Letter From The Chairman: Welcome Back For IGF 2012
[Following the announcement of the 2012 Independent Games Festival competition, IGF Chairman Brandon Boyer goes in-depth on the changes made for this year's Festival, examining the ethos for the competition and the shifts in policy and rules for this year's 14th annual IGF experience.]
Well, we made it unscathed through that lucky-13th, and here we are again, back where we started, with the opening of the 14th year of the Independent Games Festival. Last year's festival was a landmark one on a number of levels.
It was the first that folded the IGF Mobile into the main competition, the first where one of the entrants (and the eventual Grand Prize winner) surprised everyone (the developers included!) by selling several hundred thousand copies of their game before judging had even begun, our first with a new two-tier judge and jury system, and, obviously, my first year as chairman.
I learned a lot about the festival and how it operates and how it could better be improved over the past year. So I'm here now to outline some of the changes we'll be implementing this year, as the IGF, its role in the community, and the community itself grows and evolves. But we'll start with one aspect of the festival that we won't be changing:
The IGF will continue to utilize its two-tier judge and jury system.
From the conversations I've had over the past several months, nearly everyone involved -- from the judges and jurors themselves to the individual entrants to those of us organizing the festival -- felt like the change to this system was an incredibly important and positive change.
The two-tier system - with our 150-200 judges recommending games in certain categories, and discipline-specific juries of 8-10 subject matter experts assigned to each award, ensured that all games in the festival got an equal chance at making it into the finalist round.
With more eyes than ever on each entry, and each jurist chosen for their specific professional merits for each category (our list of 2011 jurors is available here), experts were able to make a strong case for any game, whether it gathered an initial popular vote or not.
It also meant that our finalist and winner selection was less of a binary process, and more of a conversation about the deeper merits of the games and their place and legacy in the independent game community. Those intimate conversations were a passionate, productive, valuable look at the pulse of professional indie developers, as you can read in our Nuovo jury comments and Main Competition jury statements, and we're looking forward to those conversations again this year.
As for things we will be changing, we'll start here:
IGF Winner awards will be increasing across nearly all categories.
We increased a few of the finalist number and dollar amounts for IGF 2011, and we're doing so a little more broadly in 2012. The Seumas McNally Grand Prize will now include a $30,000 cash prize, 50% more than previously, and all category winners have been increased to a $3,000 cash prize. All, that is, except for the Nuovo Award, which will remain at the same $5,000 as last year, continuing our increased focus on experimentation and alternate game approaches in the IGF.
The full breakdown of all the awards received by both IGF finalists and IGF category and Grand Prize winners can be seen on our Awards page.
We're taking gradual steps to limit prior finalists from re-entering the same game.
One of my strongest beliefs is that none of us here at the IGF should act as gate-keepers, rejecting developers as they file in to enter their games, for any reason. I believe that's one of the strengths and the best utilizations of our judge and jury system, allowing the community to set its own tone for the outcome of the festival.
That said, we would like to see the games coming into the festival being prepared for the festival, just as it operates in other creative fields. While some IGF finalists have gone on to win IGF awards when entered in a more complete state, we're making an official stance that finalists of IGF 2012 will be discouraged from re-entering their game in 2013.
The idea is to leave those finalist slots (not to mention judge & jury assignments) open for new works. As this is a transitional year, 2011 finalists will not be discouraged from re-entering any games -- we only add that we're all looking forward to seeing new creations each year, and hope that you, the developers, are confident that your game will shine through amongst the other entries. And finally...
We're working on solutions to improve communication on all levels for IGF 2012.
One of my biggest frustrations over-seeing last year's festival and its record 670-plus entries was the sense that once a developer enters a game, they lack information on the progress of the judging. More than a few times I know I told individual entrants that the less they heard, the more that meant that things were actually going well, but I don't think that's the way it should have to be.
So we're intending to implement more updates and status check-ins, for entrants and judges to better communicate about technical issues, missing and broken entries and so on, and to give developers a better sense of where their entry is at in the process after it's been submitted.
Look forward to hearing more about that, as well as some other new aspects of this year's Festival, Awards, and Summit, in coming months. And, as usual, the best of luck to everyone entering their game -- we all look forward to seeing what you've created this year! If you've got any questions or concerns about anything I've listed here, don't hesitate to email me at email@example.com!