The Spring Thing entry fee and 2002 scene

So, I entered my Spring Thing game. And then I went and looked at past years. And I noticed this line on the 2015 page:

What’s changed from prior years?

No entry fee , although authors must still submit an intent to enter in advance.

For context, all the indie comps I’ve seen (IFComp, recent Spring Thing, Ludum Dare, 7DRL, too many random indie comps to count) have never had an entry fee.

So I went “huh.” and then “what?” and then “wait…it had an entry fee!?” and yes! it did! did you know that? how novel! and puzzling! for WHY? I mean a lot of y’all probably know, having, like, lived through it, but it sure was news to me! I went on a bit of a Twitter tear but after time-traveling to the 2002 web page I discovered that yes, in fact, the fee was in place in the very first Spring Thing, and apparently by community recommendation? consent? to cut down on spurious intents. It was $5, and non-refundable, even if you didn’t submit a game. The first year also had one entry.

I don’t mean to, like - I guess I’m kind of dragging the earlier iterations of Spring Thing. Let me slow down.

I’m sorry, it is not my intent to come and bury the earlier iterations of Spring Thing. Spring Thing is great, I love it, and I bear no animus against earlier organizers. I am, more than anything, puzzled. The IF scene where most of the people agree that a $5, non-refundable entry fee into a public games competition is desirable feels like a foreign land.

I am, well, I suppose I wasn’t around in those days, those days being, uh, twenty years ago. For the record I was alive twenty years ago, but I wasn’t hanging around the IF scene then. So, people of the intfiction.org forums, what was the scene like back then? How has the culture changed? Have the kinds of games that were popular morphed? Was it bigger, smaller? Tell me your tales! Or, I mean, if you’d rather not, don’t - but I’d be interested to hear about it.

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The fee originally went into a cash prize pool. IIRC it may also have been an attempt to eliminate low-effort entries, since there was a perception that IF Comp was getting overrun with those at the time. When I took over I eliminated cash prizes and also the entry fee… needing to have enough of your shit together a month in advance to submit an intent to enter seemed like enough vetting.

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I really don’t remember what the community feeling was about the entry fee (or my feeling, for that matter). But it was significant that Spring Thing was consciously trying to be a counterbalance to IFComp, so it made sense to do things differently.

It was also a more homogenous community. That was before Twine pulled a lot of marginalized developers and developer communities under the IF umbrella. So there was probably a sense that $5 was really nominal.

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