So the first annual Short Games Showcase has come and gone, and by any metric it was an astounding success! (Thanks again to everyone who participated - we couldn’t have done it without you.) However, nobody gets anything perfect on the first try, and so @EJoyce and I think that with some tweaks next year could be even better! In that vein we’re starting this thread to solicit feedback and suggestions for what we can improve.
We’ve already identified some issues, and have some fixes planned:
Picking just one game for each non-Best in Show category is too overwhelming
Next year we will allow up to three games to be nominated per voter per category.
Not all categories are self-explanatory
In the future, category descriptions will be included on the jam page and in the voting form
Most games received fewer votes than we’d prefer, given the number of authors who entered.
Next year we’ll clarify up front that authors are allowed and encouraged to vote!
Do you have any additional thoughts on these points? Anything we missed that you’d like to comment on? Let 'er rip here!
EDIT: If you have feedback you don’t want to post publicly, feel free to DM one of us.
The genre is called “interactive fiction,” not “interactive fiction games.” True, we tend to discuss them as if they’re always games, but anything textual that you can interact with at all would fall under the big tent. Also, a lot of the comps have restrictions on them that make writing standard games very difficult: less than 500 words, or single choices, or a tiny time limit. So those need to be appreciated for what they manage to do within those limitations.
Many of us tend to use games/stories/“works of IF” kind of interchangeably so it’s somewhat of a lost cause to try to police terminology, and can kind of get into the “what is IF?” argument that we usually must keep in check because it’s a Code of Conduct violation to argue for exclusion of certain types of works.
“Interactive Fiction” is an umbrella for many types of textual works:
classic text adventures
choice-narratives or “CYOA” - Though “Choose Your Own Adventure” is a brand-name for the specific paper books we all probably grew up with so we kind of reserve the spelled-out acronym for those specifically. Choice narratives range from mostly linear to branching narratives to full on re-playable “games” depending on the author’s intention.
“dynamic fiction” which is an interactive story with limited agency. These are usually linear and may not branch much or at all; the player might type in their name or have some cycling links to customize some elements, or some pages might include “busy box” elements to fuss with that don’t change the story fundamentally. The point of these may be text effects, concrete poetry or prose where the words and layout/fonts do interesting things. Horror can work very well in this format since the author has control of mood, pacing, and vibe due to having control of the words the player sees.
hybrids, and everything in between where words are the primary conveyance of the story/game/experience the author is wanting to create
Excellent list—and note that many of the above are being actively referred to by their creators as “games”. If there was ever a point when we could have come up with a widely-agreed-upon alternate word to use for IF works that aren’t sufficiently “game-y”, I think that ship has long since sailed. (And I’m not sure there was such a point, because the line between “game” and “not a game” has always been fuzzy.)
Anyway, as it doesn’t seem that most people were particularly confused about what types of works the event was meant to include, I don’t think quibbling over word choice serves a useful purpose at this time.
I use “dynamic fiction” which was coined by Caelyn Sandel. Though the term “dynamic” may seem to mean the opposite (since they tend to contain less agency than other IF) it’s actually referring to “dynamic” in comparison to book fiction.
It’s similar to “kinetic novel” which is a type of visual novel which doesn’t offer choices or branches, but a linear story with multimedia such as sound and images and possibly character portraits during dialogue.
I think we’re talking about different things—I’m not talking about an alternative to “IF” for referring to the category, I’m talking about an alternative to “game” for referring to a single unit thereof.
There’s “work”, but it clearly hasn’t really had wide uptake among the people making this kind of interactive fiction. Porpentine has her works listed on her website under “My Games”. The works you linked that are posted on Itch have a button saying “Run game” (and that’s not a limitation of the interface, you can put whatever you want in that field). Screw You, Bear Dad’s blurb refers to it as a “game”.
So my point is, from a linguistic descriptivism standpoint if nothing else, it’s too late to try to cordon off “game” as having a specific narrower meaning and tell people they should be calling these other works something else.
I’m not trying to exclude anything nor am i trying to define IF. What i was suggesting, following the request for feedback, is that the title “Short Game Showcase” would be better named “Short IF Showcase”.
Especially since the “rules” of the showcase do not refer to the entries as “games” but as works of “IF”.
Whether you personally wish to use “game” and “IF” interchangeably is up to you.
I understood that your suggestion was to change the title of the event, and that is what I was addressing when I said:
The intent of the request for feedback is to address things that created friction for participants this year, especially anything that might have kept people from voting/rating, as participation was a little subdued on that side of things. The name of the event does not appear to be a significant factor in this.
I really enjoyed participating and voting in the SGS! I admit that I was one of the participants who voted on itch, but not on the google form. I played and rated as many games as I could, but not all 70, so I didn’t feel qualified to vote in the “best of” categories. Also, in reading over the recent discussion on discord, I realize that I misunderstood how jam voting on itch differs from rating a game on itch. I was worried about my ratings adversely affecting how a game is treated by the itch algorithm, so I inflated them–I think I even refrained from rating a few for this reason. I won’t do that next time around!