XYZZY Awards 2012

The voting is over, the champagne corks have been swept out of the auditorium. (It's a MUD auditorium, sweeping is quick.) The winners of the IF community's annual awards for best interactive fiction of 2012:

  • Best Game: Counterfeit Monkey (Emily Short)
  • Best Writing: howling dogs (Porpentine)
  • Best Story: howling dogs (Porpentine)
  • Best Setting: Anglophone Atlantis in Counterfeit Monkey (Emily Short)
  • Best Puzzles: Counterfeit Monkey (Emily Short)
  • Best NPCs: Guilded Youth (Jim Munroe)
  • Best Individual Puzzle: Surviving the fall in Bigger Than You Think (Andrew Plotkin)
  • Best Individual NPC: New Rat City in rat chaos (J. Chastain)
  • Best Individual PC: Alexandra in Counterfeit Monkey (Emily Short)
  • Best Implementation: Counterfeit Monkey (Emily Short)
  • Best Use of Innovation: First Draft of the Revolution (Emily Short, Liza Daly, Inkle Studios)
  • Best Technological Development: Vorple for Inform 7 (Juhana Leinonen)
  • Best Supplemental Materials: Feelies for Muggle Studies (Flourish Klink)

(The nomination list is here.)

Yes, I won one trophy -- yay me -- but that's not what I'm going to talk about.

The coveted Writing, Story, Setting, and Best-of-Year trophies were split between Counterfeit Monkey and howling dogs. That is, a parser-based, puzzle-heavy work from someone who's been around the IF world for years; and a choice-based evocative piece from a relatively new name.

I don't want to lay too much symbolic weight on this award outcome. They're games, people voted on them, we all cheered at the winners. That's what awards are.

But the ceremony does come amid the ongoing discussion of what "the interactive fiction community" means these days -- to whom, by whom, for whom? These are political questions, and I don't mean the dismissive buzzword sense of "politically correct". As I've noted: when the concensus of a community changes, that's a political process.

A recent discussion thread about that process began with Porpentine talking about her IFComp experience last year. Emily Short boosted that signal, and followed with comments on that situation and her perspective on the IF world.

Again, I'm not handing you a "split between old guard and new talent" story. I would like to believe that we are synthesizing a richer community, which appreciates different styles (and definitions!) of interactive fiction. Take the award outcome as a symbol of that, if you like.

We've already seen one change to the XYZZY Award rules -- hopefully in the direction of more transparency and less insularity. Saturday's awards are another implicit step on that path. What does it mean? Ask us next year.