___. .___ _ ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. .\ \ | | | o | | | | The |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of |_|_|dventure \___|ames. ISSUE #36 Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G colorado.edu) March 16, 2004 SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag SPAG #36 is copyright (c) 2004 by Paul O'Brian. Authors of reviews and articles retain the rights to their contributions. All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine with the traditional 'at' sign. REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------- Amnesia Bad Machine Hamlet Insight Shadowgate To Hell In A Hamper SPECIFICS ========= The Act Of Misdirection EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------ It's a collection of miscellany that I have to discuss today. First up is the lamentable absence of an interview in this issue. I'm working on a few different things, but none of them came together in time for this issue. As a small consolation prize, I can tell you a little of what's waiting in the wings, or at least what I *hope* the future holds. I recently canvassed you all for interview suggestions, and one dynamite idea I received was to interview Stephen Ramsay. For those of you unfamiliar with this name, Dr. Ramsay is a professor of English at the University of Georgia who taught a class last fall called Digital Narratives. This is the first academic course I've ever seen that focuses entirely on text IF, and that includes many works created by the IF community in its required reading and playing materials. If you're interested in the syllabus, it's available at http://cantor.english.uga.edu/cocoon/classes/engl4890.html. Unfortunately, though I tried to contact Dr. Ramsay for an interview, he didn't answer my email and his phone just rang and rang. If any of you out there know how to contact him, or if you took part in the class and want to tell SPAG's readers a little bit about your experience, get in touch with me. The other thing that's cooking is an interview exchange between myself and Urbatain, one of the luminaries of the Spanish IF community. If all goes well, the interview with me will be translated into Spanish and published in SPAC (Sociedad para la Preservación de las Aventuras Conversacionales, the Spanish equivalent of SPAG), and the interview with Urbatain will appear here. Sadly, my Spanish isn't strong enough for me to interview him in his native language, so we'll just have to muddle through as best we can. Another change that's recently occurred with SPAG is in the way it handles email addresses. This zine was started way back in 1994 (Whoa! It's almost our 10th anniversary!), and in those simpler Internet days, attaching email addresses to the names of authors and reviewers was actually a good thing. It encouraged feedback, made communication easier, and generally added cohesiveness to our small community. However, in today's spam-crazed Net environment, putting email addresses in cleartext out on the web is basically like pinning a sign on the person that says "Spam Me." Consequently, all email addresses appearing in SPAG will henceforth be spamblocked by replacing the @ sign with the string " SP@G ". This change has also been made to all addresses on the website, including everything listed in the review index and back issues listings. All mailto: links have also been removed, with the exception of the links to contact me or Joe DeRouen, SPAG Webmaster. It's regrettable to be driven to such measures by the bottom-feeders of the world, but there shouldn't be an overall penalty for being published or reviewed in SPAG, and for some people, the spam overload was becoming just that. Finally, I want to mention and publicly mull over a situation that occurred recently. I received a review that would have been great for this issue -- it was written clearly, specific in its analysis, objective, and fair. There was just one little concern, a parenthetical comment where the reviewer mentioned a plot thread that hadn't been followed, or, as he said, "at least not in the parts of the game I have succeeded in reaching so far." When I inquired further about this comment, the reviewer told me that in fact, he hadn't finished the game, quitting after reaching 50 points out of 75. In his mind, this wasn't a concern, since he had spent several hours with the game and had plenty to say about it. Also, to be fair, SPAG's submission policy has up until now been completely silent on the topic of whether a game should be finished before reviewing. Reluctantly, I had to reject the review, since I feel that completing a game is a necessary prerequisite to reviewing it. It feels a bit odd to say that, since I've written plenty of reviews of games I haven't finished, but those are competition game reviews, which is a bit of a special case, as the comp's rules dictate that a score must be assigned after playing a game for two hours, finished or not. In my mind, those comp reviews served to explain the score, not necessarily to provide a complete analysis of the game as a whole, though of course many times they serve that purpose as well. It's a thorny issue all around, though. When reviewing a book, or a movie, or a CD, the lines are rather clear: experience the entire thing, and until you do so, you aren't fit to review it. With games, though, there are a variety of different experiences of "finishing", and it's a much more subjective call on whether a reviewer has seen enough of the work to be able to review it. It's murky enough with traditional IF, but with experimental IF that has no ending, or that has hundreds of endings, or that has a facile "best" ending reachable in two moves, the lines blur even further. Consequently, although I've updated the submission guidelines, I've tried to leave a fair amount of wiggle room for a wide definition of "completeness." The bottom line is that if you're unsure how much of a particular game you need to see before reviewing it, ask me. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR------------------------------------------------------ From: Rich Mellor
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