Hello all, the Windhammer competition this year is almost over! My feelings around this are very bittersweet this year, as on the one hand, it makes me sad to not have my name in the pool, but on the other, there's some incredible entries. I've really enjoyed reading all of them.
On the plus side, I'm really happy with how some of my projects are shaping up. I'm depressed at how long it's taking to cook, but I think it'll be worth it once I'm done. More on that in a future post :)
While reading through the Windhammer gamebooks, I've also been working on reviews. This year, I'll be rating each gamebook in five categories as described below. If you submitted an entry, keep an eye out for my reviews after the results are published on the 7th of November.
If not, (either way actually) make sure to get your entries in before the end of the month! As a reminder, to vote you must send your top 3 choices to email@example.com on or before Oct 30. If you vote late, it will not count. If you only send your top 1 or 2 favorites, it will not count. Read them all and submit your top THREE favorites.
Here's the five criteria I'll be using this year for my rating system. Each criteria is worth 5 points, for a total of up to 25 points maximum. I think the highest anyone got last year was 24 (if I remember correctly) and that was for S.J. Bell's wonderful "The Evil Eye." [Edit: Upon checking the records, it looks like I didn't end up doing the numeric reviews last year, because I didn't have time to do it for all of them. But Evil Eye would have gotten 24!]
Ashton's Kickass Gamebook Review System
Opening: This is just a quick response to the initial 3 minutes with the book. Does the opening clearly convey the concept? Does it hook the reader? Does it accurately portray the rest of the book? Is it exciting, colorful or intriguing? In essence, does it make me want to read more?
Flow: All game mechanics fall under this category, most importantly the author's use of player choice to drive the narrative. I consider game mechanics beyond that to be of secondary importance, but they will be noted here if they are outstanding, either in being very additive or very disruptive.
Writing: I'd love to say that it's the story that really matters, but the truth is, half of the story is in the telling. This category covers authorial voice, the use of language to convey mood, the choice of what to include and what to leave out, other writing tricks and techniques, such as foreshadowing and the choice of perspective and tense, and last but not least, the fundamental mechanics of writing.
Story: What's it all about if not to tell a good yarn, eh? This category attempts to look past any flaws (or successes!) in the writing and game categories to the underlying ideas behind the entire thing. Do the characters feel realistic and interesting? Is the setting compelling? How's the plot? Do the events address the theme in a meaningful way? If there's an invigorating twist at the end, it will be acknowledged here.
Secret Sauce: A lot of times there's some special ingredient that just can't be categorized easily. Those things get acknowledged here. Beyond that, this criterion attempts to look past the specifics of the other four categories to look at the piece as a whole. Technique and rigor aside, how does it leave me feeling at the end?