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The Year that Was

Sentiment on the Internet seems to be that 2014 was a bad year. Perhaps so. In IF-land, however, 2014 was one of the most exciting years in a decade that’s been full of them. Simply put, IF’s hasn’t had this large an audience and this vibrant a field of creators since the 1980s. A brief rundown of The Year that Was:

February 14: IndieCade East enters its second year at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. (The author, who lived in Astoria for years, takes a perverse sort of pride in the fact that New York’s IF events these days, largely take place in Manhattan and Queens, and not in Brooklyn.) While not an IF-only event, interactive fiction or IF-adjacent works showcased included Elegy for a Dead World, Ice-Bound and the excellently titled Sext Adventure.

April 6: The 18th annual XYZZY Awards ceremony was held, as always, on ifMUD! Some facts about the 2013 XYZZYs:

2013 is the second year in a row, after 2012, in which the majority of XYZZY Award winners were women. Part of this can be attributed to the rise of Twine – but not all; Coloratura and Olly Olly Oxen Free are both traditional parser works.

2013 is the year of the coolest thing ever: the acceptance speech for Trapped in Time, a PDF CYOA, was also a PDF CYOA. This is a fact. It is in no way opinion.

2013 has the best out-of-context Best Individual Puzzle, dethroning Violet’s  “disconnecting the Internet” (oh, how puzzling):  “creating the meat monster,” from Coloratura. This also is a fact. Indisputable, cold fact. Nothing about it is opinion.

May 11: Results came in for Spring Thing, an annual competition traditionally intended for longer, more experimental, critically meaty works – a preview of Aaron Reed’s epic Blue Lacuna lived there, as did Victor Gijsbers’ The Baron. 2014 was no exception: winner The Price of Freedom was polished, expansive in story, and part one of an ambitious trilogy — something surprisingly rare in the IF world. Spring Thing’s returning next year as a festival and showcase; and if you are reading this, there’s still time for you to concoct an idea!

July 6: Interactive fiction, according to The New York Times, has a moment. As we all know, interactive fiction has had a lot of moments! You’ve read about several here. But this year, IF was so presumably momentous to merit a mention in the Grey Lady; despite a baffling swipe at one author’s prose from a writer who thunk the clunker “Interactive fiction, which once went by the name ‘text adventure’,” it was a hard-won piece of visibility for IF in one of the most prestigious outlets in the world. And it wasn’t the NYT’s only time this year covering IF; the New York Times Magazine ran a full-length piece on Twine in November.

July 31: 80 Days, a piece by Inkle, is released for iOS (its Android counterpart arrived in December); it’s one of the rare IF works to receive widespread critical acclaim, even being praised by The Telegraph as one of the best novels of the year. (That’s novels. As in, DeFoe, James, Austen stuff.)

September 13: Boston’s Festival of Independent Games has traditionally been a haven for IF enthusiasts (who tend to be independent and into games); this year featured a live playthrough of IFcomp winner Coloratura and tutorials in Inform and Twine.

October 30: Hadean Lands, Andrew Plotkin’s five-years-in-the-making magnum opus, is finally released. It’s by far the most expansive piece of interactive fiction the scene’s seen in years, and the sort of alchemy of worldbuilding and puzzlecrafting that’s not just difficult, but Zarfian-difficult, to get this right.

November 8: WordPlay, run by the Hand Eye Society, enters its second year in Toronto. Every year the IF community has something like a summit, and this year Canada was it; the event featured a live reading of Aisle, premieres of works by Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai and Porpentine, a talk by Plotkin on the aforementioned Hadean Lands and an entire, usually-packed room showcasing IF and IF-adjacent works, of all kinds.

November 16: The Interactive Fiction Competition announces its winners. 42 authors entered – historically, a high-water mark – and the top five was remarkably diverse: Hunger Daemon, a traditional Lovecraftian-lampoon parser work; Creatures Such as We, a space dating sim using ChoiceScript; Jacqueline, Jungle Queen!, a parser romp made in Quest; AlethiCorp, a surveillance satire with an entire Web interface; and With Those We Love Alive, a multimedia-enhanced Twine piece. They’re all beyond worth your time.

December 22: Twine 2.0, the long-awaited second release of the hypertext tool, is released. Long in the works – it was previewed at No Show Conference in 2013 – the new system notably adds browser-based support for creating Twine pieces.

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