Additionally, fkficfest/fkficfest still has Archive of Our Own (AO3) invitations available for members. If you'd like one, please ask. If you archive your FKFicFest story there, please consider affiliating it with the collection (2010_FKFicFest, 2011_FKFicFest).
Reflections on the 2011 FKFicFest Game
My personal participation in this year's game totes up one story, five (six?) beta-readings, eight drabbles, and moderator/administrative activities. LJ's technical difficulties were an enflamed thorn in my side throughout the second week. Still, overall, as both a moderator and a player, I think things went fairly well. I fervently hope everyone had fun!
Obviously, however, things could have gone even better. People could have had even more fun. How? I've been giving this a lot of thought. Please note that these are initial personal meditations, not formal ficathon plans.
LJ's Downtime / Multiple PlatformsNo one could have predicted LJ falling to DDoS attacks for half of the ficathon. Luckily, we did have DW. However, under half of the stories posted to DW, limiting that salvage. This year, worried about isolating players on one venue or the other, I tried to direct comments to just one copy of each story, hoping to maximize player interaction and conversation. Next year, perhaps, we'll instead encourage anyone who wishes to post on both platforms to do so; that may cost some precious interaction, but it would help defend against such disastrous downtime.
Alternatively, we could use both LJ and DW as admin-only venues, and move all the fiction activity to the AO3. The capacity exists. It boasts some advantages. But consolidating on any one site risks being taken out by problems on that site, and the AO3 is no more invincible than any other venue.
I remain reluctant to have stories posting outside the community while the ficathon is on, fragmenting the focus. I long for people choosing to point their friends to the community itself, where they can bump into other stories, and we can all share conversation.
Making MatchesYour mods do their very best to make matches that both writer and reader will enjoy!
That said, matching is not easy. With so many compatibility criteria to consider, ranking is necessary. In 2010, the tipping-point goal was that the requester would enjoy reading the story produced. In 2011, it was that the writer would enjoy writing the prompt received. In retrospect, of course, some matches in both years should have been different. No question. The better I get to know everyone in the community, the more I learn about why some writers didn't end up clicking with their prompts, and some readers with their stories.
Was one approach overall more successful than the other? Here are the hard stats: We had one default for health reasons in 2011, compared to three player withdrawals for unknown reasons in 2010. We had fewer late players (as a percentage of total players) in 2011 than in 2010. On the soft side... I had the impression that matches were either exhilarating or disappointing in 2011, while 2010 saw a lot of middle ground.
Deadlines and Game FormatsAn exchange format necessitates a deadline at the start of the game. That's the only way to establish the need for and secure pinch-hitters. However, in a challenge or prompt-claiming format, the deadline can be the end of the game (post any time between the start and the cut-off). I'm wondering whether some other deadline style, perhaps a phased deadline, would help some players. On the other hand, perhaps some approaches remain the same no matter when the deadline is set.
I've observed that participation is usually higher in exchange games. People often drop out of prompt-claiming games (I did myself, once) as they feel less obligated. Challenge-style games (all writers using the same prompt) seem to have their drop-out rate between the other two, but it's hard to say; I've seen few in journaling venues.
Some games have readers vote for favorites in various ways, and that often seems to boost participation by both writers and readers. There's the "last writer standing" (aka "Survivor") format, which works with tiny stories or poems; every writer produces a new piece every week, readers vote every week, and the least popular writer is eliminated every week. Then there is the "team" format, where the writers are divided in half to two themed teams during the matching process; readers vote on how much they enjoy each story; the individual story results are never revealed (no one should be made to feel bad), but one team or the other is declared the overall winner in the end. Is there anything to take from either of those? We may be too small for such mechanisms, but we could have some sort of polling if that would add fun. Maybe elect stories to various categories? Funniest, darkest, sexiest, most like an episode, most innovative...?
TimingPlayers voted overwhelmingly for holding the game in summer. However, summer is wide, and the game ended up overlapping — off the top of my head — two away-from-keyboard player vacations, three conventions, and one major work deadline. I'm wondering whether the end of July is a horrible time for a ficathon! For next year, I will at least know to ask about convention dates.
I'm also pondering whether two stories per day is too much, and whether one story per day would be better. On the up side, more people could, if they chose, keep up with one story per day, and we would have that many more days of FK celebration. On the down side, people who select stories based on ratings or other limiting factors would face many days with nothing to their taste, and perhaps spreading out the celebration would dilute the experience. It's hard to say whether people would participate more or less with a thinner layer of stories over more days.
FrettingI fret that the enthusiasm and creativity in our sleepy, long-canceled fandom is a fragile, limited — though renewable! — resource. I worry that mishandling it could accidentally snuff it out.
In the poll, I was the only one to vote for "every other year;" I picked that option because I am concerned that playing too often could sap instead of nourish our precious enthusiasm. Is annual too often? Or is there some other misstep that could have been prevented? There were not only fewer players this year, but fewer replies to stories in proportions beyond the decrease in players. (Please understand that I am not criticizing anyone for not playing, reading or commenting! I am instead trying to discover how to make things more inviting, more encouraging, more fun for all.)
I know that many different opinions exist about how to keep the flame of enthusiasm burning. Some stake out camps at the opposite pole, proposing that very frequent games are the route to success, that annual is not nearly often enough to keep imaginations alight. They could well be correct.
But... there are few enough of us as it is, so... I worry.
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