Today is a pretty light workload, between a reread of Spirit of the Season (in prepping to run it, admittedly well out of season) and some podcasts I need to listen to, so I thought I'd reflect a moment on what some discussions I've had about the ENnies has yielded.
Here's the thing: I think awards are fun! Folks get to be recognized for their hard work, there's the thrill of the competition, and hopefully folks get to turned on to some stuff they otherwise wouldn't have noticed or would have passed up. But the awards need to maintain meaning and relevancy.
Now, I'll be the first one to tell you that the ENnies aren't relevant to everyone, even in our hobby. But I think they're ultimately the sort of thing that's good for any hobby, as long as a few things are kept in mind and continuously improved upon:
Scope/Participation: We have more independent publishers than ever before, thanks in huge part to pdfs. Chances are, if there's a sort of gaming or game setting you're looking for, someone's at least taken a shot at it. We need to look at places like Indie Press Revolution and Your Games Now, stay in contact with those publishers, and through visible presence on the internet, assure them that their creative endeavors will be treated with the respect and consideration they deserve. Keep reaching out to as many publishers as possible! The more competition, the more impressive those nominations are! But to grow participation, outreach is only one part of the equation. Once contacted, these publishers need to have....
Trust In The Process & Judges: I've spoken with several publishers who simply felt that the workload judges had in previous years was not fair either to the respective products and/or judges. With the extended submission period this year, the workload's been quite manageable, but folks need to know that their products are getting a square look, a good read (and ideally re-read), and some actual play time whenever possible. I think judges need to be public (as far as the integrity of the nomination process will allow) with how things are going, their relative workload, and with being a part of the reassurance process. Every publisher needs to know that the judges should realize they are sending off six copies of their labors of love because they feel its worth the time and effort they put into it! Green Ronin, Wizards of the Coast, CRN Games, or some guy who just released his first pdf, the consideration needs to be there for every product. Working with the judges this year, I believe this to be the case, but there is enough hesitation out there that I think it needs to be restated: if you send in a product, as an ENnies judge, I will give that product the best, fairest, most thorough evaluation possible, regardless of history, personality, label, or any other factor. I take the charge seriously.
We also need to ensure the product evaluation process is continually refined to benefit the contestants, giving each product the maximum amount of evaluation time and notice, and ensuring accountability on the part of the judges. But, why should someone send their hard-earned, scarce money to send in a product? This is where we need to work on...
Award Impact: Fact of the matter is, if you go into a lot of brick-and-mortar stores, the name "ENnies" is met with a blank stare. I know this is being worked on by other folks in the ENnies, so I won't go into too much detail here, but the more sales, publicity, and name recognition this award carries, the more sense it'll make for folks to submit, entertainment and bragging rights aside.
So, I'd like to hear suggestions! What else would you do to have the ENnies healthy, active, and a fun boon to the hobby going forward?