I strongly approve of having a widely-inclusive definition of “interactive fiction”. But I think that insisting on having a broad definition of “game” is a mistake - IF can include lots of valuable things that aren’t “games” as such. The overwhelming majority of books aren’t games, but that doesn’t make them any less (or more) valuable than the ones that are.
It can be important and useful to distinguish between types of IF, in the same way that we talk about the categories of comedy and tragedy in drama, without valuing one type above the other.
In just the most recent IFComp, even my incomplete pass through the entries reveals a whole lot of items that aren’t primarily games. Even a very broad definition of “puzzle” results in my finding at least seven entries that have no puzzle at all: Out, Rip Retold, Meeting Robb Sherwin, Heretic’s Hope, the good people, The Milgram Parable, and The Sweetest Honey. That’s what, 10% of the total entries? And there’s no lack of artistic quality in that list, although not all of them are especially notable in that way - just like the entries as a whole.
If we look at past years for examples, there are even more - and some of them are not only excellent, but submissions that I’d personally consider among the best not only of their year but of all IF. And looking at the ratings, the community seems to agree with me on that.
I don’t think we need to establish distinct award categories for different types - not least because the total number of entries isn’t great enough for that to be beneficial - but as a means of thinking about and evaluating IF, I do think that we need to at least have terminology to describe ways excellence can appear.
Polish the Glass is good in ways very different than Zozzled is. PtG has no puzzles, and no choices - a transcript of a session would be identical to any other. It’s a great short story that uses interactivity requirements to draw the reader in and affect the flow of their reading experience. Zozzled is very well-written and designed, with great descriptions and characterization, and puzzles that are both interesting and logical (within the premises of the game). They’re both wonderful. But they are not wonderful in the same ways. And it’s important to recognize that PtG is not a game, while Zozzled is not literature.
They’re both interactive fiction.
(edit: stupid fingers left out important words in places)