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The Hows and Whys of the Annual Interactive Fiction Competition, Page 2

by Stephen Granade

Table of Contents
• Page 1
• Page 2

The Rating System

In the first competition, judges voted for their top three favorite games. These days judges give each game a score from 1 to 10, using whatever scheme they wish, and the winner is determined by averaging the scores.

The low score is 1 rather than 0 because of the difference in feel between giving a game a 1 and giving it a 0. The competition is meant to encourage new games and authors, not discourage them; Kevin Wilson, the original organizer, felt that a score of 0 would be more discouraging than a score of 1.

No explicit voting scheme is specified or required because of the difficulty in creating a scheme that even a majority of people would agree to. Some people use very explicit schemes, where each game gets two points for coding, two for writing, and so on. Others use a less-rigid scheme, where their favorite game gets a score of 10 and the rest are given lower scores. All of these schemes are permissible, and no attempt is made to legislate them.

Length of the Judging Period

The judging period for the first competition lasted for four weeks. The second competition's judging period was twelve weeks long. Afterwards, many complained that three months of judging was far too long to keep quiet about the games. The current judging period is six weeks, a compromise meant to give people time to play a reasonable number of games.

Number of Games Judges Must Play

Originally, judges were honor-bound to play and rate all of the games. This became harder as the number of entries ballooned. As the number of entries passed fifty, this became well-nigh impossible for all but the most dedicated judges. Thus judges are only required to play five or more games for their votes to count.

This is a compromise, chosen as an alternative to limiting the number of entries or lengthening the judging period. To help insure that all games are played and rated by a reasonable number of judges, judges are encouraged to use the randomized games list produced by the Compxx.z5 file.

No Discussion During Judging

In order to keep judges from being unduly influenced by others' opinions, during the judging period no one discusses any of the entries on a public forum such as the newsgroups.

Note that I said "public forum." Private discussions are fine, as long as all parties have finished the game or games being discussed. On ifMUD, there is a spoiler room for getting help on competition games or discussing games, and private discussion channels are created for that explicit purpose.

Number of Competitions a Year

If we had more than one competition a year, it wouldn't be the Annual Interactive Fiction Competition any more.

More seriously, the competition has had an ever-increasing effect on the interactive fiction community. As it stands, even with a six-week judging period the competition affects nearly three months of the year. Few authors release new games in the month or two before the competition, and for several weeks after the judging period judges are busy discussing the games and reviewing them publically.

Adding a second competition has the potential of doubling this effect, taking up nearly half of the year. The competition was not meant to be the be-all end-all of the IF community; despite that, it is the focus of much of the effort of the community. Having two such competitions a year would exacerbate that problem.

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