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What's the point of the IGF Awards anyway?

The Indie Mavens ponder its value

What's the point of the IGF Awards anyway?

The 2016 Independent Games Festival (IGF) has now opened its call for submissions.

It's a notable event in the indie game developer's calender. But it's doubly so this year as it was also announced that the festival has a new chairperson. Brandon Boyer has stepped down to let Kelly Wallick, organiser of the Indie MEGABOOTH, to step up to the position.

The IGF has been questioned in the past for a number of reasons: its judging process, developer-organiser relationships, and choice of award categories. Regardless, it's the biggest representative of independent games and therefore acts as their public face to some extent.

But what do our Indie Mavens think about it? We asked them the following questions to find out:

"Are you interested in taking part in the IGF? Why? Also, do you value having an institution such as the IGF representing indie games?"


Tanya X. Short Creative Director Kitfox Games

The IGF is, in many ways, the greatest game award that exists for any kind of game -- it specifically promotes excellence, innovation, and adds another possible venue for otherwise overlooked games to get recognition.

Most game awards are just pats on the backs for games that were already successful.

However, the IGF serves its purpose best when it gives an early focus to unfinished, unreleased games, because that's when indie games need the most love and have the hardest time gaining traction.

IGF is still the most prestigious showcase an indie game can join.
Tanya Short

And this has become less and less the case, as more and more polished and released games are entered every year.

I was honored to be invited to be on the jury for Design last year, and I can tell you that each judge has their own idea of what constitutes "best design", as if such a thing could ever exist.

I assume the debate rages in every category. But the IGF is still the most prestigious showcase an indie game can join, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it grows under Kelly Wallick's leadership.

Dan Menard CEO Double Stallion

We're certainly interested in taking part in the IGF. It is the highest award for indie games at one of the biggest worldwide developer conferences. It represents validation from a jury of peers that certain games have reached excellence.

It might be time for the IGF to diversify its categories.
Dan Menard

The judging process has had its share of controversies, but I feel it has been effective in choosing games that have moved the industry forward.

As indie games have exploded in scale in recent years, it might be time for the IGF to diversify its categories so that games can be compared more objectively.

It's strange to me that an awesome puzzle game could face an awesome shooter in the "Best Design" category.

As Tanya said, it's important to highlight new and unreleased games. The competitive landscape for indie games is getting more and more fierce though, which explains the quality bar constantly being raised.

Richard Perrin Owner Locked Door Puzzle

I used to be one of the people who pinned their hopes on getting an IGF nod every year and feeling hugely disappointed when I didn't.

Despite efforts by certain groups to paint the IGF as corrupt and cliquey what you see from the inside is completely the opposite.
Richard Perrin

This filled me with suspicion and cynicism about how thorough the judging process really was. Last year I decided to put my money where my mouth was and volunteered to judge instead and I also ended up on the jury for the Nuovo award.

Honestly it really opened my eyes as to how much tireless unpaid unrewarded hard work the judges and jurors of the IGF put into the competition.

Despite efforts by certain groups to paint the IGF as corrupt and cliquey what you see from the inside is completely the opposite.

People from across the whole spectrum of game development are all doing their best to find great games and make sure their creativity is being rewarded. There's a lot of healthy disagreements behind the scenes as people respectfully argue for and against various games. It's all great discussion from passionate people.

I'm really glad the IGF exists and that it's a place where wonderful games can shine regardless of marketing budgets or industry connections. I think you only have to look at the 2015 winners to see exactly that.

Kepa Auwae Business / Design RocketCat Games

Here's what I think about the IGF publicly: UH... UMMM... *beads of sweat just pouring down forehead*. Nah I'm just kidding, I'll destroy my career in this response. It's fine.

Has anyone here been on the Jury versus being a Judge? I thought all the actual decisions of who won went to the Jury, and the Judges were there for ??? (I think they're just there to maybe recommend games for the actual voting that happens after?)

The IGF has been surprising in what it picks as winners, which is also a good thing.
Kepa Auwae

I always thought the "Let's give an award to games that won't be finished in three years" part of the IGF led to some gross things.

You'd get the full and total support of the industry for three years, an unfathomable advantage over other games. Pretty much a millionaire maker for any wide-market-appeal game that managed to get selected, and the start of a game worked on at the beginning of a three year process has to be pretty different at the end.

After letting one last game do the above, the IGF finally put in the rule to make it so a game had to be released within a year in order to be considered for an award. I think I prefer it this way. It seems fairer.

Also, in the past few years the IGF has been surprising in what it picks as winners, which is also a good thing.

With Kelly Wallick being the new chair, I'm wondering what further changes we'll see to the IGF.

Tanya X. Short Creative Director Kitfox Games

Kepa, the judges (the big pool, unless I have the terms backwards, I forget) helps highlight the games that stand out.

In theory, the jury (the small panel) CAN ignore the judge hivemind, but in my admittedly limited experience, it's unusual for that to happen.

It's usually a pretty big factor, in that most members of the jury only flip through the top 20-40 judge-ranked entries in their categories before beginning discussions and making suggestions to the rest of the jury.

Kepa Auwae Business / Design RocketCat Games

I misread Richard's post, he said he was on the Nuovo jury. I'll pretend I didn't see it though, his would make a good rebuttal.

Tanya: Yeah I dunno. I guess I mostly still think of the IGF from before Cart Life won. That's the idea of it I have frozen in my mind.

Jyri Kilpelainen Designer Jyri Kilpelainen

I think it's very important that we have institutes such as IGF.

  • Institutes that value creativity, diversity, and experimenting.
  • Institutes that help people to make their dreams come true.
  • Institutes that push this industry forward by showing that there are also other games than the yearly FPS and sports franchises.

Ian Sundstrom Designer Ian Sundstrom

I definitely value the IGF as an institution bringing exposure to indie games, however, I am likely not entering his year because my current project is too far from completion to be worthwhile.

Last year my entry was another game that was similarly early in development. While the judge’s feedback that I received could have been useful, I received it so many months later that most of the issues they addressed with the build had already been changed or I was already aware of.

So I think it’s probably a good idea to wait until a game has all major features implemented before entering.

In my experience, I would not count too much on judge’s feedback helping you with a work in progress.

Nathan Fouts Founder Mommy's Best Games

If it didn't exist, what would we have to showcase the best of the best of a given year?
Nathan Fouts

I think considering not having the IGF is instrumental here.

If it didn't exist, what would we have to showcase the best of the best of a given year?

IndieCade is very good, but different, in a postive way.

Having an awards show that tries to break things down categorically, is a format a lot of people understand, and it's helpful for the general public and press to have indie games judged this way for them to see what's happening.

Having submitted games and judged in it, it seems for the most part, well run. May the passion continue, under the new leadership.

With an affinity for eccentricity, as well as anything macabre or just plain weird, Chris searches for the games that fly under the radar. If you ask him, anything can be a game. Oh, and a game can be about anything, if you put enough thought into it. So, there.