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Watching The Watchmen: The Games Journalism Prizes

'I do', says watchmen supervisor

There isn’t much that honours the strange, dark art of games journalism, and I’m willing to bet that’s primarily because the kernel of excellence and talent is so surrounded by soulless number-giving and rote promotion on one side and ranting, thoughtless poison on the other. In the UK, we do have the Games Media Awards, but while the right prizes admittedly sometimes go to the right people it is essentially about a cult of personality rather than much to do with the writing itself. The new (no capital ‘n’ there, please note) Games Journalism Prizes are an attempt at an independent award for the best writing (as opposed to best/most liked writers) of the year and, unlike the GMAs’ additional status as a multiply-sponsored big earner for organisers Intent Media, these are not a profit-making endeavour. They exist solely to find and pay tribute to the best writing, in multiple fields. Hurrah!

The GJP are orchestrated by Dave Green (BAFTA, formerly NTK), Dan Griliopoulos (roving freelancer, occasionally of this parish) and Keith Stuart (The Guardian, Hookshot), none of whose own work will be eligible. They’ll be corralling a panel of judges picked from the best, brightest and most-knownest of games journalism, including our own Kieron Gillen, Leigh Alexander, Guy Cocker (Gamespot), Rob Fahey (GI.biz/EG/The Times etc), Keza MacDonald (IGN), Helen Lewis (New Statesman), Rick Porter (Games TM), Alex Wiltshire (Edge) and a whole load more. The idea is that no judge will serve on the panel twice, and should not vote for work they have a vested interest in.

It all sounds like very much like a splendid idea – the right people finding and celebrating the best of the medium, and an ever-changing roster of judges ensuring sustained variety. There’s much left to hear about how it’s all going to work, with the first round of prizes themselves not due until 2013 – leaving plenty of time to submit excellent pieces of writing from across the industry to them. Our own John Walker is concerned that games journalists judging games journalists is inherently flawed, as there’s obviously a big risk they might simply vote for their chums or give the cold shoulder to people or publications they consider rivals/plain don’t like, as some fear is already a problem at the GMAs – but as I don’t personally agree that’s likely here given the fine people involved, I’ll leave him to document that more fully elsewhere if he so wishes. The GJP organisers are aware of the concern and are apparently exploring more ways to ensure as level yet broad a playing field as possible – it’s still early days and the panel’s size and nature is not yet fixed, they tell me. I suppose it’s only by actually doing that they can establish whether gentlemen’s agreements, trust and mutual respect will keep this good ship afloat.

Personally speaking, if the GJPs do all they can to keep bias in check without inadvertently ruling out loads of good stuff as a result, I think it’s got strong potential to work out very well and be a good-natured, illuminating affair that genuinely helps to hold strong writing and writers aloft from the teeming mass of reposted press releases and puerile bile. Of course, if awareness of it doesn’t spread far and wide it’s also got the potential to be a pointless circle-jerk, unable to escape the echo chamber, and the UK-centric corner of it specifically. That won’t happen if goodly folk like you, as someone (probably) outside this little industry, can help to steer it ever further afield by submitting recent examples of games journalism that you believe are particularly deserving of (non-monetary) acclaim.

Three categories exist: Criticism and analysis, Investigation and news, Feature and other pieces. The former has apparently seen the most submissions thus far, so don’t forget the other two. Roam far and wide, find strong, inventive, bold, mad, passionate, unique writing and let the GJPs know so that they can indeed be a true and vital celebration of the best of games journalism in all its forms.

Image by QuinnAnya

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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