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!