Something I noticed.

Rant about reviews ahead.

[rant]Certain reviewers seemed to take an awfully enormous amount of glee in not just rejecting entries that didn’t fit their definition of “game”, but in metaphorically nailing them to a wall as an example of a [lazy author/stupid author/waste of their time/why did you bother?]. Seriously, what’s with the bad attitude? I saw blogs that went into more detail and took more time to explain why they wouldn’t play a Twine game or would never play a game that couldn’t be downloaded, or used the wrong screen formatting somehow than it would have taken to actually play the games!

If you don’t like CYOA, or you don’t like being connected to the internet while you play, just skip the game and move on without all the snotty look-down-itude. If a game actually crashes your computer, then the rant is warranted. You’re not being forced to play any game. You’re being offered a smorgasbord of experiences from which you can pick and choose at your leisure.

It comes off somewhat as a haughty rich person being offered two expensive dessert hors d’oeuvres on a tray along with one oreo cookie and screaming “How DARE you potentially offer me something for free that I won’t eat? Take it away! You’re fired!” And then that person flings the tray into the expensive curtains and kicks the waiter who brought it and then has a forty minute conversation with their droll friends about how incredibly stupid the waiter and the chef and the Oreo distribution system is because an oreo is not really a dessert.

Here’s one of my reviews:

Seriously? My game is damnable because it is played online, and requires a login to save your place? “Fail” in capital letters? Really? The weeks I spent working on this game were all for naught? And not only that, instead of skipping the game and moving to something you do like, you’re going to vote it a 1 having not played it because the concept of an online game with a login has ruined your entire day?

Damnable, indeed.[/rant]

Wow. The example you quote is indeed very extreme. And that’s coming from a guy who’s very vocal about his intense online-only dislike.

I thought it would be more constructive to simply be a pain in the proverbial derriere until I got what I wanted: a downloadable version of games which can possibly be played offline and where the online-only distribution was an oversight. It worked.

I thought I was irritating, but apparently - from your example - I’m pretty mild stuff.

Certainly. It’s one thing to express you favored game type and delivery mode and try to campaign to get the games you want to play in the format you want to play them. I work on a Mac so I have had to skip a few ADRIFT games that came my way. I would never interpret that as a failure on the part of the author and score them as low as possible since their game doesn’t run on my machine. I’ve even refused to review a game because I hate the font the author chose and I find the text hard to read. In that case I might let the author know why I can’t play their game and suggest how they could change it, but if I choose not to play the game, it gets no score…not a bad score.

Less nasty degrees of this attitude seemed to run rampant this year though. Maybe it’s always been this way and I never paid close attention because I wasn’t in the competition. Even some posts on here seemed to take great delight in being the Soup Nazi: WEB GAME! NO REVIEW FOR YOU! TO THE BOTTOM OF THE LIST. I can appreciate that with a proliferation of material reviewers need to have a coarse sieve to remove games that will waste their time. I used to do that reviewing screenplays - two major typos or grammar errors on the first page was an automatic “pass” because the author didn’t care enough to review the most visible part of their screenplay and make it perfect. But that is still judging content and not delivery method … and while you point out the errors, and explain why you’re not reviewing, nobody really has the right to be a complete dick about it.

Much more of a lurker here than anything else, but this has brought me up short. So… If it’s a standard PC game and it takes 20 minutes to install, that’s okay, but if it takes the exact same amount of effort as logging in to your email, it’s horrible?

I’d say it’s the sense of self-entitlement more than any lack of argumentation or the decision to rate the game with 1s that’s the insane thing here.

I hear you HanonO. And yes, this attitude is discouraging and harmful.

Welcome to the IF Comp! This sort of thing happens every year and it will happen to you regardless of the kind of game you make. A number of people judging have ‘automatic 1’ rules. If you make a parser game with puzzles, someone will give you an automatic 1 for it. If you tackle a certain subject, someone will give you an automatic 1 for it. You will get an automatic 1 for including a cover graphic or one for not doing so. You will also certainly find someone who will give you an automatic 1, because they don’t like your name. This is not restricted to requiring registration or making a browser-based game.

Doesn’t make it an acceptable practice. I’m with Hanon. Some reviewers need to learn how to review. Why review a game stating “This isn’t a game for me”, giving it a low score? If it’s not a game for you, don’t detract others who may like it with a low score, then. As far as the automatic 1’s you mention, again, it’s a stupid way to review and/or score.

Oh, sorry if I didn’t make my view clear: I agree that it isn’t good practice! I once had a reviewer saying “This game rubs me the wrong way. 1!” after playing for six turns. It’s not a new phenomenon.

Maybe, but looking at the actual voting data from this year’s IFComp results, none of the top four parser games got auto-1’d for anything, and only one of them got even a single 2. The top four choice-based games, on the other hand, all got at least one 1. You only have to glance over the vote graphs for the parser and choice games to see the difference in scoring patterns.

For authors, even a single ‘review’ like the one Hanon got is obnoxious. But on the plus side, I thought this was a good year review-wise. I was thinking that as I went along reading them, since there have been years when blogs appeared in which every single review was like the one Hanon quoted, and there was no such blog this year. (THAT I SAW!)

Here’s what I consider to be a bottom of the barrel classic from 2010 IFComp. I googled it from memory and it showed up in this archive. It appears in inverse text to me which I had to select to make it visible - perhaps a last minute warning that I’d be better off averting my eyes?

Declaration of Interests Statement: Sarah Morayati also reviewed my game negatively that year, but I got off easy compared to this.


As harsh as that review is, it’s not gratuitous. The reviewer makes it very clear where she’s coming from, and why she gives the game the low score she does. Would I like to be on the receiving end? Of course not. But I would rather be reviewed like that than be reviewed “Online-game? FAIL”.

John Evans, there’s a name I haven’t seen in a while. Not particularly fond of his works, but the man’s ambitious, you gotta give him that. Implementation always breaks down, though, and puzzles tend towards the obscure.

EDIT - By reading up on his games and remembering my own experiences, I think some context is in order. The reviewer you just quoted was probably also fed up with Evan’s inability to get his games beta-tested. Game after game after game that Evans churned out has been even more frustrating because it could have been something extremely cool. Great ideas, great concepts. Unplayable/unwinnable/buggy end results. In this context, the reviewer might just have been at the end of her tether, because unlike Andy Phillips, an ambitious bloke that does seem to take into account (somewhat) the more negative reviews of his games and improve with them, Evans never, in the words of Shiovitz, “took the hint”. Eventually you stop pampering.

This threads bring back (not very) fond memories of my time as an ADRIFT author, when pretty much every game I wrote would have at least one review (often many more) which went to great lengths to hammer me for writing games with ADRIFT. “You mis-typed a word! You bastard! Kill yourself already!” or endearing comments along those lines. Granted, I’ve wrote some pretty cutting reviews myself over the years, but those are generally reserved for the “I wrote this game in 20 minutes, didn’t test it, didn’t even make sure it can be finished, oh and there’s a typo in the title” kind of thing.

But for worst ever review of a game? Sorry, but I’ve got you hands down beat there. I give you this little gem written by Yoon Ha Lee, who is to IF reviews what Hitler was to the Jews, of my 2011 IFComp entry:

Total time spent playing the game: 6 minutes. Total time playing the game was actually reading the introduction. And after that she gave it a 1. If anyone needs slapping in the face with a red fish and told to go back to IF reviewing school, it’s her.

What does “hear otherwise” even actually mean in this context? [emote]:P[/emote]

I agree with David that Yoon Ha Li was both the worst and most prolific.

I disagree though with you, Peter. Whatever problems Morayati had with The Chronicler, the review has a level of contempt, and then a lack of awareness of the ridiculousness it is lurching into (‘Think of the IF newcomers!’), and the worst kind of trope-bothering that I was talking about elsewhere during this comp, that it is more useful as an example of terrible criticism and an instruction to other critics to watch what you’re doing than Yoon Ha Li’s comments, which can be so dumb they don’t require any analysis. To be auto 1’d in the context of someone who auto 1’d every second game is/was easier to laugh off.


Wade, as the world’s foremost defender of the Chronicler–I played it through to the ending with a feeling of mild enjoyment and absorption–I don’t think Sarah’s review is bottom of the barrel. That game really was deliberately half-assed. (I see Peter has already made that point and provided context, so I’ll defer to him for the rest.) (Now I see Wade has responded to Peter; I’d say that it’s not unreasonable to feel that the circumstances under which the game was released showed enough contempt for players – some of whom would like to try every comp game – that it’s not unreasonable to respond with contempt.)

[rant]Though I would’ve directed the ire about outreach to a certain other game released that year by a prominent IFer, which happened to be first on the list and so fairly likely to be the first one a newbie might play, and which was horribly broken in several ways, down to a walkthrough that produced a completely unhelpful default message within the first two commands.[/rant]

Yoon-Ha Lee was also making a point with her scores (I wouldn’t call that a review); games should have beta testers, she wanted games to have beta testers, and she would give a game a 1 if it didn’t have beta testers. Is this appropriate? I’m not sure. I think you probably shouldn’t rate games you don’t play, but OTOH games should have beta testers (see here for a dissent), and I can see the impulse to give games that don’t beta-test a swat with a rolled-up newspaper.

(Also, David, can we not have Hitler jokes and images of violence against women, especially specific named members of the community?)

Only probably? That’s a bit like me automatically giving every single game I haven’t played a rating of 1. Sorry, but anyone who rates a game and hasn’t even played it is an idiot of the first degree.

I think I explained why I said “probably,” but here it is again: Some people feel very strongly, and in my view correctly, that it is important that games should be beta-tested.* Some people might feel so strongly about this that they feel that a game that hasn’t been beta-tested has not fulfilled the minimum expectations of a game released in the IFComp and deserves a vote of 1. I think this view is probably incorrect, but not as idiotic as an auto-1 for web games.

*With some exceptions like speed-IF; I will confess that most of my releases haven’t been beta-tested, but I think they were released in contexts that it was reasonable to expect they wouldn’t be.

I’ve rated a game 1 without playing it. Not often. Not recently. It’s an extreme opinion, but so is voting a 1 for any other reason. So that’s me in that bucket.

You don’t have to like it, but it’s within the rules. The play experience of a game starts before launch, and so I start having opinions before launch.

Also, while I’m posting, Yoon Ha Lee’s name is spelled with neither a hyphen nor an “I”.

I hear what everyone is saying here and can see their points of view (except for thinking slapping someone in the face with a fish is violence (it’s not, it’s comedy)), but I feel it’s a shame that people will go to great lengths to stop others from playing a game simply for some personal reasons that have nothing to do with actual game-play or game-content. I can’t stand CYOA. I feel it is not true IF. But I’m not going to rate every CYOA game in the comp a 1 because of this. Why attack the author of a specific game for some generalized reason? Just my thought at this juncture.

I have mixed feelings about all this.

On the one hand, I certainly wouldn’t want to give a game a 1 for a reason like that. On the other hand, since the Comp is so non prescriptive about how people should arrive at their vote, it’s inevitable that there’s going to be some capricious voting. One way or another, most games probably get affected by it in some way.

I wasn’t really happy with what looked to me like a consistent few low votes being picked up by anything that was non-traditional, especially anything that was web-based. Of course I might be wrong, and it’s only a few votes each time, but it could still have made a difference.

The best thing would be to try to increase the number of voters, so that the occasional capricious vote gets buried in a mass of others. I think I worry more about how few people actually vote than anything. With very few voters, even a few very idiosyncratic approaches can skew the results.

[Edited to add: this is actually a particular issue with HanonO’s game, which had a very small number of voters – under 50.]

Published reviews are a different thing. This is the first year I wrote any, and I found it difficult – because I wanted to be reasonably balanced, but I also wanted to be honest. Which, I am afraid, is bound to hurt sometimes, especially since “honest” definitely doesn’t mean “right”, and a reviewer can say all sorts of things they believe and still be quite wrong, and even unfair. But I think the fact that Comp games get (relatively) large numbers of reviews is definitely a net plus. Then again, I’m afraid, there are bound to be some reviewers who often actually enjoy being nasty about things. Sad to say, those reviews are often quite entertaining to read, and though I think most people try not to write such reviews, even an even-tempered and basically generous reviewer might sometimes succumb to the temptation.

But what was quoted in the original post on this thread is hardly even a review, just a shouted judgment. Probably best if we keep those to ourselves.