July 29, 2019

IGF 2020: Letter From the Chairperson

[As the newest Independent Games Festival kicks off, IGF chairperson Kelly Wallick has this update on the state of the competition, the strides made recently, and plans for the upcoming year.]

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a public statement regarding the state of the IGF - but we’re excited to update you on our progress. So I felt this would also be a good time to outline some of the work that’s been done over the last few years behind the scenes.

One of my goals when I took on the Chairperson role was to use my position to better reflect the full scope and diversity of games and content being created in the indie community. The most effective way I have to cultivate this change is through the Judge and Jury selections. These are the folks who spend countless hours playing through hundreds of games and having hours of conversation which determines who the nominees and winners will be each year.

Since ultimately everyone is a reflection of their own experiences, they will tend to identify with content that reflects these experiences (despite our best individual efforts not to!). But, if we ensure there is a variety of knowledge, experiences and people represented in the decision-making processes, then a wider range of content can be understood and played in the appropriate context.

This sounds easy - but most folks in prominent positions are busy and the time commitment is high. Most importantly though, if you belong to any under-represened community and have a high profile, you tend to get tapped for this kind of stuff a lot. I’ve been in that position and it can bring up a lot of complicated feelings.

At first, finding and recruiting the variety of folks I wanted was a struggle. But as the years have gone on we’ve increased our network, created open calls for Jury and Judges (so it’s not just limited to our personal networks), and seen the game industry overall expand to encourage better representation - which gives us a larger pool to choose from.

Once these efforts started to be reflected in the types of games nominated, it then helped to create space for more creators to feel that they had a real opportunity to be recognized. Which in turn increases the variety of content that gets submitted to the festival.

To facilitate this new growth, we’ve established a waiver program which encourages non-traditional games to apply, as well as building a partnership with the the alt.ctrl.GDC showcase to celebrate alternative controller games with an affiliated award (including prize money!). All of this was very intentional and involved a lot of work and support form the GDC team.

Last year’s awards ceremony was a culmination of all of this work and changes we’ve put in place behind the scenes. We had our first award of the night handed from one WOC to another, by our amazing host Meg to the after HOURS Student team. And that was just the start! The variety and representation in the teams and games over the course of the show was incredible. Not to mention the near indie ‘sweep’ of the entire evening, including the Game Developers Choice Awards! I felt so honored to play a part in helping shape and create that opportunity for so many people.

To further facilitate this growth and accessibility, we’re also changing how we give out our prize money for the upcoming IGF.  This time around, every finalist nominated for an official IGF award will be provided with $1,000, regardless of whether they win or not.

Winners will still receive prize money in their categories. Nominated teams also receive complimentary passes and floor space, but my hope is that by providing every team with funds that we can help offset some of the costs and time every team puts into attending GDC and participating in the IGF.

I want to thank and acknowledge all the people who have worked with me on this effort, all of you who have agreed to Judge and Jury and the creators who keep making beautiful games and participating in our yearly celebration of the indie games industry.

If you’re interested in signing up to Judge or Jury the 2020 IGF, keep an eye out for our call for Judges in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in the IGF entry waiver program, check here. You can read more about the overall GDC scholarship programs here (we’ll be updating with 2020 info soon!) And of course, any game can now enter the 2020 IGF! The deadline is September 30th and you can find out more in our official announcement here.

Thank you and I’m looking forward to our 2020 awards!