the conventions of the genre have evolved far more quickly for gaming than for film. I never played any of the Infocom games at the time of release (I wasn’t even born yet for some) but in my mind I picture someone playing Enchanter every night over the span of months while sipping port and perusing a binder full of maps and notes, content to restart the game every few days to try a new idea. (And similarly for many of the older, Zarfian-cruel Sierra and Lucasarts adventure games). Modern puzzle gamers do not put up with being stuck over such long time scales (and the best modern puzzle games like Outer Wilds go out of their way to streamline the game experience accordingly) and I imagine Enchanter is more-or-less unplayable these days to IF newcomers (at least without consulting an accompanying walkthrough).

I don’t think I agree with @Pinkunz that it’s primarily a matter of polish, though—more an evolution of conventions and expectations.


Fwiw, I was referring to individual features. Like let’s say someone figures out how to, I dunno, doordash a pineapple to the player’s door while they’re playing your Hawaiian pizza delivery game. Someone later might figure out something far cooler to do that technique, like… I dunno, I’m not that spontaneously creative… [insert better idea here].

(Intentionally fictional example, because trying to avoid folks getting stuck in the weeds. I can not and will not send you a pineapple, by Doordash or otherwise.)


I’ll add Judith Pintar to the list!


I’ve been a female player of IF since 1980 and involved with the amateur scene since the early 1990s. I was a fan despite there being virtually no prominent female coders that I was aware of. More came to light later (e.g. Veronika Megler’s key role in 1982’s The Hobbit wasn’t well known back in the day) but then the only ones I knew of were Roberta Williams and Amy Briggs. There would have been more, but they were just not prominent or well known.

Even in the early era of the IF Comp etc. in the 1990s female game writers were notable by their absence. This was before the time of Emily Short and others. And yes it felt like a very male dominated community, not just in terms of the people present, but also in terms of how the dialogue - e.g. on - was conducted. Then again it still didn’t put me off. But I’d done a computer science degree with no other female students in my class, so I was determined!

However I am absolutely delighted that things have turned around dramatically in the decades since. The IF community is far more visibly a multi gendered community, with better balance, and far more welcoming to many folks. I am also really pleased how much disabled members of the community are valued, with efforts (which can still do more) to improve accessibility.

But yes, pre 2000 it was a different age …


It is my impression that female writers were doing very well on the Quill/PAW/GAC scene for some reason whereas it was mainly boys in my school class who had a computer in the 80s in Denmark where I grew up. Perhaps the very cheap ZX Spectrum was the reason more British girls owned a computer(?)


Topic for discussion the results: [Rosebush] The 2023 Interactive Fiction Top 50


Hey, Victor. I was just looking at the 2023 IF calendar for the month of August and was seeing what would happen assuming no other change next year except IFComp being earlier, with an August 28th Submission deadline.

Looking at this, you might want to open the polls on your survey about a week earlier so you have time to close them before any voters get distracted by the mass release of IFComp games and the many related reviews. Especially since voting periods in general seem to get back-loaded near the voting due date as some peeps get busy or just procrastinate.

As for other effects, the IntroComp Voting period would have its tailend similarly swallowed by IFComp hullabaloo, by about 12ish days, which might depress voting participation a little. Sliding it back by 12ish days could fix that.

Parsercomp’s voting ends nearly a month earlier, so they’re completely unaffected.

The French community might want to discuss potential impacts on their Concours Moiki Comp. As it is, the tale end of its submission period overlaps the publication of dozens of IFComp games, which might be a distraction. Shifting things to about 4 days earlier would at least sync their deadline to IFComp, which might avoid their submission deadline being swallowed by IFComp traffic (you could also cobroadcast the deadline, “IFComp and Concours Moiki submissions both due by August 28th!”), although their voting period would likely still need a signal boost or two in the noise.

I can’t see any other conflicts, but let me know if you see one. The things that are impacted seem like they could be easily mitigated with fairly small tweaks.

With that said, all these things, including your survey, Victor, are run by their own organizers, so they’re obviously free to do whatever they feel is best.


Doesn’t this only run every 4 years?


Oh wowie. Yeah. Huh. That was an embarrassing oversight.

Well, Victor, you might want to consider this four years from now. Duh.

Thanks for the catch, @EJoyce .

I think my other observations might still have some merit, though. Assuming my brain is functioning at all, which isn’t certain after that.


I shouldn’t post late. Concours Moiki is not judged by a public vote, so syncing the submission dates should be sufficient. (Thanks, Manon.)


I know it’s after the deadline, but I’m shocked that nobody mentioned Suzerain, The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante or Citizen Sleeper. And maybe even Disco Elysium (an extremely well-written crpg without any combat).


Yeah, as the article suggests, it says more about this community than about anything else. On a quick scan down the spreadsheet, it looks like two Inkle games and Fallen London are the only things that aren’t pretty traditional IF that were nominated by more than one person? And both of those companies have people who were at one point part of this group…

Certainly there are people here who love those games – I am pretty surprised that no one mentioned Disco Elysium, now that you mention it. I guess they’re just not the thing that first comes to mind for many of us when you ask about “interactive fiction” even though most of us would agree that they do fit the bill. It’s a general human bias that things that are seen as less central or canonical to a category are slower to recall and less likely to occur to people…