We’re four weeks into the judging period for the 22nd Interactive Fiction Competition (aka IFComp), which seems like a good time to look back and reflect.

The first IFComp was organized by Kevin Wilson in 1995 in response to a Usenet suggestion. It was initially a one-time experiment with just twelve entries, but traffic skyrocketed at rec.arts.int-fiction, and the ensuing discussions went on for weeks. And when Activision released its final Infocom collection, “Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces of Infocom”, they included the top three entries in each category. IFComp was a huge success.

The first IFComp had just one rule: all games needed to be “winnable in under two hours”. Over the 21 years since then, rules have been added and modified by successive IFComp organizers (David Dyte, Stephen Granade, and IFTF’s Jason McIntosh), always with an eye on the same goals: to encourage and celebrate the creation of new interactive fiction games, and to invite everyone who loves interactive fiction to participate in that celebration.

One of the most unusual characteristics of IFComp is best described in the negative: IFComp is neither a juried competition nor a popularity contest. To rephrase in the positive, IFComp invites all members of the public to judge games, while simultaneously trusting those judges to cast fair votes based on the merits of each game.

Another unusual characteristic of IFComp is that games are both noncommercial and previously unreleased. Every game released through IFComp is a worldwide debut, and the IFComp version of that game will always be freely available via the Interactive Fiction Database.

Judging for the current IFComp won’t close until November 15. As explained above, anyone can be a judge – so you have the chance right now to join this historic event! Check out the judging rules and then get started on the games here.

If you’re interested in learning more about IFComp’s history, there’s more information here, and the IFComp site also has a list of all past competition entries (sorted by year).

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