The 2015 Spring Thing broke with tradition in a couple of significant ways. My general impression is that things went well this year, but I’d love any comments on how people thought it went, or what you think could be improved for future years.
Things that seemed to go well, from my perspective:
Participation. There were nine games submitted from a variety of systems, which is above the historical average for the Thing and quite close to last year. Yay!
Drama. No major drama this year among authors or between communities, at least none that I was aware of (although this is statistically much more likely to be coincidence than attributable to the new format).
No Entry Fee. Nothing seemed to change appreciably because of this.
Relaxed Rules. Again, this did not seem to cause any problems this time around, although it might need to take a year with some tension to really test the laissez-faire approach.
The Back Garden. A win, from my perspective: it seemed to provide a place for a handful of interesting games you wouldn’t normally have seen in a comp.
Things that went okay but could have been better:
- Some outreach, but maybe not enough. I announced the Thing here on intfiction.org (home base of its traditional parser-based community), but also on Twitter, and forums for Ren’Py, ChoiceScript, ChooseYourStory, Twine, and two academic groups of interactive story people (the Electronic Literature Organization and the GamesNetwork mailing list). I also made a reminder post about a week before intents were due to most of these places. I tried to keep the Twitter account active with posts about past and current games, although I’m not sure how effective this was since it has fewer than 100 followers.
The outreach seemed at least somewhat successful: there were Twine and Ren’Py submissions, and I’m pretty sure the latter at least was due to my post. There are lots of other interactive story communities I didn’t reach, however: either because I didn’t know about them, couldn’t find a community forum to advertise on, or didn’t have time to reach out to them. Maybe Spring Thing needs an intern to help with next year’s outreach?
Traffic. springthing.net had 1,802 unique visitors during the month of April, which is almost identical to last year (the first year I was organizing the festiva). So it seems at least the new format didn’t discourage traffic, although it didn’t seem to increase it much, either.
Ribbons. Both ribbons were given to the same game this year, which is totally fine, but I think if it happens consistently every year, the benefit of having multiple ribbons is somewhat weakened. My impression is the main IF Comp’s Miss Congeniality Award tends to go to a different game than the 1st place winner, but it could be that in Spring Thing alumni vote less like authors, or the pool size of games or voters is too small to see such an effect. Alumni participation was also quite low (predictably: alumni may not even be involved in IF any more, and playing enough games to vote for a winner is a big time commitment).
Prizes. There were fewer this year than in prior years (only two, not counting mine). My suspicion is that cash prizes were a very hassle-free way of helping the festival, and by disallowing them I threw up an obstacle not everyone had time to overcome. I also probably could have done a better job canvassing for prize donations (maybe to some of the same places the festival itself got promoted).
Things to definitely improve:
- Submission Snafu. I messed up the intent to enter form and thus had to scramble to track down and confirm authors. I don’t know of anyone who submitted an intent and got left out; but I can’t rule out that this happened, either. Hopefully this was a one-time thing to do with the site redesign.
Things I’m not sure about:
- No numerical feedback (rankings / public voting data). Curious to hear people’s thoughts on this: I’ve heard some mentions that it’s frustrating not to know how well your game was received (to the extent a ranking is a proxy for this), and some sentiment that it has the intended effect of reducing pressure on authors.
I’d welcome feedback anyone has on these or any other aspects of the new Thing, either here, in a comment on the duplicate blog post, or to aaron at spring thing dot net.