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.)
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.