XYZZY Awards 2013 Results

The Awards are over for this year, and here are the winners!

(And if you missed the ceremony, a transcript is available.)

Best Game: Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Writing: their angelical understanding (Porpentine)

Best Story: Solarium (Alan DeNiro)

Best Setting: Robin & Orchid (Ryan Veeder and Emily Boegheim)

Best Puzzles: Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best NPCs: Ollie Ollie Oxen Free (Carolyn VanEseltine)

Best Individual Puzzle: creating the meat monster in Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Individual NPC: Captain Verdeterre in Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder (Ryan Veeder)

Best Individual PC: The Aqueosity in Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Implementation: Trapped in Time (Simon Christiansen)

Best Use of Innovation: 18 Cadence (Aaron A. Reed)

Best Technological Development: Twine 1.4

Best Supplemental Materials: Multimedia – Dominique Pamplemousse (Deirdra Kiai)

Final Round Nears Its End

Thursday will be the last day of voting in the final round of the Awards, so if you haven’t yet done so, go and vote. (You can also update your previous votes.) Several categories are very close, so your vote matters.

We hope you can join us for the ceremony, which will take place on ifMUD this coming Sunday at 1:30 PM Pacific time.

First-round voting open for XYZZY Awards 2013

The nomination round of voting in the 2013 Awards is open. You can log in here and then cast your votes here. The first round will remain open through March 9th.

A reminder: it is not OK to canvass for votes, either for your own games or for someone else’s. Talking about the Awards is fine, but “hey guys, this game I wrote is up for an award, go and vote for it” is not, regardless of whether you do so on a major game blog or your personal Facebook page. Exercise your best judgement.

The exception to this rule is the set of (experimental) For Your Consideration polls on IFDB for the Individual categories – Best Individual Puzzle, Best Individual Player Character and Best Individual Non-Player Character. These awards can be more challenging to vote for, so if you’re struggling to come up with something and would like to try a few more games before you make your mind up, or if you think there’s a puzzle or character that deserves a second look, go forth and have fun.


Today someone pointed out to me that a) old comments on the blog seem to have vanished, and b) new comments weren’t showing up at all. Oh dear.

Problem b) has been fixed, as far as we can tell. Problem a) is leaving us scratching our heads – there have been somewhat-similar issues in WordPress before, it’d seem, but the analogous things have known solutions which don’t work for us. Poking around on the backend has not found anything.

Anyhow. We apologise. If you’ve tried to post comments recently and failed, you should be able to do so now. We’ll see what we can figure out about restoring lost comments, but right now it’s not looking promising.

Eligiblity list for XYZZY Awards 2013

The list of games eligible for the 2013 XYZZY Awards has been compiled. Our list-compiler, David Welbourn, has the full list up at Key and Compass, together with notes on ineligible games.

This is the first year that we’ve applied the new standards, so it’s possible that we’ve made an error or two. If you notice any, now is the time to correct them; we welcome comment either here or in the thread.

First-round voting will open shortly.


It seems as though it’s important, given the changes, to lay out how XYZZY Award eligibility works as clearly as possible. So here are the principles we’re operating under: what exactly are the requirements for a game to be eligible for a XYZZY nomination?

Listed on IFDB.

In 2013, as an experiment, games eligible for the XYZZY Awards will be limited to those with listings on IFDB, the Interactive Fiction Database. Anybody can add listings to IFDB, including authors of a work; this requires a free account.


If a game is listed on IFDB, but that listing contains no links to a place where it can be played, downloaded or purchased, it’s not eligible. We don’t require that games be uploaded to the Interactive Fiction Archive, but we strongly recommend it. IFDB already has a problem with games that were only ever available from a single location, and which have since become defunct.

This applies equally to games which were released and have since vanished without trace, games which were never actually published, and games which have incomplete IFDB entries with no links whatsoever.

Released as complete in the appropriate calendar year.

Released’ means that the work is available to the public, whether commercially or otherwise.

‘As complete’ means that it’s not a draft, an open beta, a demo, a 0.X version, an Introcomp release, full of Under Construction signs, or otherwise presented by the author as an unfinished work. (This doesn’t include installments in an ongoing, yet-to-be-finished series; we’re not here to judge narrative completeness. An otherwise complete game that ends with ‘To Be Continued’ is eligible.)

Again, there’s only so far we can go to check this: we can’t play every single game to completion in order to check if it’s really finished. We’ll do this with some games, particularly if there are other signs that may not be a finished version – but we can’t be omniscient, and if you want to be sure that your half-finished game isn’t included in error, it helps to be clear about it.

(If a game is posted to IFDB as incomplete one year, then gets updated to a complete version in a subsequent year, it may be easy for us to miss it. We recommend posting a news item to the game’s IFDB page – or not making IFDB entries for unfinished games.)

Interactive fiction.

This is a troublesome term; what it means is the subject of an ongoing conversation among IF enthusiasts. The organisers of the Awards feel that the XYZZYs should reflect that conversation, rather than attempting to define and police our own answer. However, it’s important not to mistake interactive fiction for a purely descriptive term: in this context, IF is not the set of things that are both fictional and interactive. (That definition would include almost all computer games, and a great deal besides.)

Historically, we used interactive fiction to mean parser-based, primarily-text, single-player games in the Infocom tradition. That term has been extended at various times to its neighbours, particularly text games with link-based interaction (choice games, hypertext novels, CYOA) and graphic adventure. That’s our baseline. We acknowledge that genres aren’t tidy and new forms emerge all the time (and a bloody good thing too), so works that have strong commonalities with those core styles are also likely to be appropriate, particularly if they aren’t part of an established style of game.

From recent usage, there’s a growing sense that ‘interactive fiction’ maps pretty closely to ‘text games’, shifting away from the graphic-adventure sense. (That also needs a bit of clarification, but nowhere near as much.) We’re not quite ready to adopt that sense this year, but that may very well be where we’re going; it would certainly be simpler.

We reserve the right to exclude games from consideration for the XYZZYs if we think they fall far, far outside the community understanding of what ‘interactive fiction’ means. Based on how IFDB is currently used, we don’t expect to use this often, if at all. If we do, we promise to consider it seriously, discuss among organisers, and be transparent about the decision.

Run-up to XYZZY Awards 2013

IF Comp is over, the year’s end is not far off, and we’re beginning to get ready for the 2013 XYZZY Awards.

The first big step will be compiling the list of eligible games. Starting this year, we will no longer be scouring the internet for every isolate publication and dispersed cache of IF that we can find. That was becoming an increasingly laborious task, and one that was impossible to carry out with any great degree of consistency. So starting this year – I’ve announced this before, but it bears repetition – only games with IFDB entries will be eligible for the XYZZY Awards.

So if there is a work of interactive fiction published in 2013 that you feel deserves consideration for the XYZZYs, check whether it is listed in the Interactive Fiction Database, and if it isn’t, create an entry for it. As is normal on IFDB, you may create entries both for your own work and on behalf of other authors.

(That is not the only qualification for eligibility – we have to confirm that the game exists, for instance, and our understanding of ‘interactive fiction’ is significantly less broad than ‘any game with narrative elements.’ I’ll be outlining our approach to this shortly.)

Secondly, some of the Awards are given to particular things within games, rather than the game as a whole. As an experiment, three of these have polls running in IFDB – Best Individual Non-Player Character, Best Individual Player Character and Best Individual Puzzle. These polls are totally optional and have no effect on eligibility for these awards, but the hope is that they’ll help voters get a better grasp on a very big, difficult-to-list field. It’s not meant as a straw poll: if a character or puzzle is already listed there, it’s not necessary to vote for it again. Unlike the voting in the awards proper, you’re allowed to nominate your own work here.

XYZZY Reviews 2012 complete

And with that, the reviews are done for this year. Many, many thanks to our all-star team of reviewers. The IF community couldn’t exist without the generosity of talented volunteers, and I’m seriously impressed by how many great people agreed to help out.

A reminder: for next year’s Individual Whatever categories, we have a set of polls up at IFDB, as a way of remembering possible nominees and suggesting them to others. If you happen across a good character or puzzle in an eligible game, consider suggesting it on the appropriate list: Individual Puzzle, Individual NPC, Individual PC.

That said, here’s the thing you’re really here for: the full list of reviews.

Best Writing: Yoon Ha Lee, Paul O’Brian, Robb Sherwin
Best Story: Deirdra Kiai, Emma Joyce
Best Setting: Jacqueline A. Lott, Duncan Bowsman
Best Puzzles: Carl Muckenhoupt
Best NPCs: Wade Clarke, Jenni Polodna
Best Individual Puzzle: Lucian P. Smith, Christopher Huang
Best Individual NPC: C.E.J. PacianJenni Polodna
Best Individual PC: Stephen Granade, Jenni Polodna
Best Implementation: Sean M. ShoreJason McIntosh
Best Use of Innovation: Aaron Reed
Best Technological Development: Dannii Willis, Iain Merrick
Best Supplemental Materials: J. Robinson Wheeler