On IFDB, you can give a game a tag indicating something about its content. When searching, you can filter for games with specific tags or filter specific tags out. I’ve spent a lot of time adding tags to games on IFDB. It’s a nice way to fill time.
But now I have questions. Why not discuss, I figured. (You don’t have to answer all of these.)
What is your opinion on tags?
Tags are a great way to discover new stories, IMO. I use them often to look for games I’m interested in. I don’t filter stuff out because there’s nothing particular I hate, and most games have spotty tags anyway, so filtering stuff out doesn’t catch them all.
Unfortunately, most of the more obscure games aren’t tagged, or are tagged with the competition they’re in and nothing else. Plenty of games from the Neo Twiny Jam, for instance. Even some IFComp 2023 games as of my writing this.
Is it annoying when a game has a lot of tags? Is there such a thing as too many tags?
Authors can add a bunch of tags to their own games to essentially self-advertise, but as long as they’re relevant tags, I don’t mind. Games with a wall of tags don’t bother me. It does make it harder to see what a game’s “about” at a glance, but you can read reviews for that anyway.
I do think overtagging can lead to the creation of tags that probably don’t need to exist. E.g. if your game features a World Cup victory afterparty and there isn’t an established “world cup victory afterparty” tag, you probably don’t need to tag it “world cup victory afterparty”, since the chance people will be looking that up are quite low. (Not a specific example. I made that up on the spot.) But having it on your game anyway can’t hurt much, I guess.
IFDB could add a limit to prevent a game from having too many tags, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Until the day someone pulls up with a thousand-tag game, the current system works fine.
(Now that I think about it, maybe there is a limit and I just haven’t run up against it. I wouldn’t know!)
How much should authors tag their own games?
Of course, there’s a lot of authors without IFDB accounts who might not even know it’s there. But what if you have an account? I feel weird adding tags to my own game, breaking the sacred author-reader veil of neutrality and so on. Adding a few relevant tags is the most I feel fine with. (Which might change if I ever make something heftier.)
That’s just me, though. The answer to this one is probably “each to their own”.
Should IFDB add a better system for removing tags?
Right now, only moderators and the person who adds a tag to a game can remove it. If two or more people have added a tag to a game, all of them need to remove it for the tag to disappear. I don’t know how much effort it would take to let more people remove tags, or what the system would even look like. But hey, it could be useful for inaccurate or malicious tags. I haven’t seen any malicious tags–either they’re removed quickly or most IFDB users are goodwilled–but sometimes I see tags that don’t quite fit their game.
Body Bargain by Amanda Lange, for example, is tagged “utopia”. I’ve gotten three endings to this game, and I’m pretty sure the setting is not a utopia. Actually, it might be the opposite.
This is a comparatively small problem, since almost all the tags I see fit pretty well.
Opinions on tags that cover the same bases as genre/medium/etc? Especially genre tags.
This is more a complaint than a question. Whoops.
You’ll notice this if you spend enough time on IFDB. Genre is the biggest example: you can give a game listing a genre on IFDB, or edit the genre of an existing listing. There’s a standard list of genres to use that includes stuff like “Horror”, “Historical”, “Slice of Life” etc. but a lot of authors will go give their games their own genres, or even use the genre field as a place to put a little subtitle. For example, DEVOTIONALIA has genre “Ritual” instead of “Fantasy” or “Horror”, Animalia has genre “Wacky” instead of “Comedy”, robotsexpartymurder has genre “Dystopian Erotic Murder Mystery Dating Sim” instead of “Science Fiction”. (I feel like there used to be more games with interesting genres, but the IFDB Awards, which required a game to be listed under a specific genre to get votes in that genre’s category, meant a lot of the custom genres went away.)
As a result of the inconsistent genre listing, there are tags that are the exact same as genres, but often distributed differently. The “science fiction” tag, for example, has ~500 results, while the “Science Fiction” genre has ~900. But look at the top rated games in the results for each and you’ll see a lot of games that appear in one and don’t appear in the other. My inner categorization obsessive thinks this is a tragedy!
Should we remove tags that are the same as genres and only allow editing of genres? Seems like a bad idea to me, since a game can have a whole lot of genres and adding too many gets unwieldy. (It is possible to have multiple genres in an IFDB listing, just not intuitive–you have to separate them with a comma or the word “and”. But each will display in the same large font and there’s no way to collapse them.)
Should we replace genres with tags, letting authors give their games custom bylines, while maintaining the ease of categorization that comes with having a whole list of games tagged “science fiction” you can filter through? I’m a fan of this idea, honestly. Ideally you’d get a script to give every game with genre “X” the tag “X”, and then you could rename the “genre” property of a listing on IFDB to “subtitle” or something. Maybe other people are more attached to genres than I am, though, and there might be value in separating games tagged “science fiction” with games that are in the “Science Fiction” genre–though I personally think it’s just confusing. Also, the IFDB Awards will have to find another way to determine a game’s genre if this happens, but it’s not like there’s a shortage of options.
Opinions on redundant tags/multiple tags covering the exact same thing?
Some tags are the exact same as another more popular tag and are only used because people don’t know the more popular tag exists. I don’t know what could be done about it besides some system to link tags together, which I imagine would rapidly get very complicated.
Here’s an example. Along with the “Science Fiction” genre (covered in the previous question), there is both a “science fiction” tag and a “sci-fi” tag. As you might expect, the games assigned to these three categories are different. Ignoring the genre stuff for now (that’s for the previous question): “science fiction” and “sci-fi” really should be the same tag, or one of them just shouldn’t exist. I’d kick out “sci-fi” if I could, since it has only ~100 games to “science fiction”'s ~500 games (notwithstanding the part where the “Science Fiction” genre has more than both tags combined), but the problem would be tagging all the games that have “sci-fi” but not “science fiction”. Maybe a script could do it, but you also have the issue of preventing people from just making a “sci-fi” tag and adding it to a bunch of games again.
This fanfiction site called AO3 (don’t ask me how I know about it, cough cough) has a system for automatically classifying tags and grouping redundant tags together as “synonyms”, so they essentially become the same tag. AO3 also has a neat system for sub-tags, so that if you search up e.g. “nonhuman protagonist” it also covers everything under “bird protagonist”, “AI protagonist”, etc. Subtags can get fractal; maybe “parrot protagonist” is a subtag of “bird protagonist”? Currently on IFDB, you’d have to tag “bird protagonist”, “parrot protagonist”, and “nonhuman protagonist” separately. (Random example pulled from thin air. I don’t know if “parrot protagonist” is actually a tag.) AO3 accomplishes this by having “tag wranglers”, dedicated volunteers who spend time categorizing new tags and marking redundant ones. I don’t know if IFDB could manage the same level of enthusiasm. Plus you’d have to code in a system for all that in the first place. It’d be amazing if something like that was added in, though.
When should new tags be added?
Sometimes I create new tags. Sometimes I see a tag that I like and think “More games should be tagged with this”, so I go around adding that tag to various games that it fits. Sometimes they’re games I’ve played that have the relevant content, sometimes I just look through lists of related tags and add the new tag to all the games I find applicable. It’s not a perfect process, since I can’t play every game and often I end up going by description or reviews. But it’s better than nothing, right? Agree? Disagree?
Are there any tags you like and wish more games were appropriately labeled with?
There are some interesting obscure tags where I feel like there’s gotta be more games that fit, but just can’t think of any. For some of these, I went through and added games myself, but the list still feels too small.
mushrooms: I am biased because I love mushrooms. If there’s a game about mushrooms out there without the mushroom tag, tell me so I can add it for all the mushroom fanatics out there. Please.
ninja: Ninjas are cool. There’s only one page of games tagged “ninja” on IFDB. There is no way that only 9 IF games featuring ninjas have ever been created. Where are the ninjas?
asian protagonist: A relatively obscure tag I went and added more relevant games to. Not entirely sure about my decision, but I thought it might be useful. I didn’t distinguish between Asian protagonists in Asia and Asian protagonists in e.g. America who are children of immigrants. You could make another tag for that, but I didn’t think there were enough games to warrant it. I’m not sure about some of the categorization choices I made here, so I’m very sorry if I screwed something up.
disabled protagonist: This one has some games, but I feel like there should be more out there. Probably they just haven’t been tagged.
random combat: A tag for games with random combat of some kind! Overlaps a lot with RPG (which is both a tag and a genre) - though not all RPGs have random combat, and not all games with random combat are RPGs. The RPG tag is more popular by far.
roguelike: This tag could be a genre, but it’s not. The potential for IF roguelikes is great, though. There’s only a few listed on IFDB right now. (Tragic.)
random generation/procedural generation: Another tag that comes with really interesting mechanics and less traditional uses of IF, but seems underused. There’s several versions of this tag, which can’t help. “procedural generation”, “procedural text generation”, “procgen”, “randomized”… “randomized” is the most common right now. You’d probably be better off searching “tag:random”, which also includes any game with a tag that contains the word “random”. Or “tag:generation”.
lovecraft: There’s a horror tag and genre, but use of the lovecraft/lovecraftian tags is spottier. Give me more gibbering delusions from beyond reality, dangit.
Tags I created myself:
toxic relationship: Thought it might be useful, then couldn’t think of games to assign it to. Originally it was gonna be “abusive relationship”, but I figured that was too narrow, so I went with “toxic relationship” instead. Vague, I know. Should this tag even exist? There is an “abuse” tag, but looking that up also brings in “child abuse” and “drug abuse”, and some others, which aren’t exactly the same thing.
divorce: I thought this might be useful for people interested in IF games about divorce. It’s a hefty topic, after all. But I couldn’t think of many games about divorce.
parenting: I added this tag because of nine months out. Parenting is a pretty important part of life and culture and all that, but I could find barely any games about it. There has to be more, right? See also the “motherhood” tag, which is even more neglected. Maybe there’s a more-used tag out there I missed.
breakup: Another mainstay of life that is, according to the tagging system, not really covered by IF. I’m sure there are more games about breakups out there, they just haven’t been tagged.
art gallery: Could be my nostalgia for Ib, that indie RPG about an art gallery full of sentient paintings that want to kill you (very fun). But art galleries are cool. There should be more games about art galleries.
Line between a poll and a tag?
People on IFDB use polls to look for games that fall under specific categories, e.g. “Games that take place completely in museums”, to name a recent poll. A lot of polls could be used to create new tags or add to existing ones. I think I went through the results of the museum poll to tag the games listed as “museum”.
Not all polls work this way. Some are hyper-specific or based on categories too general to be tagged. But what are people’s thoughts on using polls to find games for newly created tags, or creating tags from polls that would be a good basis for them?
Opinions on tags that are used more as categories than for specific components of a game?
By this I mean tags like “second person pov”/“first person pov”/“third person pov”, “gender neutral protagonist”/“female protagonist”/“male protagonist”, “one ending”/“multiple endings”, and so on. You could pick the appropriate tag from each set and tag every single game on IFDB. Statistically, most games haven’t been tagged this way. I guess people just don’t see the need in it, or something.
Do you think these tags should be given to every possible game, or only when it’s a particularly relevant part of the story, or something? I personally wouldn’t mind if they were given to every possible game, for categorization purposes, though for other people I think it might count as extraneous tagging.
Spoilers in tags?
Sometimes I find a game that fits a tag perfectly, but adding that tag would spoil anyone who scrolls down the IFDB page to check out a game before playing it. In those cases I usually don’t add it, as much as I want to. If IFDB had some mechanic for spoilering tags, that’d be helpful. At the basic level, maybe an option to hide tags by default? Or does that already exist?
Well, that’s all. I spent too much time on this.
Disclaimer: IFDB is still great. I don’t mean to come off as some entitled user demanding these tiny flaws be FIXED IMMEDIATELY or I will NEVER USE IFDB AGAIN HOW DARE YOU HAVE THESE IMPERFECTIONS ON YOUR SITE. Although that would be funny.
TLDR: What do you think about the IFDB tagging system? Any favorite or underrated tags? Any major pet peeves you want to gripe about?