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IF Gathering 2013, quick notes

This weekend was awesome and contained practically no disasters at all. At least, none that happened directly to me or anything I was responsible for. I am very happy about that. (Some people did have travel-related disasters, but everyone showed up eventually.)

Friday: Met up with a small crowd of IF folks for dinner. The fish special at Mulan (in Cambridge) is not subtle about its szechuan peppercorns. I bit into a whole one. I have decided that szechuan peppercorn tastes like an ice-cream headache.

Then I went home and packed boxes of stuff for BostonFIG.

Saturday: Woke up way too early (for a works-at-home hacker). Loaded boxes of stuff into car. Drove to MIT. Figured out where the IF table was (ask me about last-minute organizational hassles!) Piled books, iPads, laptops onto table.

FIG was a nearly-solid eight hours of talking about IF in a very loud gymnasium. Some of the people who walked by were all "IF! I used to play that! It was awesome!" Others were all "I have no idea what this is." Several parents dropped their kids into the chair and made them play a few moves, which went over surprisingly well for many of the kids.

Adri and I were the primary table-wranglers. Nick Montfort and Noah Swartz hung around and helped out for some of the day.

The games we had on display were Counterfeit Monkey and The Legend of the Missing Hat. I also kept an iPad on hand and flipped between Meanwhile, Heliopause, Shade, and whatever else was good to demonstrate. As is traditional, one person sat down and played through an entire game. (Hat, not Monkey.)

The shelf of books was mostly decoration, but we waved Creating IF with Inform 7 and the Inform 6 Designer's Manual around when people asked us about tools. Nick also lent us some artifacts -- original editions of early CYOA books, and a couple of Infocom grey-box editions. (Brian Moriarty came by and signed Nick's copy of Wishbringer.)

I passed out a buttload of IF postcards.

Note for next year: displaying IF on a monitor is almost a good idea. It was Counterfeit Monkey on the monitor, but the laptop was facing me, not the crowd. So nobody could actually play the game. I demonstrated "wave X-remover at codex" every time someone looked at the screen, so it wasn't a waste of space, but maybe people would have played some of the game? Or maybe not.

(Clever idea: have a Bluetooth keyboard, so that the crowd and I can both type.)

At 3:00 I ran over to the student center, to introduce the public performance of Lost Pig. I say "performance" because we were graced with the presence of Tom Russell as the voice of Grunk, and Brad Smith as the voice of the Gnome. Julia Tenney volunteered to be the keyboard-wrangler (or, well, I volunteered her and she was okay with it). I passed out even more IF postcards.

The crowd was at least 50 people, most of whom were new to IF -- as far as I know. Everyone seemed to catch on in about thirty seconds, though and the session was blazing along when I headed back to the table. I am told the pig was found and the game won in about 90 minutes.

The expo hall closed at 6:00, which is good, as my throat was about wiped out from shouting over the crowd. We packed out the table. A bunch of folks headed over to see a panel discussion "Boston: The Cradle of Narrative Games", featuring Matthew Weise, Brian Moriarty, Dave Lebling, Terri Brosius, and Austin Grossman (although I'm told he was absent due to illness).

I did not get to the panel; I headed over to the Asgard to make sure it was set up for our IF meetup dinner. Turned out a crowd from NoShowConf was already there, so I needn't have rushed, but hey -- I was hungry. Everyone else showed up after the panel, anyhow. I wound up even hoarser from hanging out in a bar full of interactive-narrative-type people and talking for hours.

Then I went home, and that was Saturday.

On Sunday I slept late (no kidding) and got over to NoShowConf just in time for lunch. I only wound up catching two presentations: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fighting Games (Maddy Myers, Todd Harper) and Chris Klimas's talk about the history of Twine. But there was extra bonus time for sitting around and talking (quietly). So that was fine.

Overall: the weekend was not the enormous IF gathering we had in 2010 (when Get Lamp premiered at PAX East). But it was pretty great. We will do this next year.

Thanks to everybody I mentioned above, helping out. Also to Val Grimm for setting up the Asgard event. And everybody who hung out at the table, and the Lost Pig event, and who showed up for dinner... and, you know, everybody.

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Boston summer IF meetup!

As in years past, the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction is organizing a summer gathering of the IF folks of the world. If you are interested in hanging out and talking about IF, you are invited!

The weekend: September 14-15. The locale: Boston (the MIT area).

Once again, we will be gathering at NoShowConf, a tiny little indie game-dev conference. We will also have a presence at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, which runs the same weekend.

These are both great events, and I'd happily recommend coming into town to visit either one. Both on the same weekend... is logistically complicated, I confess. But it will only make the weekend more awesome!

What's going on?

NoShowConf will run all day Saturday and all day Sunday.

NoShow is at the MS-NERD center, adjacent to MIT.

This will be the primary IF hangout zone. We will not have a separate IF track -- it's a cozy conference, not a cluttered one. However, I will be proposing one IF-related talk and I hope you folks will propose more.

Note that NoShow is considerably cheaper than it was last year. (Thanks to Microsoft for providing event space to the Boston tech community.) If you are on a tight budget, you can grab the Game Jam pass, which is even cheaper and includes all the hanging-out and the free lunch. Last year there were IF folks lounging around talking the entire weekend -- don't feel like the presentations are the only reason to attend.

BostonFIG runs all day Saturday.

This is an open-to-the-public indie game expo. It's running at the MIT student center (a fifteen-minute walk from NoShow). Registration is free; they are currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds.

We are organizing an IF table at BostonFIG! (Thanks Clara.) This is still in flux, but we are aiming for a demo space where we can show off IF to the public, demonstrate IF tools, possibly run a workshop. This is what I expect to be doing all Saturday afternoon. Anyone who wants to help with IF outreach is welcome to come by.

The People's Republic IF Demo, Beerfest, and Chowdown.

On Saturday evening (7 pm), we will meet up to eat, drink, and catch up on IF. (Location is still being planned.) We're going to grab function space in a bar or restaurant, and have a screen and projector available.

The idea is that everybody gathers, orders beer and food, and starts talking raucously about everything that's going on. Then, maybe at 8 pm, I wave a giant wooden spoon in the air, shut everybody up, and point at the projector. This is your cue to jump up, plug in, and tell everybody what you've done in IF in the past 12 (or 24) months. For five minutes! Lightning talk, or just a few screenshots, then next person.

Hopefully that will go for 30-ish minutes. Then we go back to drinking and eating and talking raucously until the bar throws us out.

And then back to NoShow for Sunday.

Perhaps this is a bewildering array of event options. (I like to think of it as "feature-rich", or perhaps "Turing-complete".) The capsule summary is:

  • NoShow: Cozy; conversation with IF folks and indie game devs; presentations for small interested groups.
  • BostonFIG: Big, noisy; present IF to the public (gamers, but not necessarily aware of IF).
  • Dinner: Our annual time to catch up on what's going on in the IF world. Also, beer.

And as I said, wandering back and forth between NoShow and FIG is easy.

What does this mean for you, dear blog-post reader?

  • Consult your calendar. (September 14-15, 2013.)
  • Register for NoShow if you want to take part.
  • Register for FIG if you will be in town at all. (Free, no reason not to.)
  • Donate to FIG's Kickstarter if you want to support that event financially.
  • Submit a NoShow talk proposal if you have an idea for one.
  • Email me if you want to show off anything at the IF dinner. Or at the BostonFIG table.
  • If you're planning to attend any part of this, please comment here, email me, or otherwise let me know. (Planning dinner space means coming up with a head-count, eventually.)

I hope to see lots and lots of you, this summer.

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