IF Comp 2016: My Review Guidelines

It’s IF Comp season, which means a whole lot of games are about to be released. I said I’d try to review some of the games, which I’ll be doing on this blog, and so this is a general introduction about what to expect from my reviews and reviewing process. This is the first year without an author muzzle rule, and Sam Kabo Ashwell put up some very useful guidelines about best practices for authors. Instead of going into it myself, I’m going to link to him.

A couple of potentially-useful caveats about my own reviewing:

I am not going to get to everything. I’m incredibly busy with a couple of commercial projects on top of my day job, and if the comp gets as many entries as it did last year, I simply won’t have time to review every game. I’ll be using a randomly ordered list, but I’ll also be jumping around in that if I only have time for a short game or something catches my eye. Also, I’m much more likely to review long, traditional parser games if they have a walkthrough: it helps me save time if I get stuck on a puzzle, so I have more time to spend on the structure of a game and review more works.

I’m not writing reviews for the benefit of the author. It’s entirely possible authors will get some useful feedback out of it, but the purpose of my reviews is to record my experience and to offer that to other readers as a possible guide. I’m aiming for what worked, and what didn’t work, for me; what I found interesting or ambitious or moving or worth commenting on, and my experiences (all experiences, in fact) are subjective.

Given that, I’m not using numerical scores; I may or may not explicitly recommend games. If I do, it’s possible that there will be a reason, e.g. “recommended if you like…” or “not recommended for…”, but this may not occur in all cases. (Note: this section might be updated as I progress through reviews and my process becomes more regimented.)

I am reviewing a piece of IF, not that piece’s author. If I’m frustrated or bored by a game, or I criticize an aspect of it, that is absolutely not a comment on the author’s worth as a person. I know this can be hard; I know we all, myself included, have a tendency to get attached to our work. Creative success or failure does not correlate to the quality of your personhood or your worth as a person.

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