Awards schmawards? What are they for? Who are they for? Why have them at all?
As gamers, we are no different from many other groups in society. We like to put our hobby up on a pedestal, to show it off. We want to give our hobby an aura of importance. It's the same with any sport, craft, or even profession. What better way to do this than some kind of competition in which the winner somehow trandscends the hobby itself.
But unlike sports, we do not have a "home team" to root for. We are allowed to enjoy all games equally. We can own and play all the games that we like.
What good does a handful of award winners do? Do more people buy these games simply because they won awards? I'm sure this is true. But is it a good thing? Yes and no. Awards foster a certain amount of interest, including outside of the gaming world. We see this more and more lately. But should a gamer buy a game--or even adjust his opinion of a game--because of an award. Absolutely not. We now have enough information at our fingertips to make very informed judgements before every purchase.
So who are these people who deem themselves capable of rendering judgement for us all?
Spiel des Jahres: Votes are made by committee. The last 3 years' winners were:
International Gamers Award: Votes are by committee. The last 3 years' winners were:
Deutscher Spiele Preis: Votes are from the industry's stores, magazines, professionals, and game clubs. The last 3 years' winners were:
Nederlandse Spellenprijs: Games are nominated by committee and voted on by the Dutch gaming public. The last 3 years' winners were:
Public vote is better than committee. But who is the public, and what are they going to vote for? The public is everyone--the serious gamer, the average gamer, and even the non-gamer. Why do the non-gamers even get a say? What do they know? It's a bit like taking a vote on the best solution to Fermat's Last Theorem. Low-end gamers are not in a position to appreciate the design of a game.
This is why gateway games should not win awards. They are not representative of good games at all. If I told someone I played Euro-games and they replied, "You mean like Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride," it would take all my willpower not to gag.
That brings me to my ultimate point. What should the criteria be for an award? It should not be the game that sells the most. It should not be the game that the general public likes the most. It should not be the easiest game, or the most accessible, etc.
In business and in sports, there are natural forces at work that make the best people rise to the top. You would not put Little Joey on a professional football team just because gosh darnit he plays his little feet off and is cute as a button in the uniform. Best is best, and while we all have our opinions, we all know good from bad.
We parade clothing on runways that no one will ever buy. We make concept cars that no one will ever drive. Great games are games that show us what games can be--form and function.
Game awards should be for gamers games--people who write and read game blogs, people who are fixtures on BGG, people who own 100's of games, people who spend a significant portion of their lives playing games. They don't have to be heavy games, but I think they would tend to be. They should include game play, physical quality, and even rules quality as part of the criteria. There does not have to be a single winner. Any games that "pass the test" win. As an additional litmus test, I would add the following: If you had to give the same game to all your gamer friends as a gift, what would you choose?
So, for your amusement, I hereby announce "The Ekted Awards". I include games I am waiting on that will likely make my list.