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the igf judged

i judged the igf this year. it was a frustrating experience. i’m going to try and identify the biggest problems with the igf process and suggest some solutions. that’s if the igf is interesting in actually “rewarding innovation in indie games” (its claim) instead of simply being a press spectacle. the competition seems perfectly happy, at present, being a press spectacle.

discussion

when you, the judge, click on a game in the igf judge’s website, the first thing you see is a field in which to enter your scores for the game. below that is a screenshot of the game, the names of the people who worked on the game, the author’s personal description of the game, and a pile of serial numbers (in the case of commercial games) for judges to play the game. underneath all this, tucked at the very bottom of the web page, are the “judge notes”: the only avenue the igf provides for discussion of a game’s merits and value among judges. note, first of all, that this means a judge can score a game without even seeing what other judges thought of it.

there’s a link at the top of the page to the judge notes, yes. it says, “game doesn’t work? please leave a noe about it before scoring. we’ll check it out!” the judge notes are presented as, AND ARE USED BY MOST JUDGES AS, a way to report technical problems that keep the game from running correctly. this is a valuable function, and it’s important to have this function when fair judging is dependent on games actually working on a judge’s hardware, but the far more important function that these notes should be serving is to allow discussion to take place between judges so that a game’s values, merits and strengths can be assessed, argued, and some kind of consensus among judges can take place. the judge notes section of the site is MISCHARACTERIZED.

what i’d do: put the “judge notes” at the very top of the page, the first thing a judge sees upon clicking on a game. don’t call it “judge notes,” call it DISCUSSION. make it mandatory for a judge to post there at least once before voting. don’t open voting until a week before scores are due. force judges to actually participate in the process. don’t make it easy for them to shirk their duty.

exclusivity

i was assigned, at random, fourteen games entered into the competition to play and score. all the other games, though i was permitted to download them, play them, and leave judge notes (and i’ve explained how effective those are – often mine were the first, sometimes the only, notes on games i wasn’t assigned), i was not allowed to contribute to the score that decides their final standing in the igf. which means that whatever shmuck decided super meat boy is a more amazing and revelatory use of audio than AUDITORIUM i had no way of telling “no, you’re totally incorrect.”

there’s no reason to limit the number of eyes that look at a game. the games that are scoring the highest, in fact, are the ones that should be most scrutinized. and if i find value in a game that would otherwise be ignored by the judges, i should be able to express that value in the game’s overall score, rather than it being stoned to death for having drawn the wrong straw. if i think don’t shit your pants is a valuable piece of satire (certainly at least as much as that game about burning a rope that made finalist last year) or want to point out that, hey, edmund mcmillen (though he is a good friend bless his heart) has ALREADY WON the igf, my only avenue is to leave notes to the mystery judges who were randomly selected to judge those games (and which will probably be ignored).

i understand why judges have games assigned to them at random: so that each game is guaranteed to have at least a few judges look at it, instead of the most well-marketed games getting all the votes. but the ludum dare competition has a similiar system that works a lot better: games are randomly assigned to judges so that each game is guaranteed to have at least a few people play it, but judges are free BEYOND THAT to score any and every game other game in the competition that they play. then again, ludum dare has an advantage in that its judges actually care about the competition and its entries.

categories

igf entries are rated in categories such as: excellence in audio. excellence in visual art. technical excellence. (remember when the categories were “innovation in” rather than “excellence in”? maybe they felt they were being dishonest.) why, as far outside of the big games industry and the enthusiast press as we supposedly are, are we still partitioning games like they do, as though a game’s graphics could be judged seperately from its worth as a whole? this is the independent games festival: are graphics and sound really the areas in which small creative authors and developers have the most to contribute?

true, there’s the “nuovo” award, the latest hasty attempt to patch the igf so that interesting games can actually have a place in a competition that claims to be about innovation (what was last year’s? the introduction of the “excellence in design” award?). why should a special case need to be created just so interesting games can compete on their own terms in a competition that ought to contain only interesting games? suggestion: expand the nuovo award to ten or so finalists. rename it “the igf.”

what if judges scored games in terms of actually being interesting instead of having the coolest graphics or gnarliest music? “how provocative is this game?” “how elegant is its design?” “how effective is it at telling its story?” “how well does it facilitate an experience between the players?” (yes, imagine that! an award exclusively for games for more than one player!) this is supposed to be the INDEPENDENT games festival. we can do this! why not? who are we beholden to?

perspectives

the igf needs more perspectives. NOT more judges – more perspectives. it needs more people who do not share the same mindset. why even have more than one judge if every judge will value the same done-already physics game (joe danger) or bland, polished commercial title (cogs) the highest? why even have a competition?

to the igf’s credit, they asked me to recommend people for judges in the hopes of having a more diverse panel. against their credit, they failed to contact any of them. i recommended people like anne-marie schleiner, artist and activist, charles pratt, game design lecturer at nyu, librarian of their games library, and host of the another castle podcast, and scott nicholson, founder of syracuse university’s library game lab and published board game designer (and if you’re responding that board games have nothing to do with videogames then you’ve missed the point entirely). these are people with both academic backgrounds and design experience – imagine what they’d bring to the independent games festival.

independent games should have value not just to scene nerds, not just to gamers, but to people and players as a whole. why reward games based on how well they pander to their audience’s expectations when we should strive to reward them based on how much they have to contribute to the body and the study of games as a whole? why not? again, to whom are we beholden? what’s keeping us from making richer choices?

unfinished games

recognizing, of course, that many games live well after their first release and are continually added to, refined and readjusted based on the experience of their players. they’re living works. but if you’ve never released your game at all, i don’t think you have a place in the igf. the igf shouldn’t be a place for commercial titles to find publishers or to build their pre-release hype machines. as a judge, i refused to give any unreleased game i played over 75 points out of a hundred (knowing full well as i did that limbo would get in regardless).

the igf is a press event where we trot out our most mainstream creations in an attempt to get the mainstream press excited about them and, by extension, (in theory) about independent games as a whole. i would argue that that doesn’t happen, that the press only gets excited about super meat boy, and that the whole event exists only to serve those developers who are already entrenched in the business / marketing cycle. if the organizers of the igf are content with it being this way, then the only problem is that they’re dishonest about it, and that’s why i was so angry last year.

but my real anger, my frustration with the igf, is that it could be so much more than what it is. a celebration of the diversity of people who make games outside the big industry and outside of the mainstream. confront the people from the offices next door with genuinely interesting, provocative games and ask what’s taking them so long to catch up. we could prove, with the right selection of games, the value of our work for now and ever. but we don’t. if we’re truly independent, why do we settle for mediocrity?

46 comments

  1. Darius K. wrote:

    I noticed you commented on a bunch of games in the judge notes areas. That was really good of you, and I tried to do the same. But usually it was like shouting in a void. I never got responses on anything except technical questions.

    1/7/2010 at 1:54 pm | permalink
  2. Miguel wrote:

    You are making me think about the lack of a relevant board game award.

    1/7/2010 at 2:20 pm | permalink
  3. William wrote:

    Well, I can’t agree with everything you wrote, cause I submitted an early prototype not to win anything but to have feedbacks. And I had some great ones, so I’m glad unfinished games can be submitted to IGF.

    But I totally agree with the lake of Auditorium in the Audio selection, and VVVVVV, and Don’t shit your pants, and so on….

    You talk about “innovation” against “excellence”. This battle, I think, will never have a goood ending. As an indie game developer, sometimes I can make games that “innovate” in some points, but my intention is not always to innovate. Innovation is not the main purpose of my life : I just want to make games. Maybe I’m wrong, or is it the way you wrote it, but you seem to say that innovation should be the only purpose of everybody’s work. Well, I’m not confortable with this sort of “rules”, cause except honesty I don’t see any rule in independance.

    To finish, I don’t have the answer to this question, but don’t you think there’s a way to put innovation AND excellence in the IGF selection ? Or is it already the case ?

    Great article, anyway. It’s good to see that there’s always someone (it could be you, it could be anyone else) in the indie community that will think a little bit different, and maybe start a new discussion between developers.

    1/7/2010 at 2:27 pm | permalink
  4. William wrote:

    Oh, and I apologize for the mistakes in english (lake = lack…).

    1/7/2010 at 2:31 pm | permalink
  5. Charles wrote:

    Excellent post, Anna! I hope someone at the IGF is listening.

    The only point I would disagree with is your objection to different categories. My feeling is that the problem is not with the categories themselves, but the way that they’re judged. It seems to me that they should have their own judging panels.

    For instance, if I were a judge I would consider myself completely unqualified to rate the audio in a game (I’m not an audio engineer), or the graphics (I’m not an artist). I would, however, probably be qualified to judge innovation in design.

    It seems to me that the best practice would be different sets of judges for each category with all judges being able to vote on the Grand Prize along with a panel (perhaps of former winners who are not in the competition) whose votes carry more weight.

    Also, I completely agree about the problem of unfinished games in the IGF. I often tell people that the IGF Awards aren’t so much a competition as they are a grant process.

    1/7/2010 at 2:42 pm | permalink
  6. auntie wrote:

    i don’t mean to suggest that “innovation” is the only valuable goal. it’s a vague and nebulous term, and much of the strongest design builds on the work of earlier designers. but i think, in picking a selection of games to represent what designers working outside the mainstream have to offer, we can do better than to put forth a bunch of games that are conceptually indistinguishable from, say, excite bike, flashback, and that sliding block puzzle that’s in every point-and-click adventure game. we have more interesting ideas to contribute than that.

    and if you’re looking for feedback, william, you can probably get better criticism for ninety-five dollars cheaper by posting on a forum or inviting some developers you respect to play an early version of your game.

    1/7/2010 at 3:55 pm | permalink
  7. Anna, you have some thoughtprovoking perspectives as always, and most importantly, you give a crap about the indie scene. And for that I salute you. Turns out we do, too. So I hope you respect that.

    I do think what you’re talking about here — in many cases — is having all of the IGF become what we tried with the Nuovo Award this year. There was a mailing list where we had a discussion about what the games meant, and meant to us, and then we voted based on that.

    I liked that. It certainly means the IGF is honoring some games it wouldn’t otherwise have, this year. Am a bit disappointing you chose to portray that as a ‘hasty attempt to patch the igf’. Don’t we get any kudos there?

    Will all the IGF go that way in the future? I don’t know. But we’re reading all the comments and the vitriol, and we’re thinking about it. Hurray.

    1/7/2010 at 4:33 pm | permalink
  8. auntie wrote:

    simon, i would love to hear more about what the process was for the nuovo award, since it sounds much closer to what i’d like the competition to be and it certainly produced the most interesting results. what saddens me about the nuovo award is that it should have to be a special case to begin with. if you’re using the nuovo as a kind of test bed for what you’d like to do with the rest of the competition, well, that’s hopeful.

    1/7/2010 at 4:46 pm | permalink
  9. Alan wrote:

    It’s the curse of intelligence to be able to spot potential as clearly as, or more clearly than, the actuality in any system.

    1/7/2010 at 5:37 pm | permalink
  10. fartron wrote:

    >suggestion: expand the nuovo award to ten or so finalists. rename it “the igf.”

    this is quite clearly the thing to do

    1/7/2010 at 5:43 pm | permalink
  11. Mike wrote:

    Makes me want to see a separate festival that’s more in line with the “indie spirit” (not that that is clearly defined!). I’m thinking
    * small (or no) entry fee
    * not run by “Think Services a division of United Business Media LLC a leading global business media company”
    * no prize (I like Ludum Dare’s “Your game is your prize!”)
    * judged by participants or not judged at all
    * no sponsors needing their logos all over it

    I guess game jams are basically that.

    1/7/2010 at 6:13 pm | permalink
  12. that’s an interesting look at the judging process. I generally think that the nominees are pretty good games and worth playing, but you’re right that omissions from the list are rather damning. The nominees seem fine at first (arguably, I suppose), but definitely start to show their cracks when you consider what didn’t make it.

    I think it’s just an unfortunate side effect of any relatively major award that people start to put a lot of stock into things like publicity and marketability and judges come to the table with agendas or at least certain nominees they care about above others.

    1/7/2010 at 7:02 pm | permalink
  13. th15 wrote:

    @Mike: Well, what you’re asking for would be an amateur games festival, not independent games.

    Let’s face it, a lot of nominations (most definitely including my own) are very much for good games done by amateur, starving developers. In the larger scheme of things, we don’t really have much merit beyond doing a lot with very little. That is, I think, the definition of amateur. That doesn’t mean we are… “newb”, it just means that we’re starving to make these things in our bedrooms.

    That doesn’t automatically qualify the work to be noteworthy. The indie scene is important for its ability to do things the commercial industry would never take a chance on. Most of the time this is achieved by being decidedly amateur. However, there are plenty of people that do extremely important games with large budgets. Such as ThatGameCompany.

    I think Anna is right about the lack of focus for the IGF. I still think that the IGF is a wonderful thing and Simon & Co. deserve more recognition for bringing it all together (which is a process more difficult than herding cats). I don’t think anyone really expects IGF to be perfect, some nominations are probably going to be a little off the mark no matter what happens. Expecting the IGF to single-handedly define the future of the indie scene is somewhat unrealistic.

    What the IGF can do however, is have some focus. It does feel a bit like game-maker idol in some ways. Anna does have a very strong point about the nuovo award being what the IGF should be. Hell, even scoring games of traditional game-review categories of graphics-sound-tech-gameplay is already limiting in a very big way. A game that chooses not to have any music (because the silence is a core component of the game) would be jeopardized against nomination in the overall category, and that’s just plain silly.

    1/7/2010 at 7:52 pm | permalink
  14. Matthew wrote:

    “A game that chooses not to have any music (because the silence is a core component of the game) would be jeopardized against nomination in the overall category, and that’s just plain silly.”

    No; overall is not an average of the other scores.

    1/7/2010 at 10:56 pm | permalink
  15. glossolalia wrote:

    i have to wonder if discussion between judges before voting being expected would just bias it in favor of self-signifying “Meaningful” garbage like Tale of Tales.

    they definitely need to chuck the art/music categories, or push them to the back like technical awards at the Oscars. it’s not just an indie/art thing – “casual” gamers/people who have a life outside of videogames don’t process games this way at all either. really embarrassing.

    1/7/2010 at 10:57 pm | permalink
  16. James wrote:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that a lot of the finalists were random this year. Although I can appreciate that the IGF has separate categories, I believe that there were a lot of finalists who didn’t fit the category they were chosen for. The best example would probably have to be Super Meat Boy getting nominated for best audio when there were a ton of games out there that had far more spectacular audio… Auditorium, Melolune, Microsia to name a few. I don’t need the game to have an audio gimmick, but if there’s going to be an audio category at all, the audio should somehow stand out as being exemplary either through unique integration, a knockout score that helped further the game’s story or gameplay, or something about the overall experience that just stays with you. I felt this way about the aforementioned games, I didn’t feel this way about Super Meat Boy.

    1/7/2010 at 11:04 pm | permalink
  17. Dock wrote:

    I disagree with the comment about unfinished games, but they should probably be unfinished in the sense that they don’t have all their levels yet. Considering that IGF judges rarely spend more than 30 minutes with the games they judge, it seems appropriate that developers can submit the first 3 hours of their game, so long as those hours are in a presentable state. Games like Eufloria and Braid were entirely valid in the state they were submitted, but clearly not ready for release.

    I do think it’s a waste of judges time to be playing early, buggy and broken games. Those ought really to be filtered out in an early part of the process.

    1/8/2010 at 1:31 am | permalink
  18. Alex wrote:

    i dont agree with all of your individual points but i fucking hate the IGF and this is negative towards the IGF so ill just say i agree

    1/8/2010 at 6:42 am | permalink
  19. fuzz wrote:

    anna, you do know that space spy was unfinished when you rated it? now it has another level, sound, and an ending.

    1/8/2010 at 8:20 am | permalink
  20. Very interesting article; thanks for shedding light on the judging process.

    There might come a time when we have to set up a separate event that embodies our vision of indie games. My feeling is that people treat the IGF more as a marketing opportunity than anything else.

    We’ve never resolved the central question of making amateur games (and never will) – are we trying to do something interesting creatively, or are we trying to make some money? IGF simply embodies our ambivalence on this topic.

    1/8/2010 at 8:52 am | permalink
  21. Hunty wrote:

    Great article! Some feedbacks:

    I think it’s equally valid to have a judging system with NO communication between the judges as it is to have a system that encourages or requires communication between the judges. I think you’ll get very different results from the two methods, but both of the results will be useful.

    Making it difficult for the judges to communicate with each other means that you won’t have one or two very charismatic judges convincing weaker-willed judges to adopt their opinions.

    I’m glad that you expressed a strong opinion about all the unfinished and unreleased games in IGF. The prevalence of those is, to me, the IGF’s biggest “fuck you” to the independent games community. (A close second is the prevalence of multi-million-dollar-budget games.)

    I also definitely agree that “bestest sound” “bestest graphics” etc., are useless and outdated categories; I had a lot more fun playing “Star Guard” last year than the majority of the super-sexy Xbox 360 games I played.

    Although your suggestions are all good, the IGF will NEVER implement any of them. It would be nice if something came along to compete with it, but without the IGF’s budget nothing else could compete with it. And with the IGF’s budget they would be compelled to justify their budget by pandering to the mainstream and just being a press event and inevitably suffering from all the same problems as the IGF.

    @MIGUEL: What about the Spiel des Jahres? or Hippodice?

    @WILLIAM: TIGSource or another medium-sized game forum is a MUCH better place to get feedback than the IGF. The IGF will only give you one-sentence anonymous feedback, with no way for you to get any sort of clarification or otherwise discuss the feedback. You also won’t have to wait a couple months for feedback, and it’s also free. And, honestly, a 12-year-old forum kid is JUST as qualified as an industry-insider IGF judge to give you feedback. In fact, I’d say that that 12-year-old is MORE qualified, because he represents people who will actually PAY for and PLAY your game, whereas the industry insider has a giant pile of still-shrinkwrapped games he’s gotten for free, and is more interested in games that promote his agenda than in games that are actually fun or something someone would pay for (if selling your game is something you’re interested in).

    1/8/2010 at 9:50 am | permalink
  22. Jupstin wrote:

    Unfortunately, independence and mediocrity have never been mutually exclusive.

    1/8/2010 at 10:13 am | permalink
  23. The IGF is a commercial venture and will continue to suck until this changes.

    1/8/2010 at 10:48 am | permalink
  24. auntie wrote:

    edmund and i were talking and he raised the point that the discussion should probably not be the very first thing a judge sees because it would bias her before she even played the game.

    (i think michael rose has said something similiar, that there should be NO communication between judges because then people might be forced to think about games, which is insane.)

    but we agreed that discussion should be a step on the path to scoring, rather than hidden under a bush.

    1/8/2010 at 12:22 pm | permalink
  25. Strong wrote:

    the more i read about this igf thing the more i want to just start an entirely different competition. the igf at its core is indeed very commercial, and though one could argue that that’s something that’s needed it’d be good if there was some other awards system along with it. we don’t necessarily need to get rid of the igf- it and the other system can coexist.

    but what do i know.

    1/8/2010 at 1:02 pm | permalink
  26. Alec wrote:

    The IGF ends up doing two things:

    (1) showcases a selection of indie games to a large audience

    (2) occasionally picks creators or works that benefit greatly from this exposure

    The two aren’t always compatible. (at least not in the same category) A really obscure artist with a difficult work might not be the best pick for the main IGF categories. If the IGF only picked games that the minority enjoyed, it wouldn’t attract a mainstream audience and therefore would be less effective at both (1) and (2).

    On the other hand, if you started a separate competition that had more specific guidelines and maybe a smaller, more focused or like-minded judging panel, you might end up with a very different selection from the IGF.

    An alternative competition would be a great way to test out other methods of judging and could potentially be a way to promote games that don’t get featured by the IGF. It might never grow to have as much of a “mainstream spotlight” as the IGF does, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    1/8/2010 at 1:16 pm | permalink
  27. Sounds like there are a lot of flaws to the process. It’s unfortunate that something so important to the industry, like independent games, is not handled the best it can be.

    One problem from the sounds of it is a lack of time to judge these things. Looking at the TIGSource forum, it looks like a lot of the negative feedback coming from judges who rushed too much or just weren’t very good at the game in question. When a judge misses information in the readme file, that’s a problem. You also have to deal with contradictory judging (is Eversion a Mario rip-off or an interesting variation?)

    Let’s hope it really improves instead of things remaining the same in the future.

    1/8/2010 at 1:22 pm | permalink
  28. Simon Carless wrote:

    A couple of other IGF judges have commented on the process – I wanted to particularly refer people to Seth Sivak’s comments (which were unprompted by me or anyone else):

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/SethSivak/20100108/4054/Judging_the_IGF.php

    1/8/2010 at 3:50 pm | permalink
  29. Ian Bogost wrote:

    if you’ve never released your game at all, i don’t think you have a place in the igf.

    I see things just the opposite. I’d rather IGF premiere its games for the first time. Film festivals often encourage or even require entries to be unreleased so they can premiere them. It respects the festival and it creates excitement and curiosity.

    With respect to unfinished games, perhaps titles ought to be complete when exhibited, but perhaps not when entered. It’s often useful to make changes based on jury feedback or request. This is also how many film fests do things. Not that we should just mimic them, but there is something to learn.

    1/8/2010 at 3:55 pm | permalink
  30. Vania wrote:

    I agree innovation should have more weight.

    However indie != experimental, maybe there should be a festival just for experimental games…

    1/8/2010 at 4:56 pm | permalink
  31. auntie wrote:

    yes, there’s a difference between an unreleased game and an unfinished game. and a slow year is certainly complete. i’m just wary of the igf being used as a machine to generate pre-relase press. i don’t know to what degree we should aspire to emulate film fests. i think someone already made the parallel to sundance.

    1/8/2010 at 4:58 pm | permalink
  32. Lyx wrote:

    Auntie, as you may be know, there is a difference between “indie” and “underground”…. in almost every category of media. The often painted black-white world of “mainstream/indie” is a fairy tale. Roughly, you at least have three shades of grey: stuff which so far stays quite unknown and which doesn’t do much “evangelism”… then a more polished and “produced” group of people which is THOUSANDS of times larger than said underground and which does a lot of evangelism…. may i remind you about “indie” labels owned by major labels?… and then finally “mainstream”.

    The differences in these shades of grey however are not limited to their degree “popularity”:

    In small rather unknown groups, what you do and what is created plays center stage – “the rest of the world” is elsewhere… there are multiple reasons for this: One is that there is a reason for a group’s obscurity, and that is not just “the others haven’t heard of it yet” (lack of information)… rather, it’s that what you are doing indeed is different enough that it does not match what the majority of people are used to. Additionally, the people themselves also are different enough from the masses, that the “subculture”‘s mindset doesn’t match that of the majority. So, you have people and works which are unusual – because it’s unusual, it is unusual :) This often results in a self-amplifying loop – because the rest of the world is elsewhere, you dont need to care about it – you are free of all the mass-inertia and expectations…. you’re only doing that stuff for yourself and alike minded people, not to win some awards, be famous, earn enough cash to live from it and all that stuff… you’re exclusively doing stuff for your own fun and the fun of alike minded people, not to appeal to external expectations or agendas.

    However, if such a group grows – especially if it grows fast enough – it starts to attract people with an external agenda and it also attracts idiots. Certain ideals get weakened, and people start to think, that they need to preach the groups “ID” to others – you’ve just got missionaries. These are people who think that its not enough to do what you like to do, and share it with people who think the same way – rather, an agenda is created to “spread the word” and recruit more sheep – until (exaggeration) the entire world has been “converted” and been saved from its false beliefs. This is a major shift in intentions – at first, you did stuff for you and people who ALREADY feel like you – but now, its about MAKING others feel like you. This isn’t purely “egoistic”… it also has to do with some sorry souls requiring the “acceptance” of others to feel “justified”. Getting this acceptance cannot be gained alone by “converting others” – it requires at the same time to adapt to those others – or in other words “to be converted to those which you try to appeal”. So, its more of a merger than a one directional movement. And thus, what you get indeed is a merge between the previous “underground” and the now targeted “mainstream” – something in-between both.

    There is however a little problem with this. It doesn’t stop there. The “majority” is again thousands of times larger, than this middleground, and it will continue to absorb it – until what you arrive is something which should seem familiar to you: an original idea got adapted, polished, readjusted, copied, infused, mixed with popular stuff… until what you end up with is “the usual stuff with a slightly different blend”. Enter Mainstream.

    What went wrong? Well, probably a lot, but i’d identify two key mistakes:
    - a shift of intention, from doing what you like to do for people like you…. to a missionary cultural agenda of mutual absorption and conquest. The shift changed from the actual topic, to politics of spreading the topic for the sole sake of spreading the topic (no point!).
    - the misassumption that the reason for your unpopularity is just that others dont know about it yet. It isn’t. The majority simply isn’t like you. Even if we ignore the implication of that (“making them like you” would mean not respecting others choice – enforcement), the point is that to appeal to them at all, you need to become more like them – but if you turn into them, then WHAT the fuck is left there to spread? A Symbol?

    Why am i writing all that, in a blog post about an indie award show? Well, what you call “indie” isn’t what “indie” has become. It has transitioned into the mentioned “middle ground” years ago… and it seems you haven’t fully realized yet, that “your tribe” isn’t like you anymore. This isn’t purely an IGF-thing – it applies most of the “indie-scene” now. If your reaction now is “well, but ‘they’ should be different” then think again about how and why this transition has happened.

    - Lyx

    1/8/2010 at 6:35 pm | permalink
  33. auntie wrote:

    condescend to me more, i like it.

    no, i don’t think that wanting interesting works to have a larger audience implies submission to the whims and agenda of the mainstream. my games are certainly intended to be played, which is why i run them at events (mostly events connected to the games industry, but i take what i can get).

    though you’re right in saying that “indie” has come to mean a lot of different things – which is why i don’t identify myself as an “indie” games developer, by the way. the igf is more interested in “indie” games than it is in what you’d call “underground” games. i don’t know if that will change. but as a judge i was able to observe a bunch of specific problems in the process and offer a bunch of specific criticisms. that can’t hurt, can it?

    1/8/2010 at 7:21 pm | permalink
  34. Lyx wrote:

    I thought a few minutes how to reply, had a lot of explanations in my mind, but in the end, it all came down to the same message:

    I did say what i did say. I did not say what i did not say. In other words: Your interpretation is neither what i wrote not what i meant (and that includes your impression of me thinking low of you. Actually, if that were the case, i wouldn’t have cared to invest the effort of writing my prev post. It also includes that i intentionally put a lot of focus in my post on making clear that the primary problem is NOT the size of the audience but rather the changes in intentions: modification of a topic (i.e. scope) because oneself likes it is one thing – modification simply to increase the audience is another matter).

    To close with a statement, which i (for the first time) actually mean condescending: It would be fair, if you would either invest the effort of thinking about a post before replying(instead of quickly skipping through it), or not reply at all.

    1/8/2010 at 7:38 pm | permalink
  35. auntie wrote:

    sorry. next time try to write to express your ideas clearly rather than to express how highly you think of yourself.

    1/8/2010 at 7:44 pm | permalink
  36. Lyx wrote:

    I’d rather “try” to not express ideas here. After all, what is the point of an interaction which isn’t mutualistic :)

    Good luck with your future projects (and no, i do not mean that in a sarcastic way).

    1/8/2010 at 7:52 pm | permalink
  37. Forgive me in advance if what I’m about to say comes across as too strong.

    I see myself as a person interested in game mechanics, but it feels that the “indie game scene” has moved on to an entirely different level that is wholly beyond my reach. I check the IndieGames Blog and TIGSource and such, and in the last year or so it seems the games being released are intended for an audience I’m not a part of. The games released are trying to be subversive on a level I’ll admit to not totally grasping, and at a certain point I started to think that the games being made weren’t being designed as games, but rather as statements.

    The IGF system, while I can understand the flaws that everyone is saying it has, does seem to rise up games that are more likely to be games than statements–that while I utterly detest rating games by their “graphics” or “sound” I think it’s useful in terms of making sure that it’s not just the extremely innovative but unworkable that make it to the top of the list, but also the solidly constructed but perhaps derivative. I’m not saying that derivative is what we should strive for, but quite often I don’t want a genre to be redefined so much as refined.

    I’m not 100% sure of the IGF’s mission statement and such, but I think the Independent Games Festival supporting the development of different kinds of independently-developed games, rather than just the cutting edge of “games as art”, is entirely appropriate. That the system’s flaws allow this kind of result to occur doesn’t mean those flaws shouldn’t be fixed, but I also want to say that, well, I’m me, and there are other people like me perhaps who feel like the “scene” shouldn’t just be about only the extreme edge of innovation.

    It feels like despite the criticisms you list (which do sound like flaws in the system) that you are also upset about the ‘mainstreaming’ of the IGF, which is something I actually welcome–to an extent.

    1/9/2010 at 11:14 am | permalink
  38. auntie wrote:

    tollmaster, i find value in games that build upon earlier design, “refining” rather than “redefining,” as you put it. i’ve had to point out a few times since posting the above that i think super meat boy is an excellent game, one which i’ve playtested and contributed to no less.

    what i consider to be the real missed opportunity of the igf (partly as a result of the issues i identify above, which are problems that CAN be easily addressed) is the opportunity to present more challenging games to a wider audience. i mean “challenging” not in terms of difficulty, but in terms of confrontationality: games that provoke discussion, challenge assumptions and force their players to become more fluent. and these games are certainly less mainstream, but i don’t think that makes them less approachable for an audience that’s less fluent in design.

    there are plenty of games that come out of the “indie game scene” (and i would never say that the indie game scene is close to encompassing all the people who make games outside of the games industry, by the way) which require their audience to have some formal knowledge of games, some familiarity with or knowledge of platform games in general or even of particular indie games or trends.

    but i think that many of the games that were entered into the igf and i feel lost their place – with the help of a clearly broken judging system – had a lot to say to a wider audience than just “the indie scene,” and i would have liked to see them gain that audience. the igf may always be less “challenging” (or more “mainstream”) than i like, but it doesn’t have to always be broken.

    1/9/2010 at 1:34 pm | permalink
  39. Vania wrote:

    The definition for the categories could definitely be improved.

    These were the categories for scoring:
    Excellence In Design,
    Excellence In Audio,
    Excellence In Visual Art and
    Technical Excellence

    I feel the categories for Design, Audio and Visuals should be split in two, one that rewards quality and polish and another that rewards innovation, because these qualities are almost contradictory.

    1/9/2010 at 6:04 pm | permalink
  40. That’s an interesting point Vania. I suppose that would mollify both sides of the debate. Of course, there’s already the Nuovo award.

    1/9/2010 at 9:57 pm | permalink
  41. paul eres wrote:

    lyx is such a troll, he acts the same way in the tigsource forums. walls of text which belittle others and then acts like he’s doing them a favor by talking to them. :(

    i agree with most of the suggestions in this thread; i proposed some suggestions in the tigsource thread on this topic as well. the main one is that i suggested fewer judges but a longer judging period, with rounds, so that basically all games are played and judged by all judges who can play them. that seems more fair than to rely on randomness and pray the judges you get like your sort of game (or even tend to give games higher scores than the average judge).

    but… i have the fullest confidence that virtually all suggestions will be ignored, and perhaps a minor suggested followed incrementally by way as something to use to say that they’re listening to the community.

    1/10/2010 at 12:43 am | permalink
  42. Randy J. wrote:

    no awards for nyxquest? its a joke, those guys made an awesome game for just being four guys

    1/10/2010 at 9:30 am | permalink
  43. raigan wrote:

    Did you judge last year? Previously you HAD to judge your assigned games but you COULD also judge any other game — but this year it was changed to only the first part.

    So I would assume there was some reason/problem that caused them to remove voluntary judging.. I wrote to say I could judge 20-30 other games I had been playing, but I was told that this year they’re trying out the restricted approach in order to avoid people complaining that judges were picking games they love/hate/know and in doing so making things uneven.

    Anyway I think this year was the best in terms of discussion.. there *was* some! I agree it’s not perfect though.

    p.s – sorry for just now getting to the conversation :)

    2/1/2010 at 7:27 am | permalink
  44. dannyBstyle wrote:

    i’m sorry you feel that way about Super Meat Boy’s audio. i guess i’m not indie enough.

    2/22/2012 at 3:35 pm | permalink
  45. dannyBstyle wrote:

    and fuck me, this is 2 years old. still good to know though.

    2/22/2012 at 3:37 pm | permalink
  46. auntie wrote:

    DUDE, if you want to get weird about something i wrote two years ago, maybe you wanna consider that WHAT I ACTUALLY SAID is that a game like auditorium uses music in a very different way than a game like super meat boy, a way that DARE I SAY is more progressive and interesting than using it as BACKGROUND MUSIC. that’s not really a sleight on you at all! but if you really want my opinion on super meat boy’s music i guess it’s not bad but not interesting either?

    2/22/2012 at 3:42 pm | permalink

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