Spring Thing actively works to create a space where all kinds of people making all kinds of games can feel welcome. Part of this work involves everyone, both authors and players, taking care to treat each other with respect.
- Authors have control over their presence in the festival, including whether to participate in ribbon nominations, and how much information to share about themselves and their games.
- An an author, be respectful of your peers. We can't control what you say, but it's not classy to trash-talk other authors during the festival, or encourage people to skip the rest of the games and just play your own. We hope you'll think of this as a chance to build bridges and make friends in a diverse and extensive community, not just cheerlead for your own corner of the map.
- Don't be a rules lawyer. If you think someone is behaving inappropriately, contact the organizer privately. Public accusations or enforcement attempts based on your perception of the rules are unhelpful.
- The festival is privately run and is explicitly a benevolent dictatorship. The organizer reserves the final right to decide what games to exhibit and how to conduct festival business.
- In particular, Spring Thing does not welcome games or authors promoting hate speech, misogyny, homophobia, or other messages designed to make a whole group of people feel awful about themselves.
Main Festival Games
Spring Thing is an annual festival for new works of interactive fiction. Any game submitted will be exhibited, as long as it's mindful of a few guidelines. In short, your game should be new, finished, yours, free, and interactive fiction in a broad sense of the term. You must also submit an intent to enter in advance.
- New: your game should be unreleased at the time the festival opens.
- Finished: the game should be complete, in the author's estimation, and tested.
- Yours: your entry should be your own original content, and not contain any copyrighted material you don't have the rights to.
- Free: the festival version of your game must be freely available both during the festival and in perpetuity afterwards on the IF Archive.
- Interactive fiction: telling a digital interactive story with words should be your game's identifying feature.
(Some further clarifications on these guidelines can be found below.)
The competition organizer will work with authors whose games might not be appropriate for the festival, and reserves the final right to select which games will be exhibited.
To submit an intent to enter, you'll need a working title for your game and a few other pieces of information. Intents for the 2017 festival can be submitted any time between now and March 9, 2017.
Back Garden Games
Authors can also submit games for the “Back Garden,” a selection of games with looser entry requirements. These games will be exhibited and archived alongside the Main Festival games, but:
- do not take part in ribbon nominations;
- do not take part in the prize pool;
- can be excerpts from an unreleased game, even one planned for commercial release, as long as the excerpt is polished enough to be exhibited;
- can be more experimental or use a looser definition of “interactive fiction” than Main Festival games.
The Back Garden provides a space for authors who are working on commercial IF, who don't want to compete with other games, whose release schedules don't line up with the festival's timing, or who are working on something cool in an IF-adjacent area.
Back Garden games must also
submit an intent to enter
and abide by all other festival guidelines.
What do we mean by “interactive fiction?”
Popularized by Infocom in the early 1980s, the term "interactive fiction" has long held a special meaning for fans of parser-based text adventures. The term is often used to mean exclusively this kind of game, as in the scholarly study Twisty Little Passages.
However, as a delightful, reasonably vague, and eminently multi-purpose term, it's often been reclaimed or reinvented by other communities of digital storytelling. Rather than get hung up on tradition, the Thing welcomes any game whose identifying feature is using words to tell an interactive story.
Fine, then, what do we mean by “identifying feature?” Essentially, we're talking about games that would still be recognizably the same work if everything other than the text and the way you interact with it were removed. For instance, while the classic illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are a delightful, recognizable part of the work, most people would agree that a plain-text version from Project Gutenberg is still Alice. On the other hand, while the story in Firewatch is mostly told through spoken text, if the visuals and music were removed, it would be a radically different work of art.
Alice is Alice even without pictures, but Firewatch is not.
Right image © Campo Santo.
Of course, this is still a subjective judgment, and it's one we'd like to leave up to authors whenever possible. If the competition organizer feels your submission is inappropriate for Spring Thing, we'll have a conversation about it. We'd like to err on the side of including a wide variety of works, but the organizer will have final say on what games to exhibit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I submit a revised version of a previously released game?
The general idea behind the "new" guideline is that games should feel like a debut: they should have mostly new content. An extensively fleshed out version of a game prototyped in IntroComp or Ludum Dare would probably be cool; a minor improvement to an already existing game, not so much.
Can I sell a game I released in Spring Thing commercially?
The only right we claim is to freely distribute and archive the festival version of your game. You retain all other rights to the game you enter, and are free to sell or otherwise distribute a commercial version. However, by entering you grant the Spring Thing and the Interactive Fiction Archive the non-exclusive right to distribute the festival version of your game for free, forever.
Part of our mission is to preserve a snapshot of the kind of text games people were making at a certain point in time. We want your entry to still be playable decades from now, and this rule helps make that possible.
However, if this is unacceptable, you might consider instead releasing a demo or excerpt from your game in the Back Garden, which has looser entry requirements.
Can I release my interactive movie, tabletop RPG, playable poetry, narrative board game, or VR novel in the Thing?
We love everything new, weird, and wonderful to do with words and games, although the Back Garden is a better space for a project you aren't sure “counts” as interactive fiction. We'd also prefer projects that don't require special equipment to play, so the widest variety of people can experience your work and so your entry can be digitally archived. Read over the guidelines above and, if you still have questions, feel free to contact the organizer to chat about it.
Also, be sure to let us know if you figure out VR novels. We're keen to crack that one ourselves.
While we don't have official rules about this, the community generally agrees that authors shouldn't review the games of other entrants while the festival is still open, although a quick recommendation of one you liked is okay.
Are there any restrictions on what authors can talk about during the festival?
Like we could stop you. But please do review the code of conduct and try to be respectful and polite to your fellow gamemakers.
Is it okay to canvas for nominations for my game? Can I nominate myself?
See the previous answer. Both parts.