February Link Assortment

The classic IF magazine SPAG has been, for most of the years since the mid-90s, a source of IF interviews, reviews, and news. The last couple of years it has been on a bit of a hiatus, but it is now under the management of a new editor, Katherine Morayati, and is once again soliciting content. Details are here, and you should get in touch if you have something you’d like to contribute.

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In addition to this resurrection of an old classic, the IF scene has also seen the appearance of an all new IF-focused zine, IFography. The first issue features an interview with Geoff Moore, author of Surface and Witch’s Girl, together with some reviews and essays.

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This is not a new piece, but I just ran across it: Autumn Nicole Bradley’s review of Hanako Games’ Magical Diary covers the game’s pro-adolescent worldview in considerable detail — a view that respects the autonomy and intelligence of young people and treats their decisions as non-failures. Worth a read. It is an article from ZEAL magazine, a Patreon-supported project that focuses on covering less-known games.

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Holly Gramazio has written a poem about game design and bees. My favorite verse:

When designing an FPS for a team of bees,
Make sure that the drones feel valued.
Provide a sniper role for them to fulfil,
Waiting and watching,
Honing their hive-born abilities.

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Maddy Myers writes on the emptiness of video game romance, and the difficulty in believing that the NPCs exist when she’s not interacting with them:

Usually, in Bioware games, their trust towards you is built upon them asking you to do them a big favor (rescuing a dangerous artifact, saving their hometown, blah blah)—this is not only a transactional approach to relationships, but also, a theatrical and unrealistic way to expect people to interact.

Overall, the piece gets at some of the same issues raised in Creatures Such as We.

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Kotaku ran an exchange of letters about representation of blackness in video games, by several black devs, journalists and critics. I especially appreciate Austin Walker’s point about non-black authors needing to make sure they’re researching their black characters and communities using materials that themselves present a variety of black experiences. And several of the contributors recommend specific books and TV shows about that might help with that.

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New Stories Retreat is a weekend-long retreat in May, in Olympia WA, for interactive story creators of various kinds — LARPers, tabletop RPG creators, and game designers — and organized by Avery McDaldno, creator of Monsterhearts and some of my other favorite tabletop storygames. This sounds pretty cool to me. (Canceled, alas — see comments.)

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ParserComp, a competition for parser-based games only, is running now through the end of March 14. You can find the games as well as criteria for judging at the ParserComp site.

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AdventureJam is a forthcoming 14-day game jam for adventure games. IF and text adventures are explicitly welcome, as are more graphical variants.

Going to GDC / Seattle. Want to get coffee?

GDC is nearly upon us! I will be speaking as part of the Design Microtalks session, but there are also a number of other IF-related highlights. (I’ve put a list of the IF/narrative talks that looked particularly intriguing after the fold.)

This trip means I’ll be in the Bay Area March 1-7 and then in Seattle March 7-14. My schedule is filling in, but there are still some slots here and there. Necessarily I put a priority on meeting with clients, friends, and students looking for mentorship, but every year I’ve met at least a couple awesome new people who were none of the above. So if you’re in the area and you’d like to get together and talk — about that totally unfair review I gave your game five years ago, about possible collaborations, about your dreams for the future of interactive narrative, about whatever common interest leads you to read what I write in the first place — please do ping me and I’ll see what I can do.

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ParserComp: Endless Sands

ParserComp is a competition for parser-based IF games only, run by Carolyn VanEseltine and continuing through the 14th of March. It is designed to encourage this form of game, and also to provide detailed feedback: games are ranked on multiple categories, and judges must submit textual feedback along with their scores. More judges are welcome, so please check it out and share your own thoughts as well.

Discussion here on Endless Sands, a shortish, lightly comic timed puzzle game with multiple solutions.

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ParserComp: Terminator Chaser

ParserComp is a competition for parser-based IF games only, run by Carolyn VanEseltine and continuing through the 14th of March. It is designed to encourage this form of game, and also to provide detailed feedback: games are ranked on multiple categories, and judges must submit textual feedback along with their scores. More judges are welcome, so please check it out and share your own thoughts as well.

Below, some thoughts on Terminator Chaser (not to be confused with Terminator, also entered in this comp).

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ParserComp: A Long Drink; Down, the Serpent and Sun

ParserComp is a competition for parser-based IF games only, run by Carolyn VanEseltine and continuing through the 14th of March. It is designed to encourage this form of game, and also to provide detailed feedback: games are ranked on multiple categories, and judges must submit textual feedback along with their scores. More judges are welcome, so please check it out and share your own thoughts as well.

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Choose Your Erotica

Parser-based AIF — “adult interactive fiction” — has been around for a long time, though it has generally had its own forums and meeting places; every once in a while someone would turn up on rec.arts.int-fiction with a coding question about layered clothing, or submit an adult game to a competition, but for the most part AIF didn’t overlap much with the main IF community. I did play a few pieces, but they were usually aimed unambiguously at heterosexual men. A common structure was to have a series of puzzles that would “unlock” sex scenes with assorted partners. (Here’s a review I did back in 2006 of Ron Weasley and the Quest for Hermione, for instance.) Sometimes these were cut-scenes, but sometimes you could use parser commands to do a play-by-play of which parts went where.

As choice-based IF has become more prevalent, so has choice-based, female-POV erotica. Here I take a look at several. I’m not going to be quoting long passages or posting images, but this may still not qualify as SFW depending on where you are.

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