2012’s IGF Awards caused not a small amount of consternation behind the scenes. A good deal of this was bad sportsmanship, with developers claiming it was rigged against them in various ways that it absolutely was not. But other issues like games that had already won being re-entered did become a more serious issue. However, even before this year’s awards, IGF bossman Brandon Boyer has said that this shall no longer be allowed, with any finalists disqualified for another go. And he scraps the mobile category. And yet, even now, still bloody well ignores writing.
It really defies my belief that with the dropping of a category, the decision has been to increase the numbers of finalists in each from five to six. Rather than, say, listen to what everyone I spoke to at GDC was screaming for: a category that recognises that games very often include writing. Sadly the mechanically-focused awards continue to be blind to this idea, and once again games like To The Moon will languish in a nomination limbo, where judges put it forward for everything else they can think of rather than the one imaginary category it deserved to win. I know this, because I was a judge, and heard many other judges moaning too.
The mobile category has been dissolved since it’s now considered – quite rightly, I should think – that there’s nothing debilitating about being on a phone or a tablet any more that means you can’t compete against PC or console. That may sound odd at first – what about technical excellence, graphics, etc? Well, in the world of indie it tends to be that limitations generate the most impressive results, and generally something that looks splendid on a phone can be far more appealing than something that looks decent enough on PC. Of course, the comparison is still arguably problematic, but this is an awards ceremony – they’re why God invented problems.
As for the prevention of re-entries, it’s a tough call on all sides. Some were annoyed to see Fez winning a second time. Others were delighted to see an inventive game get recognised. But almost everyone was unsure if it should be that way. It means developers have to think a whole bunch more carefully before entering their projects. At the moment there’s a tendency to fling any old shit at the wall and hope it sticks, knowing they can always come back next year if it doesn’t work out. I’m hoping this might cause a bit less of that. What most don’t see is just what utter rubbish people willingly pay real money to enter – literally title screens, or completely broken tech demos – which even they surely know won’t win anything. Perhaps it will at least encourage the more delusional of such entrants to hold off until they have something approaching a complete game.
There’s also good news for students, with Showcase finalists having their stipend increased from $500 to a far more realistic $1,000 toward their flights, accommodation and cold fizzy beverages.
But no sodding Writing category. I mean, I wrote to them about it and everything. Didn’t get a reply. They really don’t like writing. I’ll try again.