IFComp 2011 Halftime Introspection

At this point, I’ve written up some thoughts on half the games in the Comp. I’ve played a few more than I’ve blogged, though; my blogging has been lagging. And even though I’ve been posting rather slowly, I feel like I’ve been rushing through it. In fact, there’s no contradiction there: both things are a result of not leaving enough time for thoughtful commentary. I look at Emily Short’s write-ups and I see detailed and specific criticism of writing style, while I seem to mainly just describing the high concept for each game, then saying how I got stuck and gave up. (Getting stuck is also a symptom of haste, and giving up a symptom of impatience, so my hurried attitude shows through at every level here.) Since I’m not taking the time to reflect on style, I’m probably accepting and forgiving bad style to an unwholesome degree, to the point where it becomes dishonest and even self-deceptive, convincing myself that the writing and moment-to-moment interaction is okay so that I won’t have to write anything about it. The discomfort caused by this dissonance may even be contributing to my hesitance to write.

But then, would anyone be happier with more complaints? Well, perhaps. I remember reading reviews of my own game when I entered the Comp, ten years ago. I remember being disappointed whenever I read one that just summarized the premise without going into detail. It isn’t even that I wanted good reviews necessarily. I felt a brief “This rules!” as disappointing as a brief “This sucks!”, because neither said anything useful to me as an author. From this point of view, a rushed review that doesn’t gripe is a disservice even to the omitted griping’s subject.

Not all authors feel that way, of course, and I hear there’s been counter-griping from some quarters about over-high standards and consequent discouragement. But you know something? I’m not really writing this stuff primarily for the authors. I’m not even writing primarily for people looking for games to play. My primary intended audience is the few people reading this blog who aren’t participating in the Comp in any other way. And, as they’re not going to be playing the games, I really should be going into as much detail as necessary to convey the full experience to them.

Anyway, the main thing I wanted to get out here is that if I haven’t specifically commented on the quality of prose and depth of implementation in a game, it’s probably bad. Not as bad as in the cases where I’ve commented on its badness, but bad enough that I shouldn’t be allowing myself to become as accustomed to it as I have. This will be relevant in forthcoming reviews.

1 Comment so far

  1. Hannes on 1 Nov 2011

    I think you’re underselling yourself. Everybody can list lots and lots of unrelated bits from games. It’s just a question of time and patience. What I like about your write-ups is that they are *reviews* in the classic sense: Concise articles which don’t simply describe step-by-step what someone did and what happened (there are really enough others doing that), but extract and analyse *the core* of each game. This is ideal for prospective players.

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