Yet another IFComp thread

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Chris Molloy Wischer

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May 27, 2005, 6:52:19 AM5/27/05
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Executive Summary: I'm suggesting renaming the IF Comp as the IF Festival.

I've been doing some thinking in light of the recent lengthy thread about
the IF Comp.

First off, I want to say that Stephen Granade does a brilliant job every
year of herding us cats into an annual event which always succeeds in
lifting the profile of IF and inspiring the creation of some fantastic
games. I also realise that as a lurker and very occasional community
contributor I'm not exactly brimming with authority to go around challenging
our cultural cornerstones, so I hope this is taken in the attitude of
respectful suggestion in which it is intended: as a conversation starter
rather than any assumption of sovereignty.

Here goes.

The IF Comp is a simple concept, and I think that's one if its strengths.
Anyone can understand it: authors submit games; the public judges the games
and give each a grade out of ten; the game with the highest average grade
wins, the game with the lowest average grade comes last. You don't need to
get your head around any complicated rules to join in: the intuitive
concepts of "competition" and "grades out of ten" are all that the average
punter needs. This is good: there is one less barrier to attracting people
to join our little hobby.

The IF Comp provides a focal event for the community, and for fringe members
who like to dip in once a year to play a little IF for a month as a break to
their usual fare of first-person shooters and real time strategy
simulations. If we make sweeping changes we are likely to lose those fringe
members.

Games entered into the IF Comp attract a lot of comment and reviews. This
provides an excellent platform for beginning authors to release games and
receive constructive criticism and encouragement, when other times in the
year they might have had their games ignored. I expect the lure of the
competition probably inspires the creation of a number of games that would
otherwise never have been made.

The rating system of the IF Comp provides a way of recommending games later

on: a game that has obtained a high placing in a Comp is a pretty good bet
if you're looking for a quality game. This is a much more reliable
recommendation system than a few reviews written by the people who liked a
game well enough to bother writing a review. Again, this is helpful for
people who are new to the community.

BUT...

The emphasis on the competitive aspect of the IF Comp undermines our effort
to promote IF as a literary art. The suggestion that one piece of art is
"better" than another is abhorrent to a lot of people - particularly
artists. Perhaps one is more polished than another, or more accessible
(i.e. less weird or unpleasant), or more funny, or more expertly executed,
or more thrilling; but whether any of these aspects make it _better art_ has
got to be in the eye of the beholder.

Also, the competitive nature of the IF Comp makes losers of people. There
is a stigma associated with receiving a low placing in an IF Comp, which has
got to be very discouraging if you're on the bad end of it. This has been
discussed at length in other threads.

So what if we left the IF Comp just as it was, but we renamed it the "IF
Festival"? That way it retains the simplicity and other attractions of the
existing IF Comp, but inherits the arty sensibilities of a film festival or
drama festival. The idea of such a thing is to immerse oneself and enjoy as
much of the art in question as possible. To view a few blockbusters and see
which of the oddball offerings appeal to you. And at the end there's a
judging bit, and of course people are interested to see who won, but that
isn't really the focus of it all.


--

-- http://home.graffiti.net/breathingmeat - Yeah I know it's broken.


PJ

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May 27, 2005, 8:28:59 AM5/27/05
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Chris Molloy Wischer wrote:
> Executive Summary: I'm suggesting renaming the IF Comp as the IF Festival.

With 10 years of history behind it, even if you rename it, people are
still going to think of it (and probably call it) the IF Comp.
Particularly since you're not proposing any fundamental changes to how
it works.

> The emphasis on the competitive aspect of the IF Comp undermines our effort
> to promote IF as a literary art. The suggestion that one piece of art is
> "better" than another is abhorrent to a lot of people - particularly
> artists.

I suppose there are people pretentious enough to compete in the IF Comp
but to also feel it is demeaning to their 'art,' but I would think
anyone who feels strongly that way would probably not enter the Comp in
the first place. So if you are trying to attract new 'artists' to the
Comp, maybe you have a point.

Otherwise, you are saying to someone who enters (and loses) the Boston
Marathon: "don't worry about that Kenyan who finished an hour ahead of
you, he's not really any better at running than you are." Not much of
an incentive to improve your fitness and training methods.

I would also point out that art and architecture both have long
histories of holding competitions between artists to win important
commissions. If Michelangelo et. al. had to compete to win the
opportunity to create their masterpieces, I don't think it's really
that harsh to have IF authors compete to win the modest glory of *best
game* in the IF Comp.

> Perhaps one is more polished than another, or more accessible
> (i.e. less weird or unpleasant), or more funny, or more expertly executed,
> or more thrilling; but whether any of these aspects make it _better art_ has
> got to be in the eye of the beholder.

True. But while there is a fine line between 'art that looks like
trash' and 'trash that looks like art,' the demarcation between a good
game and a bad game tends to be more clear. Most Comp games that get
awful scores *are* awful games -- poorly implemented, badly written,
unedited, uninteresting. Almost anything with any merit whatsoever
gets a decent, mid-range score. For anyone who gets creamed, the
message is clear: your game isn't up to standard. If you want to
release bad, unplayable games, join the Quest community. Otherwise,
shape up!

> Also, the competitive nature of the IF Comp makes losers of people. There
> is a stigma associated with receiving a low placing in an IF Comp, which has
> got to be very discouraging if you're on the bad end of it. This has been
> discussed at length in other threads.

I think the idea of a *stigma* to a low Comp score is kind of silly.
The most respected authors of IF are respected because they
consistently release interesting, playable, and engaging games. If you
get a low Comp score on particular game, it's just that: a low score.
The stigma only comes if you continue to build and release low-scoring
games, which would only happen if you continued to build uninteresting,
unplayable, and unengaging games. I would suspect that most people
would recognize their limitations and quit making games before writing
& releasing a series of awful games. Which, in effect, would be an
*improvement* to the art, as fewer poor games would then be released.

> So what if we left the IF Comp just as it was, but we renamed it the "IF
> Festival"? That way it retains the simplicity and other attractions of the
> existing IF Comp, but inherits the arty sensibilities of a film festival or
> drama festival. The idea of such a thing is to immerse oneself and enjoy as
> much of the art in question as possible. To view a few blockbusters and see
> which of the oddball offerings appeal to you. And at the end there's a
> judging bit, and of course people are interested to see who won, but that
> isn't really the focus of it all.

Well, judging by Cannes and other film festivals, or even by art shows
I've attended, who wins matters significantly to most artists. The
better your game does, the more people will play it, the better the
reviews will be, etc. I think on the player side, you already have the
"festival" feeling, as you described above. It's the author side,
where people are paranoid about how peopole view their art, that causes
most of the angst. If you are not going to change the Comp to
de-emphasize the top-to-bottom scoring, you are not really going to get
away from that authorial angst anytime soon. Many people have
suggested different scoring systems for the Comp, but most people
(including notable authors) don't really want to see it changed.
Without that type of change, it's still the IF Comp, same as it ever
was, no matter what you call it.

PJ

David Welbourn

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May 27, 2005, 1:50:51 PM5/27/05
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Chris Molloy Wischer wrote:
> Executive Summary: I'm suggesting renaming the IF Comp as the IF Festival.

> The emphasis on the competitive aspect of the IF Comp undermines our effort


> to promote IF as a literary art.

Hm, well, um, not me, please. I don't mind playing IF-as-Art; some of
it is quite entertaining or at least interesting or thought-provoking.
And even artistic experiments that don't work so well can possibly
teach us what techiques to use or avoid when writing IF.

But do *I* want to *promote* IF as a literary art? No. Not really. I
want games. I want entertainment. I want discovery and exploration. I
want that feeling of 'eureka I've solved it' and getting in-game
rewards. Something that gives me satisfaction.

> Also, the competitive nature of the IF Comp makes losers of people. There
> is a stigma associated with receiving a low placing in an IF Comp, which has
> got to be very discouraging if you're on the bad end of it. This has been
> discussed at length in other threads.

Yes, it has. Hm. Still, I would hope that the authors know that it is
only the *entries* that are ranked, not the authors themselves. For
example, I have little qualms jumping up and down on a very poor game
like _You Were Doomed From The Start_, while simultaneously thinking
that the author could be a great guy to share a pizza with.

> So what if we left the IF Comp just as it was, but we renamed it the "IF
> Festival"?

If this were to be voted on, I'd vote no. I'd prefer the IF Comp to
keep all its cruel judgemental teeth, thank you very much.

I have no objections, however, to a completely new event called the IF
Festival. If you didn't want it to be a competition, perhaps it could
select a handful of existing IF games and re-release and re-promote
them in some manner. Not sure how that would work, really. The excerpt
contest sorta does this in an oblique way, but maybe you could find a
new variant that'll promote that literary art facet of IF.

-- David Welbourn

samwyse

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May 27, 2005, 7:46:43 PM5/27/05
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On or about 5/27/2005 7:28 AM, PJ did proclaim:
> Chris Molloy Wischer wrote:

> The stigma only comes if you continue to build and release low-scoring
> games, which would only happen if you continued to build uninteresting,
> unplayable, and unengaging games. I would suspect that most people
> would recognize their limitations and quit making games before writing
> & releasing a series of awful games.

You haven't been in this group very long, have you? ;-)

PJ

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May 27, 2005, 8:14:46 PM5/27/05
to

Just trying to keep a positive mental attitude.:>)

PJ

dwh...@gmail.com

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May 28, 2005, 3:43:39 AM5/28/05
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Chris Molloy Wischer wrote:
> Executive Summary: I'm suggesting renaming the IF Comp as the IF Festival.

<snip>

> The IF Comp is a simple concept, and I think that's one if its strengths.
> Anyone can understand it: authors submit games; the public judges the games
> and give each a grade out of ten; the game with the highest average grade
> wins, the game with the lowest average grade comes last. You don't need to
> get your head around any complicated rules to join in: the intuitive
> concepts of "competition" and "grades out of ten" are all that the average
> punter needs. This is good: there is one less barrier to attracting people
> to join our little hobby.

<snip>

> Games entered into the IF Comp attract a lot of comment and reviews. This
> provides an excellent platform for beginning authors to release games and
> receive constructive criticism and encouragement, when other times in the
> year they might have had their games ignored. I expect the lure of the
> competition probably inspires the creation of a number of games that would
> otherwise never have been made.

<snip>

> The emphasis on the competitive aspect of the IF Comp undermines our effort
> to promote IF as a literary art. The suggestion that one piece of art is
> "better" than another is abhorrent to a lot of people - particularly
> artists. Perhaps one is more polished than another, or more accessible
> (i.e. less weird or unpleasant), or more funny, or more expertly executed,
> or more thrilling; but whether any of these aspects make it _better art_ has
> got to be in the eye of the beholder.

<snip>


> Also, the competitive nature of the IF Comp makes losers of people. There
> is a stigma associated with receiving a low placing in an IF Comp, which has
> got to be very discouraging if you're on the bad end of it. This has been
> discussed at length in other threads.

<snip>

> So what if we left the IF Comp just as it was, but we renamed it the "IF
> Festival"? That way it retains the simplicity and other attractions of the
> existing IF Comp, but inherits the arty sensibilities of a film festival or
> drama festival. The idea of such a thing is to immerse oneself and enjoy as
> much of the art in question as possible. To view a few blockbusters and see
> which of the oddball offerings appeal to you. And at the end there's a
> judging bit, and of course people are interested to see who won, but that
> isn't really the focus of it all.


So what you're basically saying, if I've got the gist of it, is that
all the current problems facing the IFComp can be fixed merely by
renaming it the IF Festival? Sorry to be asking this, but why would you
assume merely changing one word is going to make the blindest bit of
difference?


Reminds me of the time I decided to bring about world peace by only
ever eating peanut butter sandwiches. Seemed like a great idea at the
time but everyone thought I was a bit of a loony. :)

Steve Evans

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May 28, 2005, 7:21:01 AM5/28/05
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On 28 May 2005 00:43:39 -0700, dwh...@gmail.com wrote:

>Reminds me of the time I decided to bring about world peace by only
>ever eating peanut butter sandwiches. Seemed like a great idea at the
>time but everyone thought I was a bit of a loony. :)

Did it work?

Poster

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May 28, 2005, 7:43:24 AM5/28/05
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Why not create a new entity called the "IF Festival"? It seems that
what you want and what the IF Comp is, are fairly different. Surely
there's room for a "fringe festival" in IF.

~Poster

Tomasz Pudlo

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May 28, 2005, 9:17:28 AM5/28/05
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"Steve Evans" <ybo...@yahoo.co.uk> skrev i meddelandet
news:pukg91ht72fchbu80...@4ax.com...

Well, David had a meeting scheduled with, among others, UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan. They were supposed to meet at the World Trade Center Observatory
on 9/11 2001, 1 pm. I guess someone *really* wanted to prevent World Peace
Through Peanut Butter...

dwh...@gmail.com

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May 28, 2005, 12:15:41 PM5/28/05
to

No, I weakened and had a Mars Bars for dinner one day and after that
everything went to hell.

Chris Molloy Wischer

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May 29, 2005, 5:14:43 AM5/29/05
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> So what you're basically saying, if I've got the gist of it, is that
> all the current problems facing the IFComp can be fixed merely by
> renaming it the IF Festival? Sorry to be asking this, but why would you
> assume merely changing one word is going to make the blindest bit of
> difference?
>

Not quite. My suggestion is that by renaming it we might foster a slightly
different attitude. I don't believe that a rose by any other name would
necessarily smell as sweet in this case. However, it is obviously not
proving to be a popular idea (perhaps in part because my dream of a perfect
IFComp is naturally different to other people's - and perhaps in part
because the idea does look slightly silly in the cold light of day) so I'll
stop defending it.

/unlurk.


Ken Franklin

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May 29, 2005, 5:41:55 AM5/29/05
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My attitude to this is if you want an IF Festival then why not create
one. Don't go around trying to break what is about the most successful
element of the IF Community. For every person who goes off tail between
the legs, after a mawling from the IF Comp judges, there are others who
read the sensible criticism and disregard the abuse from the ignorant.
It is those people whose work will be improved by the competition.

In the end what does a festival produce, I imagine the games will still
be reviewed anyway, all you get is removing the official ranking as
everyone will do what they do now and mark them.

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Ken Franklin

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May 29, 2005, 6:21:38 AM5/29/05
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Thinking on further we do also have the XYZZY Awards to honour the art
of the writing, and that isn't tarnished by the possibility of actually
received some kind of reward for all the work you have put in.

This also brings another simple idea that would stop your game being
infected by competition. Release you game any time and tell people
about it. I always find it strange when people try and completely
change a successful event because something about it doesn't appeal to
them, instead of taking the obvious course of creating another event,
perhaps the IF Fringe Festival and then run it at the same time as IF
comp judging takes place for those not willing/able to enter the main
event.

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