Thursday, January 28, 2010

On RPG Awards, the ENnies, and Fans

I saw the press release yesterday on some changes to the ENnies. I'm very pleased that PR Coordinator Tony Law is stepping up his role in the ENnies. I think his diligence and integrity will go a long way towards growing the awards in terms of reputation, and can't wait until next year, when he assumes the role as Business Manager. Among the items discussed in this podcast were the aforementioned personnel moves, a stricter publisher deadline, and a charge for electronic submissions.

-The strict publisher deadline is a welcome change. The judges work too hard to be slammed with "special exceptions" at the tail-end of their evaluation period. Special exceptions smack of favoritism in the first place, and anything that cuts down on that should be welcomed.

-Now, I'm not thrilled with the $5-10 fee for submissions. I understand the arguments for it, but if companies have to donate to be "considered", I think there should be more disclosure. Yes, the awards are expensive. Of course, there is an auction as well to raise money for this event. How much does hosting the ENnies and the awards cost? How much of a shortfall is there from what is made in auction proceeds or from sponsors? A "community" event should be clear and open to the community it is a part of. I think openness can only help, not hinder, donation and participation. Open the books, and let us see that these charges are warranted.

(In the interests of full disclosure before continuing, for those that do not know, I was an ENnies judge for one year. I was re-elected, but resigned before completing my second term. There's enough stuff out there online on it that you can rehash it if you wish, but right now I'm not going to).

Now currently, on the RPG Awards front, there are 3 "main" endeavors: the ENnies, the Origins Awards, and the Indie RPG Awards. (There's also the Diana Jones Award, which is esoteric, secretive, and apparently random enough to be useless to the average gamer). The Indie RPG Awards are somewhat excluding by their nature--nothing wrong with that, it's just a design thing. The Origins Awards used to be more organized, but in recent years have been somewhat poorly organized, with some people unaware of where the awards ceremony was even taking place. By default, almost, the ENnies have become the preeminent awards ceremony. That's not to say that many talented, wonderful people haven't put a lot of hard work into making this the most enjoyable event possible.

I remain convinced that we can do better. I understand the need for the judges, but think that there should be a "6th judge", as it were--the fan vote. Now, the fans already get to pick and vote from the finalists, but the point remains that in a group of 5 people, it doesn't take much personal bias to have a finalist list that misses many of the popular choices. While I think eventually I'd like to figure out a way to make both the nomination and voting process purely fan-based, I think letting "Fan Voting" in the nominations as, say, 1/6th of the vote, would be a great start. But why stop there? It may be too late for this year, but what sort of award do you want in 2011?

I understand that there's the viewpoint that the fans get their say when they elect the judges. That may be true, but whenever you go to a representative democracy, 5 people virtually huddled together for months on end, there's a lot that can go on. I know from experience that you can end up with "well, Company X didn't get nominated, and Company Y was nominated 4 times. Company X is such a good supporter, can we switch them out?" Somewhere along the way, the voter's intent can be lost or hidden.

Making the process as direct, open, and purely democratic as possible can only enhance the award's prestige and reputation. No more dealing with fees to be entered, no more 6 copies of books to an organization and judges overloaded with reading and gaming assignments. No more guessing what goes on behind closed doors. We can do better, and I hope the ENnies does so.


Tony Law said...

Thanks for the support, Zach! While I can't give you all the financial information, I can tell you that, after all monies were collected and spent (this includes what was raised via ebay dream date auctions and auctions at the ENnies ceremony), the ENnies 2009 had a profit of a whopping $12. Of course, this $12 will go towards the ENnies 2010. :)

Tony Law
ENnies Asst. Business Manager/PR Coordinator

Zachary The First said...

Well, at least you were in the black. :)

clash bowley said...

The problem with all popularly elected awards is that it goes to the most popular, not the best. If the function of the ENnies is to reward the most popular with recognition, then the more democratic, the better. On the other hand, the name of the award should be "Most Popular X" not "Best X".

The problem with deciding what is best is that the voters need an informed choice. Unless publishers send out free copies to every voter, the democratic vote is not informed. Limiting it to a small group of judges makes it affordable for publishers to be able to distribute copies to the judges, making the choice informed, and thus with some pretentions of fairly being the best, not just the most popular.

With a small group of judges, though, you get overwork, burnout, and dodgy representation of the people. The election process assures that the most popular and/or vocal segments are represented at the expense of smaller segments.

If I were overhauling the Ennies, and I'm not even a participant, so my feelings are worth bupkus - I would have a group of five judges for each award, selected by lot each year from the population of all gamers rather than being elected. I would also have the judges be anonymous until after the awards are presented.


Zachary The First said...

That's not a horrible idea, clash. The judges definitely have too much on their plate, as is.

Steve said...

I've helped organize publications and design competitions in the technical writing industry over the years, through the Society of Technical Communication, and nobody balked at the idea of an entry fee. I don't understand the hubbub.

The idea of electing judges in different category blocks is a good idea - certainly cuts down on the burnout factor

Zachary The First said...

Leave it to clash in a short comment to trump my whole article. :)

clash bowley said...

At your service, Zach! Articles trumped, blogs clogged, and threads stopped cold - that's-a me!