Felix LarssonGothenburg, Sweden
Top 100 Reviewer
The first IF I actually played was Ian Finley's Babel, and I loved it; but, having only casual access to the Internet and a dissertation in philosophy to write (on fictional objects, no less) and little daughter to care for (and soon a somewhat older daughter and her little brother) and what with all of life's odd bumps and ends &c., IF somehow went down the slippery slope of priorities. And I stopped playing, stuck somewhere outside Biblioll College (I now realize I would never have gotten inside those gates without a walk-through!).
At least at last I’m trying to make up for it: things seem to have happened in the IF community since then.
—A Guide to Ratings—
Stars are awarded for worthwhileness; the time and trouble needed to play the game (or read the fiction (or play the fiction or what like you)) is compared (in a strictly subjective fashion, I’m sure) to its hedonist, intellectual, spiritual (or whatever) benefits; the larger the profit the more numerous the stars.
* Not recommended.
** Not generally recommended. The work as a whole is not quite worth the trouble. However, there are parts or aspects or details or gimmicks or other things of interest in such work to commend it (provided that you are interested in those very aspects &c.).
*** Recommended. Worth playing.
**** Must-play. Not merely worth playing, but something that you should regret not having played.
***** The very best. Really!
This means—or at least it should mean—that a short, casual work, with limited pretensions and so on, stands a greater chance to make itself worthwhile than a huge, ambitious one that took years to write and weeks to play (or read), simply because the player (or reader) vests so much less time and trouble in playing (or reading) it: it also might mean that short, casual works have a tougher time getting the really high marks; being casual seems at odds with being essential most of the time.
Moreover, interactive fiction is not all of a kind; some flaws may be more or less acceptable depending on what kind of IF a work is: e.g., I tend to think that cruelty (in the Zarfian sense) and too hard puzzles (too hard for me, that is) and in general getting-all-stuck-likelihood detracts more from a piece that sets out to tell an exciting or interesting story (like ‘Christminster’) than from a piece that does not (like ‘Adventure’).
—A Guide to Category Tags—
I suggest that works of interactive fiction can (for at least some purposes—including mine) profitably be arranged into the following three imperfectly distinct categories, based rather strictly on Nelson’s “crossword at war with a narrative”-simile.
Gambol IF: These are the works that either have no story or where the story is a mere pretext to present a series of puzzles. ‘Adventure’ falls in this category but so does ‘A Change in the Weather’ and ‘Ad Verbum’.
Crossword–narrative truce IF: These are works that intend to tell a good story—the kind of entertaining, exciting, captivating, or elsewise good story that you might expect to find in a novel, movie, role playing session or other work of fiction. Nevertheless, solving puzzles is still the main motive for playing (and reading) such works—the puzzles’ foremost function in relation to the story being that you have to solve them in order to recreate the intended story-line. The great bulk of traditional and well-known IF falls in this category I suppose: ‘Jigsaw’, ‘Babel’, ‘Anchorhead’, ‘Slouching towards Bedlam’, ‘Savoir Faire’, ‘Make it Good’ …
Literary IF: These are the works you are intended to read (or play) for other reasons than the puzzles, or where the reward for solving the puzzles, meeting the problems, or in general making the choices to be made is not the reconstruction of the intended story-line. ‘Photopia’ and ‘Galatea’ of course are works that belong here as do ‘Aisle’ and ‘Exhibition’ and lots of “new school” IF. “Literary”, however, doesn’t necessarily mean “good” or “serious”.
I will tag rated and reviewed games accordingly.