It’s my own damn fault, I suppose, for commenting on game awards at all yesterday. Over the many years I’ve been in the game industry I’ve participated in endless, often heated, debates about this award and that and what can be done to make each one more respected and perhaps even prestigious. These days I try not to get involved in such arguments, as they are always the same and have little result. Since it seems some folks have gotten the wrong idea about my crack about the Diana Jones Award, however, it seems that I should clarify what I meant.
So one of the many old chestnuts that always come up in awards debates is the idea that there are “too many awards.” Somehow asking people to sit through a 2-hour ceremony once a year so that game designers can get at least some recognition for their work is too much to ask. In recent years the Origins Awards have dropped from 22 or so categories to 12. Somehow this is supposed to make each award be more meaningful or prestigious or something. This now means that there are exactly two roleplaying awards, one for best game and one for everything else. So 32-page adventures have to compete against 400-page campaign settings, for example. This is one of several reasons why Green Ronin declined to participate in the Origins Awards the past two years.
The Diana Jones Award is literally one award and its nominees come from all categories of hobby games. More than that though, the nominees often include other related things that are deemed to exhibit excellence in gaming. Last year, for example, one of the nominees was “the Scandinavian Gaming Community.” This year’s include a game design contest and the legendary Irish convention charity auctions. Recognizing such things is all well and good. Really, who is going to complain about auctions for charity? What strikes me odd about the whole thing though is that these disparate nominees then get judged and one is deemed the winner. How does one define excellence in these situations then? How do you compare the play experience of the Spycraft RPG to money raised for charities? What criteria would you use to decide if a game design contest was better than Perplex City? And that doesn’t even get into the difficulty in comparing an RPG to a boardgame, or a TCG to a miniatures game. Imagine a music contest in which the nominees were a corporate boy band, a death metal band, a punk rock collective, KISS’s stage show, and Keith Richards’ brain surgery. Which one of those is best?
This is what I was thinking yesterday when I was looking over the nominees. “Excellence” in this situation seemed so nebulous as to lose all meaning. Hence my crack about the Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. This in turn led me to wonder if the whole Diana Jones Award was an elaborate mockery of other game industry awards. Apparently, that is not the case.
For those of you playing along at home, it’s only six weeks until you can talk about what a sham the Origins Awards were this year and how such and such product got robbed. Mark your calendars.