IFComp 2010 wrap-up

Unrestrained comments on various games in the Comp after the break.

The clearest trend this year: horror. Opinions may differ about which of the games qualify as horror, but I count six of them, nearly a quarter of the 26 total games in the comp. We’ve got two retro games with two-word parsers, two My Apartment games, two (very different) games about fairies, two Bibles Retold. Three space operas, one mystery, three or four fantasies but none in the traditional Colossal Cave mold (unless you count Erebus). A mix of old and new authors. No obvious trolls, although I can imagine that East Grove Hills was intended as a troll of a rather subtle sort. And, yes, fewer of the bug-ridden messes that were so prevalent in 2007 and 2008 that they drove me away from the comp in 2009. Just one game that I contemplated rating a 1: Chronicler. I gave it a 2 because I was holding my 1 in reserve in case I saw something even worse — I still remember Project Delta, a game that I described at the time as unfixable in principle.

I also didn’t rate anything higher than 8 this year, for similar reasons. I was holding out some hope, on the basis of name recognition alone, that Asgard would be this year’s stand-out game, but frankly, I don’t think there were any stand-outs. I gave fully half the games this year ratings in the 4 to 6 range. If I had to predict the winner — which is a different proposition from picking the ones I personally liked best — I think my best guesses are Rogue of the Multiverse and Aotearoa, both of which seem to be getting mostly favorable reviews. But I won’t be at all surprised if I’m wrong. I don’t even have a good prediction for the Golden Banana of Discord, the unofficial prize for the game whose ratings have the highest standard deviation. That’s usually easier to predict than the winner: you just look for something polarizing, something whose appeal is based on something weird that not everyone will get, or something well-crafted but in some way offensive. If Sons of the Cherry were better-written, it would be a contender for the Banana simply on the basis that not everyone who judges the Comp likes CYOA. East Grove Hills, then, for being nearly CYOA, as well as for being all postmodern and self-critical and not letting the player just play a game.

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