As XYZZY season moves along, we’ve been thinking about some improvements. Here are the biggest ones; we’re essentially solid on them right now, but it’s something I’d like to float anyway in case I haven’t thought of something. We’re addressing two long-standing problems that the Awards have faced.
The eligibility problem. More and more, IF is published in venues beyond the ken of the mainline IF community. Some such venues don’t archive or index games in a readily-accessible manner, or include any consistent way to confirm basic things like the game’s publication date. Public betas are becoming more popular. It’s neither practical nor desirable to try and find everything that might possibly be described as IF, nor to winnow down that pool according to some standard of what IF Really Is.
So starting in 2013, the new standard is going to be simple: the eligible games are going to be games published as substantially complete in the appropriate year and listed on IFDB. Since anybody can add their own game (or any game that they think is of interest) to IFDB with only a few minutes’ effort, this is a pretty minimal level of gatekeeping. It reduces the workload of compiling the list - we’ll still have to confirm that those games exist, aren’t beta releases, aren’t actually Bioshock and so on, but it’ll at least be a consistent process. And as long as the standard’s clear, and we’re sure to remind people about it, it matches up to the IF community’s usual standard for inclusion - games that we’re interested in, and games by people who are interested in us.
It motivates people to help make IFDB a more comprehensive resource. It means that we don’t get blindsided by games that most of us have never heard of. (Hopefully, it’ll also give people from contexts outside the traditional IFsphere more cause to engage with the full range of games on IFDB, though this may be puppies-and-unicorns thinking on my part.)
The problem of the text-entry categories. First-round voting in the text-entry categories (Best Individual NPC, Best Individual PC, Best Individual Puzzle, Best Technological Development and Best Supplemental Materials) is typically low with a scattershot kind of distribution. Some of this is for particular reasons; some people just like to play games and don’t follow the tech side of things, and the importance of big set-piece puzzles has faded somewhat in recent years. But in general, it’s not too hard to understand: the range of choice is even greater than with games in general, and it’s the sort of thing that’s easy to overlook six months or a year after the event. I know that when I go through the Tech Dev list, for instance, I often have to go and check which year something actually came out in; or I’ll remember an NPC but not be able to place their name, and have to look it up - and that’s the sort of information that can be buried in a game, accessible only after hours of play. So much easier if there was a list somewhere.
So what I’m planning on is an annual series of IFDB polls, one for each text-entry category. Over the course of the year, if you play a game with a noteworthy PC or puzzle or whatever, you vote for that game in the relevant poll and include a comment naming the particular thing. That gives people more time to check games out. I’ll plan to post reminders about those polls at strategic points over the year - comp season, for instance. Authors can self-promote in these polls if they want. This will be an experiment; we’ll see how well it works before deciding whether to do it twice.
(What about Tech Dev and Supplemental Materials, which suffer from those text-entry problems but may not be tied to any one game? IFDB only supports polls for specific games at this point. Lucian Smith suggested using any game that uses that tech in the poll, or Adventure if no such game exists yet, and explaining in comments. That’s a bit awkward for my tastes, but it could work. Or we could work with IFDB to get something special set up.)
We could, of course, do this on the XYZZY site itself. But IFDB is something that people already use year-round; it’s already set up to do this sort of thing, and to facilitate play; and the half-an-arm’s-distance from the XYZZY site makes it a little clearer that this isn’t strictly a nomination round, just a XYZZY-approved brainstorming process.
Teal deer: if you want a game to be eligible for the 2013 XYZZYs, make sure it has an entry on IFDB. If you play a game with an interesting PC, NPC or puzzle, mention 'em in IFDB polls, to be announced shortly.