Well, I was browsing the interactive fiction database the other day, and suddenly a neat thought occurred to me.
Interactive fiction should really have a “Top 100” chart somewhere on the internet, in which IF players could vote every year for their favorite games. I’m not really sure if such an animal already exists, but I would love some feedback on the idea.
I think it would be interesting. Have people send in their 10 favourite games, add the numbers, generate a top 100. If nothing else, it would give us some data on how the tastes of the community change over time; and it would also serve as a list of recommendations. I’d participate.
There’s the (long-defunct) IF Ratings scoreboard, which stopped being updated with new games some time before IFDB was rolled out. It was a worthwhile experiment, I think, but I hugely prefer IFDB’s system of emphasizing reviews and using scores only in a handwavy sense; apart from anything else, the relatively low number of users meant that it was highly vulnerable to tactical voting.
I’m mixed on the idea; I certainly wouldn’t want to see it presented as an authoritative IF Canon, and I doubt that it would promote discussion more in-depth than “No way is The Wall better than Straight Outta Compton”, “I have read a lot of these” or “top-100 lists suck”. But it could be interesting as a random-sample kind of thing, and statistics are fun.
That’d be a better method than what I was assuming (a comp-like system of rating everything you’ve played 1-10) but I’m not sure that it would produce a list 100 games long. Maybe there’d be a long tail of single-vote games, but my guess is that the meaningful portion of the list would comprise Adventure, ten to fifteen Infocom games, and 30-40 modern ones.
Such a list could have some good uses. It would keep some attention on good games from past years, instead of the community only paying attention new releases. The IFDB is already helping to keep older games relevant, but a regularly updated list of either highest-rated or most-played games could do more. It would help newcomers to the IF community as well. I guess it would be the equivalent of the New York Times bestseller list, or something.
The only problem I can think of is that the Top 100 List could become a sort of a canon in some players’ minds. Granted, games that remain on the list for long periods probably deserve to be considered part of the community’s canon, but this might make other deserving but relatively unknown games fall further into obscurity.
Maybe it would, yes. I’m not married to the number 100. It would depend on the number of participants, of course.
I’m not very worried about that. Rarely do people consult a ‘canon’ and conclude that they should not be playing a game / reading a book / listening to an album / watching a movie because it is not in the canon.
In fact, assuming that people post their own top-10 (or top-whatever, I’m just making up some numbers here, of course) list in a publicly accessible place, I think it would lead to more rather than less chance of old games being rediscovered: even if only one persons puts a game in his list, that might make you want to check it out.
I think there could be more potential to this: You know that great feeling when you discover a book, a film or an album that you think is just magnificent but that isn’t a best-seller or a box office hit, and you think to yourself “whoa, people really should know about this, I need to tell someone”. The feeling is even more extraordinary than the one you get from liking a “canon” work.
Indeed, in any field of art, I think, the newcomers first turn to the canon to learn the basics and then, when you become “a serious dilettante”, you start to broaden your horizons - which adds to the odd pleasure of expertise. Knowing the out-of-canon part of the art is actually something that is revered in most (if not all?) communities around art.
So, all this is why I think a top 100 (or top whatever) list would do us good. But only if there’s enough interest, only if it’s a real community effort.
Ok, my thoughts came out somewhat blurry (yet, in my mind, all was so very clear…), but surely someone recognizes that tickling feeling when discovering a work that seems “undiscovered”, or the pleasure of knowing just way too much about a subject, right? They both require the canon to be there so that things can be outside of it and become discovered (and then maybe later canonized).
HMM… An interesting idea.
However what would these lists entail? Would it be highest rated, most played, hottest (new)?
I’m not quite sure all three lists would be relevant, because what if a top 100 list gets the same results as the most played and highest rated lists. I’m not really sure t3 lists would work on this level.
Of course two lists may possibly have a chance between the top 100 of all time and the best new. Hmm…
I agree. What would be the point of a top 100 list if it was made up of 5 different people with several accounts? The point of it would have to be soley based on the community effort and would not work otherwise.
I personally am not worried about canonization myself. After all, how I begun Interactive fiction was through the more well known games like Photopia, and eventually I became interested in obscure games nobody has seen in twenty years. What I am however worried is that the list will be stagnant and unmoving much like the list that Mega found. In essence I’m worried over the restrictions of long-term democracy, because after a bit, the top 100 list is going to have enough votes for each game, that no new gems will enter the list. Essentially damming it up.
Not quite sure how to safeguard against this, because it could get fairly serious.
So, shall we do it? Right now might be a good time: people don’t have the IF Comp too freshly in their mind, they haven’t been thinking about the XYZZY awards – a nice moment to reflect on earlier works. Proposed announcement that may serve as a basis for discussion:
You just run an event once a year (or once every two or three years, or whenever someone feels like it), completely fresh. That’s the way all those yearly “best song ever” -tops on the radio work. (I don’t know if those are an international phenomenon, but in the Netherlands it appears as if every radio stations asks its listeners to vote for the best song ever come December, and then they make a top out of it to play as the new year approaches. They just start from scratch every year, and it’s interesting to see artists’ fame rise and fall over the years.)
What’s the minimum threshold for to qualify for the list? Two votes? I know that this is difficult to assess without having a decent estimate of how many voters you’d get, but it seems you’d need something to stop the bottom of the list getting spammed with joke submissions. (It’d be easier if you could decide this after you received all the votes, but people will want to know.)
If I imagine a website where I can see this “canon” I would hope to find adjustable filters for “X minimum votes”, “newer than XXXX”, “commercial/non commercial/both”, authoring (and thus playing) system, topic and whoknowswhat. With useful presettings for newbies.
And I could imagine the voting to be open-ended as long as the voter is identifiable so that it’s always up-to-date. But a new voting process once a year would do the same trick.
Why don’t we just drive this automatically from IFDB? We could auto-create a top X table based off all ratings given to games within a set time period. That way it should always reflect recent trends, but not have to be maintained manually which will inevitably result in stagnation. I do something similar on the ADRIFT site with the mini table.
IFDB lists a gazillion of games with five stars. A higher, probably much higher score maximum would be more meaningful. And five IFDB stars can mean just two votes from the author and his hunchbacked mom.
I can see that there would be some benefits to creating a new list, one being that you can’t get the current trends from IFDB as you can vote for each game only once and not yearly as has been suggested, but I’d rather encourage people to rate games on IFDB to improve the information that already exists.