The Crying Game: IGF Introduces Narrative Award

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I don’t envy the folk at the IGF, having to somehow encompass a term and field that’s now almost as broad as ‘games’, not to mention the issue of (hopefully) avoiding a Rich Get Richer scenario as was some were concerned might be the case with Fez last year. With the judges currently doing their thing for the 2013 compo even as we speak (and, as one of them, I can attest to the fact that there’s some absolutely brilliant stuff in there: 2013 is going to a HOT year), the Independent Games Festival has made another big change. To whit (I don’t entirely know what ‘to whit’ means, but it sounds so good), introducing an Excellence In Narrative category.

No longer will indie games be defined by graphics, sound, design and McNallyness alone! Now, stories win prizes too.

Expect high plaudits for games that make grown men (John) cry, but more importantly for those that approach storytelling from a fresh, gaming-specific angle rather than simply emotional manipulation and melodrama.

As IGF chairman Brandon Boyer points out, this category has repeatedly been requested by pundits, devs and judges alike, but apparently they’ve declined to bring it about until now because they were keen to “pare the festival down to a few core essentials.”

Apparently it’s the nature of 2013’s crop of games that forced their hand, however. “It was clear that there was something special about this year’s lineup of games in particular that made the absence of a Narrative category especially conspicuous. And so, because so many of our judges have said there are so many games in this year’s festival that they specifically want to recognize for their world and their story, we are giving them an avenue to do so.”

It’s the right call, I think. It would seem to encompass the fact that ‘narrative’ can mean a great deal, so hopefully it won’t end up inadvertently favouring conventional storytelling. Non-linear and non-verbal narratives are arguably more effective for games than straightforward scripts, though I’m probably opening a whole can of story-worms there.

I look forward to seeing what comes out of this new cateogry. And I’ll be submitting my game ‘a little girl lost her puppy and was sad and cried.’ next year. Fame and fortune awaits!


  1. Mad B says:

    That photo is classic..


    • smg77 says:

      I’ve never been happier to see somebody leave office in disgrace.

      • gloriaalbert6 says:

        My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I to

    • iucounu says:

      He was an idiot, but we all know it’s ‘shopped, right? Cool.

      • Unaco says:

        I can tell… from the pixels and sh*t. Also, the image on the back of the book held by the girl and the one held by President Bush are mirrors of each other. So, one of them has been flipped.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The ‘shopped version is the one where he’s holding the book the right way up.

        Also, the moon landing shot JFK.

      • beetle says:

        Can we have done with the ‘GWB was stupid’ meme? He was smart, mean and connected. That’s why he generally got his way.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          And how did he get to rule? By being a bumbling idiot? Doubtful. You don’t get to be president by not playing the game and being a schemer.

        • Xzi says:

          @Stellar Duck the Republicans don’t pick leaders. They pick puppets. That way US policy, foreign and domestic, can be dictated by corporations under the guise of being chosen by the president. Just look at Mitt Romney. Did he ever appear to have opinions or values of his own? Hell no. And he would have done the exact same things that GWB did as president.

          Bush had nappy time in the corner while Cheney and Rove did all the scheming for him.

        • mrtypo says:

          He always abides by that old saying… he er, won’t get fooled again.

        • x1501 says:

          “And how did he get to rule? By being a bumbling idiot? Doubtful.”

          You don’t know much about American politics and their Republican Party, do you?

        • cliffski says:

          you may be interested in this video of george bush debating…

          link to

          I was, anyway :D

        • Unaco says:

          He also thought there were 57 States in the USofA… Oh wait, no… that was the current guy.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            Not sure what you’re trying to argue here. The other guy got something wrong as well at one point so both sides are totally the same?

        • x1501 says:

          The fact that he got reelected in 2004 largely negates your point. And it’s not like the rest of the party is known for its intellectualism. Remember this?

        • MadTinkerer says:

          I am so stupid and lazy that I only just realized how stupid and lazy we Americans are: we elected 2 George Bushes! Oh wow, that means we’re all stupid and lazy! It certainly doesn’t mean that assholes of varying nationalities want to think that most Americans are stupid and Bushes are stupid and therefore cite one “fact” as evidence of the other “fact”.

          Now, yes, technically Alec derailed things by picking an “incendiary” picture for the article. But Bush has been out of office for over four years. Furthermore, the picture itself isn’t really that offensive. It’s only incendiary in retrospect because it provoked a ridiculous article-hijacking thread about OLD POLITICS.

          How about those damn Whigs, eh? Oh man, you’ll never believe what Bill Pitt said the other day: “The errors of Rome are rank idolatry, a subversion of all civil as well as religious liberty, and the utter disgrace of reason and of human nature.” Pfff. Just goes to show how dumb the British are! No I’m not over it yet, and neither should you!

        • Xzi says:

          Yes, politics so old that we’re still footing the bill for them. There are perfectly good reasons why such an image would still be incendiary.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Luckily, the guy who replaced him is way better.

      Oh wait,
      – more wars
      – more debt
      – less freedom

      the narrative has changed, the story remains the same.

      • Brun says:

        Can we please not turn this into a god-damned political debate? Alec’s choice of photo was a poor one, and it really has no place here, just like this discussion.

        • Ultra Superior says:

          It’s a great choice actually. It made me smile.

        • LionsPhil says:

          It has every place here. What belongs here is what the RPS writers want to be here. Alec is an RPS writer. Alec used that image here. Q.E.D.

          • Brun says:

            So three comment pages of irrelevant political discourse belongs in a thread about IGF? Because that’s exactly what that photo is likely to generate.

            This has nothing to do with “journalistic integrity” or “bias,” and everything to do with risking a flame war in the comments section.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Nah, that’s what block is for. Or the mighty banhammer if someone’s a complete tool about it.

          • TCM says:

            IGF discussions always turn into semi-relevant political discourse about the internal politics of the IGF either way, Alec’s just giving things a head start.

          • Ultra Superior says:

            The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘ poly’ meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.

          • Phantoon says:

            To be fair, the IGF is just a different type of politics. One in which you have to be king of the hipsters to win, or something.

          • Brun says:

            So to be elected King of the Hipsters, I guess you have to be the least popular candidate?

          • The Random One says:

            King? Pssht. Monarchy is SOOO 2009.

            SPRIT D’ESCALIER EDIT: “You’re the king? I didn’t vote for you! …so I guess that’s about right.”

  2. MistyMike says:

    Why you hate America RPS? I’M UNSUBSCRIBING!! Limey bastards etc.

    • MarloBrandon says:

      Democracy hating commie terrorists, I’m never coming here again.

    • derbefrier says:

      Americans would never use the word limey unless they are describing how something tastes. I SEE THROUGH YOUR CHARADE!

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        British people taste like bangers. They do NOT taste like lime.

        • Phantoon says:

          I don’t wanna know how you know this.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Honestly, I don’t remember, but the taste lingers on regardless.

        • Lanfranc says:

          A bit of lime seasoning helps a lot, though.

        • The Random One says:

          British people taste like American gangsters?

          • LionsPhil says:


            I mean it’s not like our diets are wildly divergent. I’m sure a connoisseur of longpig could tell the difference, but not necessarily the unsuspecting man on the street.

  3. Citrus says:


    Well, kinda read opening and end..

    “I don’t envy..”
    “Fame and fortune awaits!”

    Good for you Alec Meer. Good for you. You had a dream and you.. TLDF;

  4. Ich Will says:

    Hang on a sec, did I miss something? Last I heard, Fez was an amazing game and everyone loved it, now it is a rich get richer scheme? What happened?

    • Phantoon says:

      “everyone loved it”

      Nope. That was not a thing that happened.

      • The Random One says:

        Everyone loved the idea of Fez about two years before it was released, so technically correct I guess?

    • LionsPhil says:

      IIRC, the issue was that it showed up in multiple IGFs, thus flooding out other games somewhat.

      • elfbarf says:

        That and the game is extremely overrated.

      • Phantoon says:

        Yeah. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was in three times. Not only that, but it WON multiple times.

        Oh, and I’m pretty sure Phil got funding from elsewhere, so he wasn’t truly indie anyways.

        • Saul says:

          He got some government grant money, which does not mean he wasn’t ‘truly indie’, whatever that means. He still had total creative control over the project. And yes, he won IGF awards more than once (in different categories), but that was specifically allowed within the rules, so it’s hardly his fault.

          I’m not saying I’m the guy’s biggest fan, or that Fez is the greatest game, but at least be fair.

          • The Random One says:

            I was under the impression he had gotten money from Microsoft to make Fez a temporary Live exclusive. Now, I don’t think this should automatically exclude him from the ‘indie’ label, but maybe he should not have gotten like ten grand from two separate IGF’s while Amon26 was getting evicted.

  5. The Random One says:

    About freakin’ time. I hope you actually play all the games this time.

    …Are you sure it isn’t ‘to wit’? I thought it meant ‘to add to your intelligence, that is, your wit’.

    • MidoriChaos says:

      It is ‘to wit’, without ‘h’, means something along the lines of ‘That is’ I think, or ‘case in point’. I’ve always found it a bit confusing.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Nobody wants to play all of those games. I mean come on now.

  6. Morlock says:

    “And I’ll be submitting my game ‘a little girl lost her puppy and was sad and cried.’”

    Some grown men are weeping already. Fund it with Kickstarter!

  7. Phantoon says:

    I’m not taking the IGF seriously until Auntie Pixelante thinks it’s okay. I just don’t have the energy to spend worrying about it otherwise, so if she’s satisfied, being one of the most vocal critics, then I will be too.

    • The Random One says:

      I don’t let anyone do my thinking for me, but if I did, she’d probably be the best choice.

  8. lordcooper says:

    In before Freebird Games win it.

  9. Keith Nemitz says:

    When the rules for this year’s competition was announced, I wrote a blog about how the award should be a writing award, as narrative can be generated from graphics, audio, and gameplay. Why would anyone discount writing to be less foundational to games than art and audio? (It’s not necessary for some games, but that’s true for graphics and audio, too.)

    Still, a narrative award is a step in the right direction.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      A grand step or a regular step?

    • Keith Nemitz says:

      You peeps are great! :-)

    • themindstream says:

      Disagree that it should be “writing” instead of “narrative”. Being a visual and interactive medium is vital to the way games can tell stories, whether the writer plans most of it or splits the task between game, level and art designers. Movie awards like the Oscars can get away with “best screenplay” awards because the script writer will include those important visuals in the text, but game writing rarely works that way, AFAIK.

      Common ground example most people will agree on as a benchmark: Portal. Considering text alone you mostly have the character of GlaDOS, who is certainly well written on her own. But it’s the unspoken things in the level design, the cracks in the wall that yield views on the decay of Aperture, the ravings of the Ratman, etc., that set up tension, forshadow conflict, and told the Internet more than it ever wanted to know about cake.

      • Keith Nemitz says:

        That’s a long run of wrong, based on a bad assumption. Writers are as varied as other developers, in the industry and especially as indies. Some have full say in the visuals and sounds of a game. Some don’t. As a whole, what they do is not easy to do well. Which is why so many games are badly written. Which is why we need to recognize the influence of good writing.

        Storytelling is an important aspect of many games. Maybe it deserves an award too, but first recognize the foundations of game development.

  10. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Sounds like they went the right way about it, it’s such an easy subject to get muddled about and cock up.

  11. Deano2099 says:

    I really wish the gaming press would focus less on this. They’re almost entirely irrelevant to the readers as they end up featuring games we can’t play and have no reference point for.

    There’s far too many amazing indie games out there that I can play right now that I really can’t be bothering with stuff about games I’ll be able to play at an indeterminate time in the future.

    (And it’s different for AAA games as they’re generally off-shoots of franchises or known IPs so I at least have some reference point…)