Rules for the Competition

The IFComp's rules help make sure that entrants, judges, and organizers agree on the purpose, scope, and spirit of the competition. We do our best to keep them simple.

That said, we take them seriously: those who violate a rule once will either be issued a warning or disqualified, at the discretion of the organizers. Those who violate a rule twice will be disqualified.

These rules may be changed as required by the organizers, who will note rule changes on the competition blog. In addition, the organizers have final say in all disputes regarding any ambiguities in the rules listed below.

If you have any questions regarding the rules, please contact the organizers.

For 2022, we have decided to keep the rule change that was explored in 2021 with respect to Judge Rule 4. Judge Rule 4 previously stated that authors could not judge the entries. For 2022 and going forward, authors may additionally participate as judges, but cannot rate their own entries. Thank you to those of you who provided feedback to help us evaluate this rule change.

  1. Judges must base their judgment of each game on at most the first two hours of play. If a judge is still playing a game at the end of a cumulative two hours of playing time and wishes to continue playing it, the judge must rate the game and not change that rating later before continuing play. Authors may write a game of any length they desire, but should keep this rule in mind when determining the length of their entry.

  2. Judges must play and rate at least five games for their ratings to be counted during a given competition year.

  3. Judges may discuss the games during the judging period, but should be careful when doing so in a public forum. Make appropriate allowances to hide spoilers, and don't put spoilers in titles of posts or blog entries. You may freely use the forum set aside for public comp discussion.

  4. Authors may also participate as judges, but may not rate their own entries. Authors’ votes will be tallied as part of the competition results, as well as for the “Miss Congeniality” side contest (where authors vote on one another’s games).

  5. Judges may not rate any game that they played prior to the start of the judging period on September 1. This includes playing that game as a credited beta-tester, or compiling and playing available source code.

  6. Judges are not obligated to replay updated versions of entries they have already downloaded, started to play, or rated. A judge may play and rate an entry's originally submitted version or its most recent update, at their own discretion.

  7. Judges must make a good-faith effort to play, as intended, every game that they submit ratings for. Conversely, a judge who did not or could not make a good-faith effort to play a certain game must not submit a rating for that game. The competition organizers reserve the right to disqualify any ratings that appear to have been submitted under any other circumstances.

See also: Guidelines for judges, and the FAQ section on competition judging.

  1. Entries may not infringe on other works' copyrights. If an entry includes any third-party-created text, images, music, audio content, or work in or from any other medium, use of such work in the entry must either adhere to Fair Use, be licensed by the copyright-holder, or otherwise be permitted under U.S. copyright law.

    We will generally follow the recommendations from the Organization for Transformative Works regarding what is and is not Fair Use. Any work in the public domain can be freely used, as such works are not owned by any third party.

    You may wish to read a more extensive rendering of this rule, written by IFComp's legal counsel. As in all other matters regarding these rules, the competition organizers are the ultimate arbiter for whether an entry that does build upon a copyrighted work meets this rule as intended. If you're not sure whether the entry you have in mind would qualify under this rule, please contact the organizers.

  2. All entries must cost nothing for judges to play. Entries may not request payment in order to play through the game, require the player to view paid advertising, or make similar commercial demands of the player.

    You retain the copyright to any games you enter, and may do whatever you wish with your work after the competition ends. That said, by entering IFComp, you grant the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (IFComp's organizing body) the non-exclusive right to distribute, without limit, all material you submit to the competition.

  3. All entries must be previously unreleased at the opening of judging. By "unreleased", we generally mean that a qualifying entry has never been widely distributed, sold, or made available for public play or download prior to the competition. Note that this rule does not prevent you from having your game privately beta-tested, which is encouraged. It does require you to limit access to testers in some fashion appropriate to the game’s format. This can include password-protecting an online game, distributing a downloadable game to a limited pool of people, and so on. Publicly shared source code does not count as a release. The competition considers translations of previously-released works into another written language as new works. Therefore, this rule does not disqualify such translations from entry.

    If you are unsure whether your game meets this rule, please ask the organizers.

  4. Authors may not encourage competition judges to violate the rules that pertain to them (as listed above). This includes, but is not limited to, the rule requiring judges to cast all ratings in good faith.

    In other words: while you are free to talk about your entries in public, please avoid suggesting to judges, directly or indirectly, how they ought to fill out their ballots. Competition voting rules and guidelines already instruct judges to rate entries according to their own tastes and principles, based on their individual experiences with the works. Please do not ask them to act in any other way.

  5. Authors may enter at most three games per competition year.

See also: Guidelines for authors, and the FAQ section on competition entry.

  1. Anyone who impersonates a contest official in any capacity related to the contest will be immediately disqualified and will be banned permanently from future involvement in the competition.

  2. The Interactive Fiction Competition strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment to IF creators and players of every kind. Participants who personally harass other participants may have their votes or entries disqualified from the competition, and may also be banned from further participation in the IFComp, at the organizers' discretion.

    Please contact the competition organizers with any questions or concerns regarding this rule.