I’ve just played, judged and reviewed my 30th game of the 2023 competition, and am going to call a halt to my reviews now. I’m seriously ill, and also have an upcoming medical appointment next week that will wipe me out more. I’m honestly surprised - and delighted! - that I got through so many games this year. But my play rate has slowed a lot in the last week. And this point is definitely a good point for me to stop now.
I haven’t played every game I initially noted as might plays. Equally I’ve played others that I didn’t initially plan to play. Every single game has given me pause for thought and been entertaining in one way or another, and thought provoking from a game design and creative writing perspective. Thank you to all the authors! I know I’ve been critical in some of my reviews, but I’ve tried to give constructive criticism. Though my reviews are often impressions of my play experiences, rather than detailed analysis and feedback.
Looking back through my reviews I love the variety of games that I played. Parser and choice, fantasy and slice of life, mystery and philosophical, surreal and gritty realism. I judge each game on its own merits, using my own internal 1-10 scoring system. I’ve been playing and judging IFComp since it started - all those years ago! - so have a really clear idea of my ratings. I’m not going to reveal the individual scores I gave, but in case anyone is interested, here is my distribution of scores after playing 30 games this year.
score distribution chart
For screen readers: this is a graph of scores 1-10 with numbers given. The scores range from 2-10, with few at the edges, and a bulge around 7 (6 games scoring that), and a general leaning towards the 6, 7, 8, 9 area. Only 2 games were scores 10/10. Here are the full counts per score 1-10:
Precise counts of games scoring each rating 1-10
1 - 0 games
2 - 1 game
3 - 2 games
4 - 3 games
5 - 3 games
6 - 4 games
7 - 6 games
8 - 5 games
9 - 4 games
10 - 2 games
My average score was 6.57.
Sometimes it can feel as though a longer parser game might get a higher score for its scale than a much shorter choice piece. But I don’t score that way. My score out of 10 is based on quality of writing, and level of interaction (that is important: give me sufficient interaction, whatever the game format), how much a piece moves me (e.g. to laugh, or feel tough emotions etc.), and against that e.g. if there are e.g. bugs or issues or underdeveloped areas, etc.
I don’t like an interactive game to end too abruptly. As a player I immerse myself in this world, and need time to decompress at the end. Being able to read author notes, or funny things I could have tried etc. can help me come back to the real world slowly. Especially I don’t want to feel as though I didn’t get enough story, and didn’t want to feel a world that I feel as though I’m being prematurely dragged away from.
One thing I really would like to stress though is to authors do please allow enough time for playtesting your games. This is especially critical for parser games, but applies to choice games too. Under play tested games are more likely to have problems - under implemented areas, bugs or typos - and allowing time for play testing can give players and judges a much happier experience. And a higher score for you! I know that seeking play testers can seem scary. But you’ll find plenty of willing volunteers here as well as elsewhere.
Equally though I’ve been wowed by a number of pieces by non native English speakers in the competition this year, that are extremely well polished and great examples of the craft. Well done folks, and thank you. I wish I could write something in another language (French is my closest) to a fraction of your skill.
Also I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I think it merits repeating. Thank you to all the new and enthusiastic reviewers coming on board this year! It has been wonderful to see such a vibrant reviewing community, and to hear so many new people. Everyone has a different perspective, and I’ve loved reading reviews by many authors. And of course it can be so valuable for authors to see reviews of their games too. Thank you all!
I’ve only played 30/74 games this year and may well not have played the winning game of the competition. I look forward very much to seeing the results and final rankings! But the games I did play were a fantastic crop, and hugely rewarding. Entering IFComp is a huge achievement so very well done to all the authors. And more generally thank you to everyone taking part in the competition - authors, play testers, reviewers, judges. And of course huge thanks to the organisers without whom none of this would be possible. I’ve been judging IFComp for a very very long time. I hope to keep enjoying it for years to come.