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Submitted for Your Consideration: Changes to ORIGINS Awards

The following is a proposal I intend to submit to GAMA and the Academy for review. Following the widespread dissatisfaction with this year's ORIGINS Award process, I believe rapid, significant change is necessary to rebuild the stature and interest in the Awards that is required to make them meaningful and relevant.

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Your comments are welcome!
-----------------------------------
PROPOSAL TO CHANGE THE ORIGINS AWARDS - DRAFT

Intent:
=======
The intent of this proposal is to focus the ORIGINS Awards toward the games which are produced by the members of GAMA, specifically products that represent the bulk of the products sold by the majority of the
members of GAMA, and to position the ORIGINS Award as the pre-eminent award which could be earned by those products in any venue.

Problems with the Current System:
=================================
1. Awards Not Representative of Best in Class
------------------------------------------
Due to the challenges in working with European and Japanese publishers,
the ORIGINS Awards do not fully represent the extremely active and
diverse publisher communities in either region. As a result, awards in
the Board Game, Card Game and Trading Card Game categories (by any
terminology) often overlook worthy entrants. And, even if the
nominations process was improved, the vast preponderance of voters are
located in North America, meaning that the chance of a product from
either Europe or Japan winning in its category regardless of merit is
essentially nil.

2. Specificity of Game Types
-------------------------
The increasing overlap between the terms used to describe tabletop games
and video/computer/console games makes it hard to differentiate the
ORIGINS Awards from Awards targeting the computer game market.

3. Get Out the Vote drives unduly influence winners
------------------------------------------------
Each year, a handful of publishers make an extraordinary effort to
motivate their consumers to vote on their behalf for ORIGINS Award
consideration. As a result, a number of products have won ORIGINS
Awards despite overwhelming general consensus that they were not the
best products in the categories in question. This effect is especially
pronounced when the publisher in question operates a widely distributed
house-organ such as a magazine or a highly trafficked website.

4. A number of categories are outdated
-----------------------------------
Several ORIGINS Awards are given to product categories which no longer
have any material effect on the financial health of the industry. These
categories slow down the awards presentation, clutter the ballot, and
reduce the overall impact of ORIGINS Award nomination and winning.

5. A number of categories are subordinate to other awards
------------------------------------------------------
A number of the current ORIGINS Award categories are subordinate to more
prestigious awards handled through other venues. Continuing to make
awards in these categories, without realistic hope that the ORIGINS
Award will rise to become the pre-eminent award in that category,
reduces the overall value of the ORIGINS Awards substantially.

Proposed Award Category Revision
================================
The following is a list of the current Award categories, and a proposed
list of new award categories, removing a number of existing categories
and adding three new general recognition award categories.

Current Categories (as of 2003):
--------------------------------
  • Best Abstract Board Game
  • Best Board Game Expansion or Supplement
  • Best Card Game Expansion or Supplement
  • Best Game Aide or Accessory
  • Best Game Periodical
  • Best Game-Related Fiction Long Form
  • Best Game-Related Fiction Short Form
  • Best Graphic Design of a Board Game
  • Best Graphic Design of a Book Format Product
  • Best Graphic Design of a Card Game Or Expansion
  • Best Graphic Fiction
  • Best Historical Board Game
  • Best Historical Figure Miniature Series
  • Best Historical Miniature
  • Best Historical Miniature Rules
  • Best Play-By-Mail Game
  • Best Roleplaying Adventure
  • Best Roleplaying Game
  • Best Roleplaying Supplement
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniature
  • Best Illustration
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Figure Miniature Series
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures Rules
  • Best Trading Card Game
  • Best Traditional Card Game
  • Game of the Year

Proposed Revised List of Categories:
------------------------------------
  • Best Game Periodical
  • Best New Game Aide or Accessory
  • Best New Traditional Board Game
  • Best New Traditional Card Game
  • Best New Tabletop Wargame
  • Best New Tabletop Roleplaying Game
  • Best New Tabletop Roleplaying Supplement
  • Best New Tabletop Roleplaying Adventure
  • Best New Game Requiring Sculpted Miniature Figures
  • Best New Sculpted Miniature Figures Line
  • Best New Individual Sculpted Miniature Figure
  • Best New Trading Card Game
  • Best New Trading Card Game Expansion
  • Artist of the Year
  • Designer of the Year
  • Publisher of the Year
  • Game of the Year

Revisions to Policies & Procedures:
===================================
The following points represent changes to the ORIGINS Award policies and
procedures which are designed to better achieve the objectives of the
Awards in general.

Scope of Awards:
----------------
The ORIGNS Awards will specifically be described as:

"The premiere Award recognizing excellence in the field of tabletop game
publication featuring products distributed in the North American
market."

It is important to note that these are not >game design< awards. They
are product awards, which encompass game design, graphic design,
illustration, editing, marketing, and brand management. As such,
separate recognition for the components of the game products (as per the
current "Art" awards) is not desirable.

Changes to Award Categories:
----------------------------
Many of the current categories represent works eligible for more
prestigious awards in other venues. Several are legacy awards that no
longer represent mainstream unit volume or revenue for most GAMA
members. Others target things sold in game stores which are not games.
And some are subdivisions of categories that already represent small
portions of the general GAMA membership's marketplace.

The list of categories eligible for Award consideration is changed
substantially by this proposal. First, it focuses on the 3 significant
categories of revenue which support the whole industry: RPGs, CCGs and
Miniatures games. Second, it removes legacy categories and categories
with more prestigious awards. Third, it recognizes individual
excellence in the fields of Artist, Designer, and Publisher.

The net effect of these changes should be a much more focused Awards
Ballot and Ceremony, and an increase in the overall prestige value of
the Awards. The Awards will also be more fully representative of the
actual market represented by the GAMA Memebership.

New and Unusual Formats:
------------------------
In the event that a game appears which is both popular, and defines a
new category not covered by the existing ORIGINS Awards categories (i.e.
Diskwars or Magic: the Gathering), the Academy would have the ability
within 2 years of the game's first distribution in the North American
market to award a special "ORIGINS Award for Innovation" to that game to
ensure proper recognition of the achievement.

Selection of Products for the Final Ballot:
-------------------------------------------
Based on market research provided either by GAMA, or gathered by the
Academy in a process acceptable to GAMA, the top 3 best-selling (by unit
volume) products that qualify for each category will be automatically
placed on the Final Ballot.

A Nominations Form will be circulated to the members of the Academy.
The Nominations Form will list all products qualifying for each category
to the best of the Academy's ability to assemble such a list. The list
will not include the marketshare leading products that are automatically
placed on the Final Ballot. The members of the Academy will be allowed
to vote for 3 products in each category. The 3 products with the most
votes in each category will be added to the Final Ballot.

The Academy committee may, at its sole discretion, add one or more
products it deems worthy, but overlooked, to the Final Ballot for each
category.

The Academy Nominations Form will be used to select the Artist, Designer
and Publisher of the Year nominations.

The Academy committee will determine which products are nominated for
Game of the Year. Game of the Year consideration is not limited to
products eligible for the other ORIGINS Award categories.

Publisher Control of Nominations:
---------------------------------
The publisher of a given work may elect to omit that work from the Final
Ballot for any reason and without prejudice. Publishers with products
nominated (or placed) on the Final Ballot will be contacted in a timely
manner prior to the public release of the Final Ballot and asked if they
wish to exercise this privilege. In the event that a publisher
exercises this option, the next product in the natural sequence of
selection for that category would be placed on the Ballot.

Voting Process:
---------------
The winner of the ORIGINS Award will be determined as follows:

Each GAMA Full Voting Member will be permitted to vote, and those votes
will constitute 33% of the total value of the votes.

Each Academy member in good standing will be permitted to vote, and
those votes will constitute 33% of the total value of the votes.

Members of the general public (those who are neither GAMA members nor
Academy members) will be permitted to vote, and those votes will
constitute 33% of the total value of the votes.

In the event of a tie, the Award will be given to both products.

This procedure will tend to minimize the impact of "bloc voting"
engendered by publisher campaigning, and will shift a preponderance of
the vote value to professionals in the industry. Essentially, the
public vote becomes a tiebreaker between the publishers and the gaming
professionals who comprise the Academy itself.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Ryan S. Dancey

Comments

Mark

CreativeMountainGames.com
RyanD said:
Essentially, the public vote becomes a tiebreaker between the publishers and the gaming professionals who comprise the Academy itself.
Why keep the public percentage as high as 33% in that case?
 

JEL

Villager
I honestly don't care much about Origins, but I think it's kind of sad that we can't call our hobby by its name because some kids might think we're talking about a video game.
 
"widely distributed house-organ"?

Oh my. :eek:

Seriously, though, I believe the ENNIES are currently functioning as a fan award (although I've publically suggested some changes in the Meta forum...some time ago...I can't even remeber when),

Anyway! Point is, Mark is right. If this is an industry award, the fan component needn't be so large.

If this make the ORIGINS Awards relevant, great. Because frankly, I could give a rat's behind if something wins an ORIGINS Award. ENNIES mean something to me (even if I do think the nomination, voting, and judging process is cumbersome...but that's another thread).
 

Erik Mona

Villager
Ryan,

I like most of your suggestions, but I would advocate removing the public vote component entirely except for a couple of categories, perhaps including "Game of the Year."

Fads and licensed products tend, in my view, to have an advantage in a system in which most of the voters are unfamiliar with most of the products.

I enjoyed this year's awards, but certain elements of the proceedings made it clear to me that major changes must occur soon for the awards to maintain any sort of relevance whatsoever.

--Erik
 
Fads and licensed products tend, in my view, to have an advantage in a system in which most of the voters are unfamiliar with most of the products.
Your assessment isn't incorrect. However, the unfortunate truth is that I'd trust the fans to have better knowledge of a wide selection of game products than the professionals. The majority of game industry folks just don't read each other's work (although I know this isn't true of you). Most of them will even admit that to you. I myself am getting woefully ignorant on new non-D20 game releases out there. (One of the many reasons I pay more attention to the ENnies more than the Origin Awards.)

Thus, I think the weak link of the Origins Awards process is the closed, Academy members only nomination round.

I like Ryan's proposal a lot. If it has a weakness it's that it depends too much on the folks in the industry. Another way to put it is, if we're going to have a popularity contest, I'd rather be the most popular among game players than the most popular among game designers.

(It is interesting, though, that his proposal, having the top sellers in a category automatically put on the ballot, gives game players some say in the nominees, in a round-about fashion. Very sneaky, Ryan.)

A sadly cynical side comment: Like so many of us in the Industry, I've seen many Origins Award ceremonies come and go--15 of them since I've been involved professionally--and it seems that virtually everyone is dissatisfied with how they work. I applaud Ryan for trying to fix them. More power to him, and I support him. At this point, I'd be happy to see anything new implemented, just to get a change. But as for myself, I've given up trying to think of ways to fix the awards. I spent the first half of my professional career coming up with all the things wrong with the awards, and ways to fix them, and the second half realizing all the reasons why the fixes I thought of wouldn't work and how the system is so inherently flawed that it's not worth trying to fix. (And yes, I say this as someone who's won Origins Awards.) I sincerely congratulate all the winners of the Origins Awards. I've little doubt that a great deal of work and creativity went into each and every product that won an award (I can vouch for Heroclix).

However, I heartily support the ENnies.
 
Last edited:

Coik

Villager
RyanD said:

Selection of Products for the Final Ballot:
-------------------------------------------
Based on market research provided either by GAMA, or gathered by the
Academy in a process acceptable to GAMA, the top 3 best-selling (by unit
volume) products that qualify for each category will be automatically
placed on the Final Ballot.
This I vehemently disagree with. First of all, number of sales is by no means a measure of quality. (Example: Pop music. It outsells just about every other genre and yet is almost universally horrible) And really, weighting it by sales just weights it more towards the big names in the industry...like we need any more of that.
 

Mark

CreativeMountainGames.com
Re: Re: Submitted for Your Consideration: Changes to ORIGINS Awards

Coik said:
First of all, number of sales is by no means a measure of quality.
One could argue that awards are as much about popularity and success as they are about quality.
 

Dread0395

Villager
All,

I know this suggestion won't be widely liked, but it should also be noted that a publisher/creator cannot nominate a product produced or worked on by themselves. This way it removes personal bias from that part of the equation.

As for letting the public vote, I'd say let the public vote count only if the GAMA member vs Publisher votes are within a certain percentage of each other. This way the public still gets a say but only "in an emergency."

Eric Duckworth
neophyte freelancer/ member of the public!
 

BVB

Villager
Do consumers actually pay attention to "award-winner" product labels, or is this just an industry ego-booster sort of designation?

I stopped paying attention to annual awards within my own industry several years back. And I don't really care who wins that sort of title anyway, regardless of the product. "Voted Best!" movie, actor, newspaper writer, children's book, cheese product, car wash, foot fungus remover ... Pheh.

But that's just me. I really don't know how important Origins awards are to this industry, and I'm kinda curious.
 

heirodule

Villager
RyanD said:
Proposed Revised List of Categories:
------------------------------------
* Best New Traditional Board Game
* Best New Tabletop Wargame
* Best New Game Requiring Sculpted Miniature Figures
I frequently hear Warhammer 40K refered to as a "tabletop wargame" since it is played on a tabletop, but not a board.

Is a board game like the new D&D board game a game that "requires sculpted miniature figures" because the playing pieces have been sculpted?

"Traditional Boardgame" sound pretty stuffy and staid, like Clue, or Monopoly. Is A&A a traditional boardgame? Settlers? The Bablyon 5 collectible board game? Is Lord of the Rings? It seemed pretty non-traditional.

When does a d20 game move from being a supplement to being a game? Since they all require the PHB, aren't they all supplements?

Just some questions. Maybe you could keep the titles, but work out more detailed descriptions.
 

buzz

Villager
Me, too!

Excellent work, Ryan. The only thing I might add is a "Critic's Award" voted on by industry professionals only.

The real question is, how do you implement this plan? I can't imagine the companies who are currently "managing" the awards have any interest in change. A certain-company-who-shall-remain-nameless would propbably never see nominations, much less awards, if your plan was put into place.

I was explaining my dissatisfaction with this year's winners to my wife, and the "controversy" over the awards, and she found the idea of said controversy within our geekly little niche hobby pretty hilarious. It's a shame that politics and power plays manage to stink up even our little part of the world.

Thank [deity] for the Ennies and the Indie RPG awards. :)
 

hinj

Villager
Origins award proposal

I agree the Origins Awards as they are currently granted may be a bit out of kilter. However, your proposal does even more to squeeze out traditional (i.e. non-fantasy rpg themed) board games. The current categories are not great (witness Stephenson's Rocket being nominated as a Science Fiction game). However, they do at least allow traditional boardgames a chance. Your proposal reduces the possible categories to one.

I also like your idea about voting, limiting the general public voting weight to prevent undue influence by publishers on their constituents. Giving GAMA and Academy Members such a heavy weight, however, is equally concerning, as GAMA members tend to look at what enriches their bottom line the most, knocking traditional boardgames right out of the arena.

So yes, reform is needed. You're on the right track and have some good ideas. But let's not make the whole thing even more rpg fantasy no board games centric than it already is.
 

Coik

Villager
Re: Re: Re: Submitted for Your Consideration: Changes to ORIGINS Awards

Mark said:


One could argue that awards are as much about popularity and success as they are about quality.
Well, if we're gonna argue that, then we might as well make the argument that it'd be a helluva lot easier to just reduce the awards to a dice off between WotC, White Wolf, SJG, and maybe one or two small to mid sized companies.

That's my main problem with the whole basing it on sales thing...it weights the process so obsenely in the favor of the big companies, and WotC in particular. Frankly, one of the reasons I stopped caring about the Origins awards was that weighting...when five of six nominees in one catagory are all from the same company, it pretty much eliminates any meaning for that award.

I'd do it just be allowing any company (restricting to members of GAMA, if you want, since that seems to be how it's done now anyway) can nominate any one product they have in each catagory. That would prevent trying to win a catagory through volume, and would get each company to put forth the product they think is their best effort in that catagory. It'd still wind up being a glorified popularity contest, but at least they'd all get equal showing.

Originally posted by James Heard
It is a lot easier to identify sales than quality too, you can't argue with sales.
One could say that, in disputing the point in the first place, I'm arguing with sales. :)
 

BiggusGeekus@Work

Community Supporter
Only three of the nominees will be based on sales. The others will presumably be the lower-selling-but-excellent-quality indie stuff.
 

Big_Daddy

Villager
If you're this good at proposing changes, why can't you run your own company?

Let's all give Mr. Ryan a hand for single handly killing Living City, and now taking a shot at Origins Voting too.

"You are now returned to your normally scheduled program...."
 
Last edited:

Coik

Villager
BiggusGeekus@Work said:
Only three of the nominees will be based on sales. The others will presumably be the lower-selling-but-excellent-quality indie stuff.
Right...but my point is, the big namers will already have a billion and one nominations in the awards, pretty much just by virtue of being a big namer. Why hand them three more?
 
Right...but my point is, the big namers will already have a billion and one nominations in the awards, pretty much just by virtue of being a big namer.
Except that in practice, this doesn't happen. If it did, you'd see a lot more nominations for WotC, Games Workshop and White Wolf than you do now. Look at the nominees for this year. If you hunt you can find them, but the big guys in no way dominated the list (one big guy, WizKids, got quite a few but the others are less represented than MUCH smaller companies).


That's (one of the) inherent problems with any awards system in our industry. Company size is so disparate that if you look at the nominees and don't see any of the big names, the awards ring false. If you look at the list and its full of big names, the awards appear unfair. It's lose/lose.
 

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