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The Limits of IGF Judging

January 11th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 4 Comments · Awards, Indie Games

AI War was not nominated for any Independent Game Festival awards. This is does not surprise anyone, even the creator. (Spotted at RPS.)

Chris Park makes some observations about the IGF judging process that echo my own experiences with the indie awards.

IGF winners generally tend to be very short and have a clear and immediate hook. They might be hardcore-ish or casual-ish, but they’re the sort of thing you could immediately pick up and play while walking around a convention hall. Can you imagine trying to pick up and play AI War at a convention hall, let alone really learn what makes it unique?

The judging, from what I can tell, is done on pretty much the same sort of system: a large panel of judges gets a large selection of games each to review, and they play each one for as long as they can to get their impressions. I had an email from one judge on the very last day of judging looking for a link to AI War, since it had temporarily been messed up. This is not meant to be a slight on that judge in any way (everyone has other things going on in their lives), but I think it is indicative of the mindset of the judging in general. If you can’t pick it up and figure out whether a game is worthy in a spare hour or two, it’s probably not worthy.

None of this is an attack on the IGF itself. Like Park, I understand why AI War would not be an easy game to nominate in spite of its ingenious design and innovative approach to artificial intelligence.

But this is the sort of judging approach that gets Blueberry Garden nominated. Indie gaming is probably too big to judge fairly, of course. Hundreds and hundreds of games are entered every year, no judge plays them all, and you have to get through your list of entries in a fixed amount of time. Something as huge and intricate as AI War doesn’t stand a chance.

On the year end podcast, Tom and I talked about streamlined game play in the industry and how it has become the new modus operandi in strategy gaming. To some extent, the IGF plays a role in this. Nominees are almost always games you can immediately understand or appreciate on some level, meaning the game designers who streamline have an advantage in getting the very important IGF seal of approval.

Having not played any of the nominees, I can’t really say that AI War should have been nominated. There’s a good chance that the chosen games are in fact better than Park’s space conquest game. But Park is right to point out that the IGF may not be the best place to judge elaborate games like his – especially if he is telling the truth about a judge waiting until the final day to play it.


4 Comments so far ↓

  • Ian Bowes (spelk)

    What we really need is a strategy game equivalent of the IGF’s. Perhaps the Flashing Steel Awards? :)

  • Chris Park

    I definitely don’t want to attack the IGF, I just want to make clear — I do plan to enter other, more IGF-ish games in the competition in future years. But, I think that perhaps people in general may not fully understand how games are rated and valued for IGF, assuming that IGF is more of a broad sort of contest (when it is, in many respects, not). I would say that the PAX 10 is much closer to being the sort of contest that weights across genres — not that we won a slot there, either, but I felt like the PAX 10 winners were more representative of indies-as-a-creation-method rather than indies-as-a-genre. So it goes, every contest has its own focus, but I think many people misunderstand the focus of IGF — or, at least, for years I myself did.

  • Scott R. Krol

    Indie awards, mainstream awards, high society British Film Academy awards, it doesn’t matter, it all boils down to strategy games are there to be pooped on. POOPED ON!

  • Alan Au

    This would make a good TMA topic…