ParserComp 2022 wrap-up

Okay, ParserComp 2022 has been over for a good few days now. I said at the beginning that the number of games seemed very comfortable for the deadline, but I wound up scrambling at the end nonetheless, due to interference from life for a couple of weeks in the middle. But most of the games were pretty short (and I gave up on a couple of the longer ones before reaching an ending), and I wound up giving a brief writeup to all of them but one, The Euripides Enigma. I could write it up now — there’s no rule saying you can’t play or discuss the games after the Comp’s deadline! — but I just don’t feel like it.

After the first few games, I fretted a bit about whether this entire event was a bit retrograde, more concerned with rehashing the past than with exploring new possibilities. I suppose that’s how a lot of people see IF in general: aren’t we all just still trying to be Infocom? But to me, amateur IF has always been more about taking paleo-IF as a starting point and striking out in new directions. But one of the main new directions people have struck out in over the last decade is the Twine Revolution and the shift to choice-based interfaces, and ParserComp is kind of set up to attract people who’d like to roll that back. Gladly, though, I found a good amount of experimentation here: new engines and interfaces, new forms of interaction. And if not all of it is entirely successful, well, that’s just in the nature of experiment.

Which is part of why I find the scoring system so unsatisfactory. Unlike the IFComp, which simply asks you to rate every game on a 1-10 scale, ParserComp imposes a rubric. Players are asked to rate the games in eight categories: Writing, Story, Characters, Implementation, and Puzzles each get a weight of 17% in the final score, with 5% going to Use of Multimedia, Help and Hints, and Supplemental Materials. Not only does this reflect the values of the comp organizer rather than the players, it’s clearly set up to favor the conventional over the extreme. Works are effectively penalized for doing a puzzle-free narrative, or a pure puzzle game without characters. Heck, one of the entries arguably didn’t feature writing per se. I hope the authors pay less attention to their numeric score and more to the reviews, where more nuanced reactions are possible.

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