Sparkly IF Reviews is a new interactive fiction reviewing site that I have started with a growing list of other contributors. The name is silly, but I’m entirely serious about the aim of the site, which is to provide a safe-for-authors space that focuses on recognizing successful or cool things in IF, cheerleading new contributors, and letting people know what was appreciated. The concept of the site is to feature positive, sincere feedback; short-form and long-form are both totally acceptable.
This project springs from my feeling that the IF community, for all its resources, lacks the nurturing aspect that a lot of fandoms and hobbyist art and craft communities have. Writing IF is hard. Putting IF in public is an act of courage. And while I think it’s important for us to be writing reviews that critique craft and conceptual content, and that curate the best work for the attention of players who might not otherwise find it, we really need the encouraging aspects also.
I want to emphasize, though, that I don’t see this as somehow a kiddie website where people review games that are not good enough to be reviewed elsewhere. Rather, it’s meant to create a different context of discussion — and that can be freeing even when you’re talking about a game that you thought was really strong. Most of my reviews are pitched to potential players as much or more than they’re pitched to the original author, and so they do a lot of explaining and describing, and attempt to catalog thoroughly any flaws or issues that I think might affect a player’s decision to play that game. Sometimes it’s very pleasant to be able to step aside from that and just write about what I liked, for the ear of the author. Possibly other reviewers will find they like that too.
And from an author’s point of view, it’s meant to create a safe context of discussion. I’ve released enough games to know what it’s like seeing a link to a review of your game and to hover apprehensively before clicking, nerved against feedback that might be exciting… or might make your heart sink. This is meant to be Not That.
Currently on the site, you’ll find reviews by me, Zach Samuels, and Sam Kabo Ashwell. They touch on Changes, Valkyrie, Escape from Summerland, howling dogs, J’dal, Signos, and Fish Bowl from the current IF Comp as well as the Ectocomp game Beythilda the Night Witch and the Andromeda Legacy game Andromeda Dreaming.
If you choose to comment, please respect the concept of the site. I will moderate as necessary to keep it a safe place. There are plenty of other places suitable for critical and unmoderated discussion.
Finally, if you like the idea, more contributors are welcome; let me know if you’d like to be involved in the project. I’d be especially pleased to get coverage of the remaining IF Comp games this year.
I would also welcome positive content about things other than games. So if you have a beloved tool, extension, feature, etc. that you want to praise, that would be suitable too. (That reminds me I should write a post entitled David Welbourn’s Walkthroughs Are Freaking Awesome.)