The Future of the XYZZY Awards

I think I was a bit too premature and harsh about it, sorry.

Here’s a more honest opinion on the subject:

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Summing up, seems CYOA of today is not static at all. I think since the parser has not really been updated in ages and audiences of today are much too picky, we’ll be seeing much more “dynamic CYOA” than traditional IF in years to come…

Yes, I change opinions fast. As fast as I realize I’m talking BS.

(1) I like the idea of (1c) and (1d) and really dislike the idea of (1a) and (1b).
(2) Ugh. Just, ugh.
(3) Sure. Apart from the weighting.
(4) No strong opinion.
(5) Definitely. How can we help?
(6) Ugh.
(7) I dislike the sound of (7a) in general and dislike (7b) on the grounds that it goes against the grain of goal ©.
(8) I think this is at least worth looking into.
(9) I’d be fine with this, though I agree that some of the cited problems would be hurdles to be examined before implementing it.
(10) I don’t understand why this would be necessary or beneficial (I don’t dislike it; I just literally don’t grok).
(11) I consider CYOA an important form of IF and dislike every flavor of (11), but (11c) in particular would be tragic, since efforts like A Dark and Stormy Entry would be disqualified. While I recognize that many disagree (and try to adjust my phrasings for clarity): I’m firmly in the “CYOA simply is IF, not a subform, not a cousin, not a form that needs to be separated or judged differently” camp and wish wedgies upon those who are not. I think the parser/multiple-choice distinction is, under the hood, much less meaningful than it looks on the surface, and a good many parser games are, in terms of actual game design and in terms of the player experience, functionally multiple-choice exercises where you’re allowed to putz around with the environment or puzzles between meaningful choices (Sand-Dancer, for example) while others are functionally zero-choice exercises where putzing around with the environment is the only illusion of choice offered, making games like Rameses (a deserving and impressive work, to be sure) functionally less interactive, and less dynamic, than even the most simplistic CYOA. While the surface distinction (parser or not?) is simple and objective, I think focusing at that surface level does a disservice to what lies within each work in terms of real design.
(12) I think it’s one part of the solution, but I feel it needs a buddy on the other side of the problem (convincing people that their vote is still legit even if they’ve only played a portion of the nominees, assuming that’s still the idea).
(13) I think (13b) is just a no-brainer. I can’t imagine what objections there could be to it, and if anyone wants to help my imagination along, I dislike them in advance for doing so.
(14) I like the sound of (14b) a lot; I’m not a fan of (14a) for the reasons cited (though I prefer “protagonist” to “PC” on different, aesthetic grounds). I think NPC is an excellent term and apart from perhaps spelling it out as Non-Player Character (which is pretty plain English) I see no reason to remove it.

It only makes you a better person. [emote]:)[/emote]

I was thinking that was covered by ‘flexible, living institution’, but yeah, we can put that in there. Though, hmm.

I don’t really think that the XYZZYs have historically worked as a recruiting/awareness-raising tool to the degree of, e.g., the Comp, but I do think they’re pretty great for building engagement in people who are already interested. So I’m not necessarily interested in shaping the XYZZYs to be a better outreach tool: it’s not really about that. But stopping it from becoming obstructive to outreach is important, I think.

All praise to you for this. It’s sadly too rare (and I don’t except myself).

Substantively, I think that a “Best CYOA” category might be a nice idea and even a helpful outreach tool. CYOAs would still be eligible for Best Game, but there’d be a special category for them as well. This might make it harder for a CYOA to win best game, just as pitchers rarely get the MVP because they can win the Cy Young (non-baseball fans: please ignore), but I think in years when a CYOA clearly is the best game it would win.

As for S. John’s substantive objection to the CYOA/parser distinction… ahhhh, that needs another damn thread.

Well, hm. This is a complicated question that we can’t get a definitive answer to.

In the visible, dedicated community, most players are prospective authors (or like to think of themselves that way). This is a huge strength, I think; in media where the demographics of the audience are significantly different from the authors, there’s a tendency to get works that are patronising or ill-considered. When authors are effectively writing for an audience of their peers, and can write the things that they want to write…

(One problem is that a fairly high proportion of this group don’t vote for the XYZZYs, for one reason or another.)

There’s also an invisible community, and we don’t really have any idea how big it is: people who play IF but never try to write a game and rarely become involved in the community. We don’t know an awful lot about them, but plenty of datapoints crop up. There are people who play a handful of games a year; people who don’t seek out IF, but know what it is and will happily play it if it comes to their attention; people who play and vote in the Comp but do nothing else; people who play a lot of games, but aren’t interested in authorship and see the community as basically an author’s community. There are even people whose sum involvement with IF is that they religiously read the ClubFloyd transcripts: so they don’t actually play any IF at all, but they’ve still got a pretty good idea about the state of the art. And we don’t really know how typical any of these people are.

The trick is that the invisible community are, for obvious reasons, much less likely to vote in the XYZZYs (or even to be aware that they’ve started).

I don’t think this is the right way to think about XYZZY vs. IFComp. If the idea is to make IFComp a good recruiting event, and make XYZZY an event for engaging the existing community, then the rules are totally mixed up.

IFComp has a strict “no campaigning” rule, and a rule requiring that all entries must be previously unreleased at the opening of voting. These rules help to prevent IFComp from turning into a popularity contest, where games with the most buzz win the competition; they’re designed to preserve the integrity of the competition at the expense of some publicity.

XYZZY, on the other hand, has no rules about campaigning or prior releases. As such, it’s a better tool for recruiting and publicity, which comes at the expense of the competition’s integrity.

It makes sense for the community to have an open-voting competition and a more restricted competition. As long as everybody’s clear that the open-voting competition can be swayed by the winds of popularity, the machinery works as designed.

The only thing I’d add is something like proposal #5, to make it clear to the voters that they should try the other games.

In that scenario, if we at Choice of Games blogged about XYZZY in 2013, we’d make it crystal clear that it’s inappropriate to vote for ChoiceScript games in the second round of voting without playing the other nominees. (It’s not clear what we’d do for the first round, but I guess we’d muddle through.)

I agree with this, but we really can’t call it “Best CYOA”. “Choose Your Own Adventure” is a trademark of ChooseCo, an active company still publishing gamebooks. IMO, their mark has lost distinctiveness and could be successfully challenged in court, but I don’t think anybody’s planning to do that any time soon.

The trouble is that it’s hard to decide what else to call it. “Best Multiple-Choice Game?” “Best Parserless Game?” “Best Point-and-Click?”

Right, on both counts.

I sort of feel like following on the baseball theme and calling it the “Cy Oates” award, but that wouldn’t really help clarify what it was for.

Well, I hope not this one (unless the idea would be to exclude CYOAs which don’t require electricity, and I hope that wouldn’t be the idea …)

S. John has said that his comment about CYOA in the context of IF was meant only to oppose the idea that we can’t meaningfully judge CYOA and non-CYOA works together. To clarify, my idea for a best CYOA award is not based on the idea that we can’t judge them together, but that we can (mostly) meaningfully distinguish CYOA and non-CYOA. So an award for “best CYOA” or whatever we want to call it makes sense if we want one, even though CYOA is also a subset of IF.

To approximately the same extent, we can (mostly) meaningfully distinguish games with procedurally-generated content from games with more deliberately-scripted content, for example. There are quite a few styles of IF which could be broken out and recognized as subsets. Is there particular value (to the enthusiast community or to the game’s authors, or to the integrity of the XYZZYs) to lumping most of them together (judging Kerkerkruip against Cryptozookeeper, for example) while separating CYOA? (and obviously, there aren’t enough Kerkerkruips in the world - yet - to form a category of their own, but the basic question applies to many things)

Well, let’s be clear: neither event has recruiting/publicity as their primary purpose. IF Comp is, in practice, the event that’s been better at it, and has made some decisions (allowing public discussion during the voting period) that have served that purpose.

It seems as if you’re conflating open-voting with open-campaigning. I don’t really think that we have a need or a desire for a major event that’s dominated by open-campaigning.

It depends on the details of the case. If there were a lot of IFs with procedurally generated content, to the extent that they constituted something of a subtradition, then (the world would be a better place and) it might make sense to give them a separate category as well as their own category. Since there ain’t, it don’t.

As for value to the community, it depends on whether the community values it, especially those people in the community who write CYOA games. My hope isn’t that this would reinforce segregation between CYOA and non-CYOA games, but that it might give a boost to a kind of game that could be meaningfully broken out and might be in danger of getting swamped by another kind of game in the voting. It’s not fundamentally different to me from having a “Best short game” or “Best Speed-IF” category, if people wanted those.

I think it would be interesting to run a no holds barred, popular vote event. You mention upthread that there’s an invisible community of players whose opinions go largely unrecognized and unsolicited. I’ve said elsewhere (based on Gargoyle download statistics and such) that this community is vastly larger than the pessimists would credit; at the very least it numbers in the tens of thousands.

Adam Thornton and S. John Ross both provided examples of their own games which could serve as a gateway for unaffiliated but passionate communities to interact with the core IF scene. Whether or not those voters would stick around to become IF lifers is in some sense irrelevant; it would be significant to show that IF can produce titles that attract that kind of attention.

It seems to me that mass appeal is something that many authors manage, but without a way to capture those success stories, it hasn’t taken root as a cultural perception. I don’t love the idea of turning the XYZZYs into this feedback mechanism, but it would be great if there were “People’s Choice” awards that authors could promote in clear conscience. Whether it turns into a respected institution or simply works as an escape valve for enthusiasm is less important than sending the message that we love players.

I don’t really think, as stated somewhere else, that the fact should be IF vs CYOA. Who the hell cares? If there is a good game, let it win. Period.
My problem is with televotes and x-factor scenarios. Just have a ‘professional’ jury and the popolar vote. The awards should be’ given by the experts, while a ‘mass favorite’ should be a different award. Ok, maybe the most liked games won’t win. But then again, do Oscars winners outsell the Scary Movie franchise?

For what it’s worth, the idea of separating out CYOA is not very popular among the organisers, and is probably not very likely to happen. It’s included mostly for completeness; but I think it’s been pretty much talked to death already, and I’d welcome more focus on the other options.

I support these two proposals. I feel guilty for not participating in the XYZZYs more proactively myself, and I feel the reason that I have not participated about half the years or so that I’ve been following IF is that the Awards are not structured enough, at least on the voter end. The Comp is much more structured and has much higher momentum, and the only year that I’ve missed the Comp since 2004 was due to life circumstances.

In particular, a third round would allow more momentum to build up, and it would let me feel like I had a legitimate second chance if (or when) I do miss the first round. I also need more time to try to play the nominees before the final round. I’m a college student, and the semester always builds up toward mid-terms. I wanted to play at least Cryptozooker this year so I could consider voting for it, but I didn’t have time.

Some general XYZZY improvement suggestions:

  • There should be an email reminding people about the closing of the rounds. I missed the second round this year not because I didn’t want to vote but because I knew back in February that the nominations ended in early March so put voting off until it was too late.
  • Perhaps consider being able to sign up any time of the year for the awards, and have a ‘games you might have missed’ email or announcement half-way through the year, perhaps highlighting games worth playing.

A question: if/when I get admitted into the shadowy judging cabal (I co-own three xyzzy nominations from 2007), do I have to buy my own ceremonial robes or do they come with the appointment?