So Yeah, IGF Nuovo Award Stuff

Ah. I had intended to post this on Monday. And look it’s Wednesday already! How did that happen? I cannot even begin to hazard a guess. Anyway, having announced the finalists for their “Nuovo” (aka innovation) award, which is intended to “honor abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development which advances the medium and the way we think about games”, the IGF jury types have issues a statement, explaining what the $2,500 prize is about, and why the nominees have been, well, nominated. Read the full thing below, along with the list of finalists. This is some really interesting stuff…

“Thanks to everyone who submitted their games to the Independent Games Festival this year, all of whom were in consideration for this award. Our larger body of Main Competition judges nominated nearly 75 games for this year’s Nuovo award, all of which represented an enormous breadth of boundary-pushing ideas, concepts, mechanics and viewpoints.

This year, the Nuovo Jury discussion focused on celebrating games that not only embody a strong authorial voice, but “open the eyes of the audience (and other developers), that provoke discussion… not for the sake of being contrary, but for the sake of expanding the form, of treading on unexplored terrain.”

The jury also felt Nuovo finalists should make the player “feel lost at the beginning because they’ve never experienced such a language before, but then should feel delight when they manage to ‘understand’ it, and feel eager to build on it,” and should “have some obscure magic that transcends analysis and picking apart of individual design choices.”

Keeping these criteria in mind, the discussion focused on the games that were most-recommended by Main Competition judges, as well as our own picks from IGF entrants. We have decided (via online discussion and jury voting) on the following finalists for the 2011 IGF Nuovo Award, each of which will receive All-Access GDC 2011 tickets and the opportunity to exhibit their game in the conference’s IGF Pavilion:


A House in California (Cardboard Computer) As a retro-styled point-and-click adventure, A House in California was praised for taking the mechanics of that classic genre and repurposing them “in strange and touching ways to create a game that’s about stuff that games are rarely about (memory, childhood, generations, and the importance of physical places to all of these things).”

Bohm (Monobanda) Monobanda’s reflective, zen-like tree-growing experience surprised the jury with the “audio/visual follow through” to its straightforward and ambitious concept, with one juror noting how quickly they became “immersed, despite my generally cynical attitude towards games that proclaim poetic beauty.”

Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.) (Copenhagen Game Collective) B.U.T.T.O.N.‘s raucous approach to essentially controller-less play (bar its titular set of buttons) was praised for going “programmatically in the opposite direction” of the wider industry’s take on motion controls like Kinect, Move and the Wii, which “aspire to control and discipline your movement,” and was called “one of the few titles here that potentially introduce a new kind of gameplay instead of adding a new twist to existing forms.”

The Cat and the Coup (Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad) This “documentary” game of the first democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran, told from the vantage point of his cat, was called out both for how “the physics system functions as a broad metaphor for instability,” and its unique mix of “Islamic art and dada collage,” and for perfectly embodying the Nuovo Award’s various “abstract, shortform, authorial, unconventionally fun, meaningful” criteria.

Dinner Date (Stout Games) Stout’s first-person/internal-monologue of a would-be
romantic-encounter was noted not just for being “about something totally untouched by games”, but for being a game that symbiotically manipulates both the protagonist’s subconsciousness and that of the player as well, and was praised for being as much “play as in theater or instrument than it is play as in sports.”

Hazard: The Journey of Life (Demruth) Built on top of the Unreal engine but employing “abstract pseudo vector graphics”, Hazard was said to be a textbook example of a ‘Nuovo’ game for using all the “storming through corridors” conventions of the first person shooter to create a deeper examination of personal philosophy.

Loop Raccord (Nicolai Troshinsky) A ‘video editing game’ involving synchronizing video clips, Loop Raccord was specifically noted for being a work that “would NEVER have been made by a commercial studio,” and for taking on the Nuovo Award’s challenge of “advancing the medium and the way we think about games” by dealing with aspects “more related to fine art than the gaming world.”

Nidhogg (Messhof) Variously praised as “stylish, perverse, incredibly deep, elegant, compelling and joyful”, Messhof’s tug-of-war swordplay was most often called out for its “hip, lo-fi, punk” aesthetic, but more importantly, for “supporting players in expressing themselves in a variety of ways” and “creating a social space and a spectacle through its play.”

Honorable Mentions

There were many titles that were recommended or advocated for by judges and received multiple votes in our final tally, but did not make the Finalist list due to insufficient votes. Nonetheless, we’re happy to mention and recommend these titles as Nuovo ‘honorable mentions’, that those interested in alternative independent games should certainly check out:

Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional Games) A deeply psychological, unique take on the first-person/immersive horror game.

Choice Of Broadsides (Choice Of Games) A Royal Navy text adventure with deep consequences.

Faraway (Steph Thirion) A fantastically stylish, joy-provoking arcade game of
constellation creation.

Feign (Ian Snyder) An “exploration of the metaphysics of virtual space.”

Spy Party (Chris Hecker) Like a Turing-test in reverse, a game of
“acting as artificial intelligence,” and a thrilling one-on-one battle of wits.

Daniel Benmergui, Ian Bogost, Clint Hocking, Rod Humble, Jesper Juul, Frank Lantz, Paolo Pedercini, Jason Rohrer, Justin Smith, Eddo Stern, Tale of Tales, Eric Zimmerman [IGF 2011 Nuovo Jury].”

The Nuovo Award, which was previously won by Jason Rohrer’s acclaimed abstract multiplayer title Between in 2009 and Tuning, the perception-warping platformer from Swedish indie developer Cactus, allows more esoteric ‘art games’ to compete on their own terms alongside longer-form indie titles.

As in 2010, panel of notable game and art world figures — spanning previous Nuovo
award winners and finalists like Ian Bogost, Daniel Benmergui, Justin Smith and Rohrer, Molleindustria’s Paolo Pedercini, Area/Code’s Frank Lantz and more, have decided the finalists (and will decide the winner) for the Nuovo Award in discussion-based, juried form — mirroring similar, artistically important awards in other industries.

All eight Nuovo finalists will exhibit their games at Game Developers Conference 2011 in San Francisco in the IGF Pavilion, and a Nuovo Award winner, alongside a prize of $2,500, will be revealed at the IGF Awards Ceremony on the evening of March 2, 2011.

So “Nuovo”. Pff. Clearly the award should have been called “Weird Shit Done Good Award 2011”. And there’s some deeply interesting material in there, not all of which we have covered, I notice. Still, I think Nidhogg would be getting our vote, eh Quinns?


  1. Skull says:

    Amnesia didn’t make it to the finals, either the games that did are absolutly amazing or this competition is massive crock of shit. Amnesia is the only game mentioned that I have played, so that is the only one I can vouch for, but it really is a high quality game and deffinutly the best survival-horror I have experianced.

    • Vinraith says:

      I suspect that Amnesia didn’t make it because it simply isn’t weird enough.

    • Byth says:

      Yeah, it’s not best it’s “most original”.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      That particular award is meant to reflect general weirdness and innovation, neither of which Amnesia is particularly renowned for. Amnesia’s quality or lack thereof has nothing to do with anything – it’s a first-person game with familiar mechanics, so obviously not original enough to win.

      The post does say as much, you know.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Hmpf, Amnesia IS original and almost made it to the finals. It is not just a good game, it is a very well thought one with almost never seen before twist on the FPS genre and do not use familiar mechanics. Still, the other games mentionned here are a bit heavier concept-wise (Even though I don’t understand the nomination of the tree-art game which is not really original as far as I know. Plenty of zen stuff over there)

  2. Lewie Procter says:

    In Messhof’s own words:

    “No one escapes Nidhogg”

  3. outoffeelinsobad says:

    Is it just me, or is it kind of backwards to have a competition where most of the games aren’t even released or playable?

    Also, I have several other issues with the games that made the list.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      Agree entirely – I find a rather important part of “a game” is that people should be able to play it. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

    • Frank says:

      I was thinking the same thing, but…maybe an innovation award is best given to games that say something new to other developers (not to players). I’ve only played Choice of Broadsides, which didn’t make it even though I thought it was pretty good; and I can’t even play Tuning, the earlier winner. But I think it’s an excellent panel of judges (including a Molleindustria guy), so I don’t see any reason to question its legitimacy.

      Whoever gave Blueberry Garden the IGF grand prize, on the other hand, screwed up. Man, that was buggy on release.

    • Baboonanza says:

      I think a lot of the point of Indie awards is to raise the profile of otherwise obscure games, and for that purpose it’s best to do it before a game is released. This way sites get the games on their radar and when news of the game’s press release is sent out it can say ‘such and such award nominee’. That makes it both more likely to be posted on sites such as RPS and more likely that people will buy it.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      @Baboonanza: Yes sir, I understand sir, but then the game takes years to be released, as in the case of Fez, which I mentioned below, and my interest wanes. I mean, it isn’t like we’re dealing with Valve or Blizzard here; the quality of these games–or just the mechanics even–is not proven to me. Doesn’t that sort of disenfranchise most of the scene? I mean, if the IGF judges say that Nidhogg gets the Coolest Game Ever Award(in so many words), aren’t they sort of deciding for us what we should play before we get the chance to play it? It would be sort of like waiting until the end of the year to see which games get a 90+ rating on Metacritic and just playing those games and nothing else. Except you can’t even play some of the games yet?

      Forgive me if that is not very lucid. I’ve had a bit of espresso this morning.

  4. Inigo says:

    Messhof’s tug-of-war swordplay was most often called out for its “hip, lo-fi, punk” aesthetic, but more importantly, for “supporting players in expressing themselves in a variety of ways” and “creating a social space and a spectacle through its play.”


    • Arathain says:

      Apparently, it’s also good at creating strong emotions. So that’s good.

    • Inigo says:


    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I like your name.

    • Lyndon says:

      You know I don’t know why “‘hip, lo-fi, punk’ aesthetic”, “supporting players in expressing themselves in a variety of ways” and “creating a social space and a spectacle through its play.” needs to be mutually exclusive to “A FUCKING GAME ABOUT FUCKING STABBING PEOPLE IN THE FUCKING FACE WITH FUCKING SWORDS”

      I’m pretty sure it can be both.

  5. Z says:

    Amnesia, the only GAME in the list, didn’t make the cut.

    Lol and be amazed.

  6. fishyjoes says:

    So when are we finally be able to play Nidhogg yourselves? :/

  7. Zhou says:

    The nidhogg is a lie?

  8. nuh uh no way says:

    so damn tired of reading about nidhogg. i just want to PLAY IT already!


  9. hazard says:

    Glad to see I am not the only one who thinks that so many GAMES YOU CAN’T PLAY are up for all of these awards. How long have we been reading about nidhogg… and Spy Party?? Seems like “actually a game regular people can play” should be a rule or something.

    Or maybe am I missing something?

    • Lyndon says:

      I believe the rational is that prize winners can then take their money and polish their games more before release. I guess the most famous example would be Braid which looked comparatively cheap and nasty when it won the IGF but was sexy as hell upon release.

      That said it is intensely lame to give ‘best game’ awards to stuff that’s not even finished. I would prefer it if best game could only be given to actually released software, and perhaps they could create a special “This looks fucking awesome OMG let’s give these guys money so they can knock it out of the park” award for the unreleased stuff.

  10. Sic says:

    This is about the saddest commentary field I’ve ever read. When did RPS turn into YouTube?

    • hazard says:

      Wanting to play games that you constantly read about being super-awesome is sad? :)

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Playing games is totally banal, Hazard. That’s why we’re still waiting for Fez, which has won Like Every Award Ever.

  11. jeremypeel says:

    That medium-pushing criteria is interesting.

    In fact, ‘pushing’ isn’t the right term, as it clearly ousts the progression of genre and form in favour of outright innovation. I choose to see this a sign of indie’s current self-perceived role, in direct opposition to mainstream development. Pulling in the opposite direction.

    Which is cool and all – most of my favourite indies fit the bill of making me “feel lost at the beginning because [I’ve] never experienced such a language before, but then… feel delight when [I] manage to ‘understand’ it, and feel eager to build on it”.

    I also hope, though, that IGF recognise elsewhere that brilliance can be incremental too.

  12. Saul says:

    This is a great list. I have played some Hazard and it’s spectacular. No, it’s not finished yet, but Alex Bruce wouldn’t have been able to make the game without the cash from various prizes. he’s won. Making games is a long and costly endeavour – I think it’s great that these kind of awards exist to help the indies on their way.

    Can’t wait to play Nidhogg.

  13. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Pretty surprised that Amnesia didn’t make it but w/e

    My money is on Nidhogg simply because PCG and RPS have both been jizzing over it for about a month now, but the others all look interesting, especially Hazard (IMO).

  14. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    “… ‘advancing the medium and the way we think about games’ by dealing with aspects ‘more related to fine art than the gaming world.”

    I hope I’m not the only one who thinks that’s absurd. Fine art is fine art and making games more like fine art is a step backwards. Wanting to move closer to the accepted world of fine art is a symptom of the inferiority complex of game developers, who still secretly think their passions are childish and something that needs to be grown out of.

    • Saul says:

      I disagree. Most games ARE childish (in the negative way you’re using the word). There’s nothing wrong with striving for artistic merit. It’s just another way of saying “meaning”. Without it, games are meaningless. Games that are meaningless are a waste of (my) time. Sure, “meaning” is a subjective quality, but it’s my opinion that there’s very little of it in the majority of mainstream games.

    • Lyndon says:

      I agree that the wording is a little cringe worthy but the sentiment is fine. Games can be about anything, play can be about anything. There’s no reason some games shouldn’t embrace “Fine art” subject matter.

      It’s not about taking steps forward or backwards but sideways and outward into new places, messing around with what’s possible. Not everyone needs to pull in the same direction, and there’s no final destination, just endless new spaces to explore in and play.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      @Saul: That’s exactly the point. I am not using childish negatively, they are. And yes, games without meaning are meaningless. Too bad all games have meaning. If you think most games are a waste of time, fair enough. I don’t.

      @Lyndon: Well, yes. In that sense, “fine art” is the subject matter in the broadest sense of the word. It’s a game about editing movie clips, it’s not dealing with any aspects more related to fine art than the gaming world like the quote wants us to believe.

    • Saul says:

      @Lyndon: well said.

      @Malawi: “who still secretly think their passions are childish” – you’re implying that the devs in question think childish is a bad thing. I agree that it doesn’t have to be – playfulness and creativity are marvellous features of children’s thinking, But there’s no reason at all that they can’t be combined with sophisticated “artistic” ideas is all kinds of combinations and permutations.

      In regards to your response to Lyndon: you’re changing the terms of the discussion. Saying that a specific nominee doesn’t fit the definition of “fine art” is a lot different to saying that the stated purpose of the award is absurd.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      @Saul: I’m not just implying. I said this directly.
      Games are artistic on their own terms, not on the terms of the art world. This is the entire point of my initial post. I say moving towards those established forms of art is reactionary and ultimately ignores the strengths unique to video games. I see no value in these new “artistic” games when they have to resort to aesthetics of the past to falsely claim the designation of art.

      Your second paragraph makes no sense at all in relation to my post, I’m afraid. Neither of the things you mention were actually said. I never challenged the definition of fine art in relation to the nominee. The quoted sentence is absurd, not the award itself (at least not directly as a consequence).

    • Baboonanza says:

      It depends on your definition of ‘meaning’ and ‘meaningless’ though. For instance, I generally get very little out of ‘story’ games (Amnesia being a notable exception). For some reason narrative in games just doesn’t have any impact on me in the way that book or film does.

      On the other hand I get a lot out of games with incredible mechanics. I strive for that feeling of euphoria that comes from achieving excellence, be that securing 1st in F1 2010 (I’m shit at it so that is a major achievement :) ), completing a difficult level of Super Meat Boy, or conquering the world in Civ. These games have very little ‘meaning’ in an artistic context other than what I get out of them, but that doesn’t make them a waste of my time. But I then I don’t think that Games and Art are entirely compatible – very few ‘art games’ are games and very few good games are also good art. I think this award is trying to find that small number of games that are both.

      And the ultimate meaningless game is Farmvill.

    • Saul says:

      @Malawi: Okay, I think we’re having slightly different conversations here. I don’t think that “moving towards fine art” means that the nominated games need to be stealing attributes from other artforms, but rather that they should use their own unique attributes to create things that are more “artistic” and meaningful. Perhaps the sentence is a little clumsily written, but that’s what I got from it.

      Certainly games should use what makes them unique to push in this direction (although they can also borrow where appropriate), but being “fine art” is not equal to “copying other art-forms”. From what I’ve seen, the nominated games are all quite original on their own terms, and are not trying to ape other forms.

      In regards to the second para – I guess I misinterpreted what you were saying in this sentence:
      “It’s a game about editing movie clips, it’s not dealing with any aspects more related to fine art than the gaming world like the quote wants us to believe.”

      What are you referring to, there?

    • Mad Hamish says:

      I think the point Malawi is getting at and if it is I agree with him, is that some games considered progressive and artistic are being judged so becasuse of their “art assets” rather than the interactivity that makes them a game and unique from any other art form.
      I mean Mario 3 is art to me, but not for it’s graphics, sound or anything like that.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I was talking about the quote. Everything I said relates to the quote. Also, to clear up definitions a bit: When I say “fine arts” I talk about the historical definition, not “all worthy art in general”. You see, I study art history and seeing this term used outside of it’s narrow definition is very irritating to me.

      @Mad Hamish: That’s the big issue everything comes down to in the end, yes. Judgement that appears to be based on aesthetics more than mechanics. Superficial, in other words.
      This is however far beyond the simplistic scope of the issue I was trying to talk about here, which is that damn meaningless quote as it relates to a certain kind of perceived inferiority that wishes to redeem itself by following a past, already established form of art. Note that I don’t attribute this intention to the developer in question, but to the sentiment implied in the quote.

    • Baboonanza says:

      But mechanics aren’t art. What makes a game art or not should surely be down to what it eveokes in the player, or how it gets across some sort of message, or statement or whatever. Mechanics are a component of that, as are the visual assets, but it’s really about a piece/game becoming more than the some of it’s individual parts isn’t it?

    • Saul says:

      @Malawi: Alright, we’re definitely having two conversations here. You’re quibbling about a definition, I’m trying to make a point about the artistic potential of games, based on what I believe was the intent of the statement in question. Apologies for misinterpreting your original post.

      @Baboonanza: You’re right – assets and mechanics are both integral components of games, but splitting them off and examining each individually is irrelevant to whether or not (or in what way) a game is “art”. The art comes from a confluence of all the elements laid down by the designers and their relationship to and interaction with the audience.

    • jeremypeel says:

      @Saul: Yes. The intention is good, I agree.

      But to address the other conversation, and Malawi’s original point about the use of the term ‘fine art’ – yup, it’s not particularly healthy, and makes me nervous in the same way Dinner Date’s dev did pining for games to be more “literary”. It speaks of the inferiority complex newer art and entertainment mediums tend to end up with, and isn’t restricted to games. But it’s ok, we’ll get over it in time.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      “You’re quibbling about a definition, I’m trying to make a point about the artistic potential of games”.

      You sure are a pompous fool.

    • Saul says:

      @Malawi: Ouch!

      And may I just say: How appropriate – you fight like a cow!

      Merry Xmas.

  15. Tom Camfield says:

    Jim Jim, there’s still a lot of spam hitting the site, and yet we, the users, could help eradicate it if we were given a button to mark comments as spam… is there such a button available?

  16. Jim Rossignol says:

    Don’t worry, we’ve *almost* fixed it. There should be no more spam very soon.

    • adonf says:

      Fixed by removing all comments ?

    • Jim Rossignol says:


      Actually we have a good captcha fix for registration, which should hopefully end the random Chinese crazyspam.

    • Torgen says:

      This statement is sure to rank alongside Han Solo’s “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”

  17. Oozo says:

    Non-Euclidean geometry, fuck yeah!
    Honestly, it’s one of the things that stroke me once again while playing “Amnesia” – this medium is maybe the best we ever had for warping space and perspective dynamically, so why isn’t it used more often?

    “Hazard” looks very interesting indeed, as do most of the games on the list. That we can’t play them (yet) is maybe not a definite thing, I hope…

    Edit: Hey, you can play “Feign”! It might look a bit more like a concept study than a complete game, but it is interesting… even though I certainly miss a mini-map.

  18. noom says:

    “The Cat and the Coup is a documentary game in which you play the cat of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. During the summer of 1953, the CIA engineered a coup to bring about his downfall. As a player, you coax Mossadegh back through significant events of his life by knocking objects off of shelves, scattering his papers, jumping on his lap and scratching him.”

    That is a delightfully odd concept for a game.

    • Torgen says:

      That’s the one that most caught my interest as well.

    • Torgen says:

      Hmm, after visiting the site, I think I like the concept more than the implementation…

  19. Baboonanza says:

    ‘Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.)’

    While I think “one of the few titles here that potentially introduce a new kind of gameplay instead of adding a new twist to existing forms.” is perhaps overstating it slightly, this is a FUCKING GENIUS idea. I can only imagine how fun it would be playing this with a group of (slightly tipsy) mates.


    • bowl of snakes says:

      its apparently out on 360 indie games today for 80 space pennies, cant wait to try this game during a night of beer drinking

  20. radomaj says:

    Guys. An /innovation/ award. I only played the demo of Amnesia (I can’t really play scary games. They scary.), but I’m pretty sure the core of what it’s doing has been done in Penumbra. Sure, Amnesia is more polished and does some new stuff, but it can’t be innovative if most of it’s already been done by the same people.

  21. noobnob says:

    Hazard isn’t out yet, but there’s a UDK showcase demo right here. At least you can say there’s one game in this award category that is somewhat playable.

    • AlephAleph says:

      “A house in California” and “Loop Raccord” are complete and freeware. Go play them.

  22. A-Scale says:

    Games not made for public consumption should be disqualified, lest this turn into even more of a games journalist circle jerk.

  23. Strangineer says: