IFDB, the Interactive Fiction Database, is a web service which collects information about published IF. IFDB was created by Mike Roberts; he continues to maintain it for the benefit of the IF community. All information stored on IFDB is contributed and edited by IF community members.
Since its launch in 2007, IFDB has become an indispensible resource for the community.
In 2017, IFTF undertook a survey of IFDB users. We wanted to examine whether the service was meeting everyone’s needs and expectations. We did this as friends of IFDB. Mike Roberts did not commission this survey, and he has not committed to any particular work based on the results. The information here was collected, and is provided, purely as an overview of community interest and opinion.
The 2017 survey of IFDB users elicited feedback regarding their personal use of the website, their opinions about the efficacy of its features, and their suggestions for its improvement. Analysis of the results gives us a snapshot of user experience. Respondents concerns and suggestions can be loosely categorized by their relevance to the different (though overlapping) user groups: authors, players, reviewers, and the community as a whole. In this report I will give a general summary of the compiled results, based on the most frequent responses received across the survey, rather than summarizing the replies to each individual question.
Please note that some of the suggestions offered in this survey lie within IFDB’s current mission; others fall outside. They do, however, point out issues of broader concern that either IFDB or the IFTF board may want to address.
In their reflections on the value of the IFDB, the most frequent response was gratitude for its continuing existence and a strong desire for it to continue indefinitely into the future, providing its current functionality. IFDB is viewed by many as an emotional as well as a practical center for the IF community, preserving culture and identity along with our collective body of work.
Most of the suggestions that can understood to pertain to IF community building relate to curation and communication. The most frequent curation-type response was to ask for a more visible and active curator, to fix broken links, to cull the collection to remove incomplete or missing games, to remove malicious information flagged by users, and to more immediately ban trolls. In the interest of general security generally, the desire for a https secure connection was also frequently mentioned.
Responses related to communication involved asking for improved channels of information flow. Examples suggested included a guide for beginners on how to use the site, a messaging system, a conversation space, and a system for receiving email notices of new reviews and game listings. A few respondents asked for a newsfeed, and updating content related to IF in the headlines, listings of new books about IF, game design, IF utilities resources, conferences and the like.
Respondents who expressed the desire for site integration with other social media were more likely to want the site design to be modernized in general. The number of years of involvement in the IF community was a reasonable predictor of whether respondents were “traditionalists” or “modernizers.” The longest-involved respondents want improvements in curation and communication, but don’t see the need to make IFDB different in its essential mission and functionality. The “modernizers” who are relatively newer to IF, want IFDB to look and feel more like other indie game sharing sites, to include more kinds of games, and to become mobile-friendly.
The immense value of IFDB to IF authors individually and collectively was reflected in the survey responses pertaining to the game listings. Many people stated that the inclusion of their games in IFDB is a service that is very significant and personally valuable to them. Most specific suggestions for improving the game listings relate to the editing process.
The most frequently listed need was for an easier method for revising or replacing old listings, games and metadata. Many people asked for additional fields in the listings, though what they wanted included differed. These included fields for screenshots, time to completion, links to external reviews and walkthroughs, and specific author requests (e.g. for transcripts).
Respondents who commented on the way that IFDB deals with reviews were both readers and reviewers. Consumers of reviews were interested in improved search function, particularly in being able to see all the reviews of a certain reviewer, or all the newest reviews, and to be able to read them in their entirely on a single page, rather than seeing only a first line. They asked for removal of trolling reviews, or a way to filter out offensive content.
There were a few suggestions for changes in the rating system: a change from “votes” to “likes,” an out of 10 system, or an average rating based on Bayesian methods, which helps to sort up/down ratings. Respondents who were also reviewers requested a way to check their rank, and the ability to leave comments on games that didn’t constitute a full review.
Based on the survey results it seems that users of IFDB find the site more useful for locating information about games and authors they already know about, rather than finding new games to play.
Correspondingly, the majority of suggestions made from the point of view of the player, had to do with improving the search function on the site, so that they could use it to find new games tailored to their interests. Specifically, respondents said that they wanted to be able to search the database by platform, by genre (or by not-a-genre), by submission date, by themes, by moods, by author (including authors’ pseudonyms), by rating, by language, by similarity to other games, by games chosen by similar users, liked by a certain reviewer, downloaded or played a certain number of times. The central issue seems to be that they want to know without playing a game whether it is the kind of game they would like to play. The search criterion mentioned most often was a filter that would exclude from view (either) parser-based or non-parser-based work in the search.
A total of 88 user responses were submitted.
When did you first play interactive fiction?
|14||Less than five years ago|
|8||Less than ten years ago|
|17||Less than twenty years ago|
|44||Less than forty years ago|
|5||I was there at the beginning, kiddo, let me tell you|
How often do you consult IFDB?
|25||A few times a year|
Have you rated games on IFDB? If so, how many?
|26||Nope, never did that|
|34||Yes, a few|
|15||Yes, too many to count|
Have you contributed reviews to IFDB? If so, how many?
|25||Yes, a few|
|4||Yes, too many to count|
Have you contributed game information to IFDB?
|22||Only for my own games|
|20||For a few games I know about|
|3||For lots of games I know about|
|4||For lots of games, because I was describing a
competition or other IF game collection
How do you typically use IFDB? (check all that apply:)
|18||Contributing bibliographic information about games|
|28||Contributing my opinions on games|
|40||Finding bibliographic information about games|
|22||Finding general information about the field of IF|
|65||Finding links to game files|
|12||Organizing existing IFDB information|
|57||Searching for community opinion on games|
|61||Searching for new games to play|
The following questions allowed free text input. User responses are grouped and summarized here.
|1||IFDB’ing myself for the url to my games|
|1||It is vitally important to me as a way to point people to all of my IF at once.|
|3||Keeping track of games I have played and want to play|
|1||Organizing and curating the collection of games that I’ve played|
|1||Polls. Playing games (needs a play online link).|
|1||RSS Feed to learn what’s going on|
|1||Referring students & ifmud newcomers|
|1||Uploading my own games and checking community opinion on them|
|1||Use it as an encyclopedia of IF along with ifarchive etc.|
|1||Voting the games I play|
|1||Uploading my own games|
|1||Not a lot|
What improvements or new features would you like to see on IFDB?
|36||Did not answer|
|2||Speed it Up|
|3||Improve Rating System|
|4||Integrate with other Sites/Services|
|5||More Active Curation|
|8||Better tools for Mobile Users|
|10||Modernize Visual Design/UI|
|1||Please Don’t Modernize Visual Design|
|10||Improve Communication/Create Community|
|15||Improve Listings (Content 9/Editing 6)|
What is the single most important thing IFDB needs?
|37||Did not answer|
|4||Needs to Continue to Exist|
|1||Foreign Language Content|
|1||Guidance for Newcomers|
|2||Ease of Editing|
|2||Ease of Playing Listed Games|
|3||Content for Mobile Users|
|7||Improved User Interface|
What single thing is IFDB most useful for?
|23||Did not answer|
|2||The Home Page|
|2||Helpful to Game Authors|
|14||The Collection Itself|
Keep in mind that IFDB is not an IFTF service. We have provided Mike Roberts with a copy of the survey results, but he doesn’t work for us. Therefore, this section will focus on steps that the user community could take to improve IFDB from the grassroots level. If IFTF can take a role in coordinating this work, we are happy to do that.
The clearest option, albeit a high-effort one, is ongoing curation of the database. Community members could spend more time adding data, curating tags, and checking for errors.
Another possibility which stands out is an “beginner’s guide to IFDB” document. People have requested better documentation on search, the tagging system, and other IFDB features.
Beyond that, we applaud the continued health and utility of IFDB, and we hope it continues to grow as the IF community does.