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  • Writer's pictureJohn Dodd

Uk Games Expo: How the Judging is done.

Every year, we get asked what the product would have to be to win the awards, what are we looking for, what do we judge things based on, and no matter what the question or how it’s phrased, it comes down to a single question, asked throughout the ages.

How can we win…?

For those wondering how the awards are scored, each judge has to put every entry in order of their preference. This is done via a closed link, the number of points given depends on the number of entries into a category. If there are 12 entries, the first place gets 12 points, the second gets ten, all the way down to the last, which scores no points. All Judges have to put every entry into the table, and the scores are automatically totalled. The head Judge ensures that all awards have been entered on the table and then shortlists the totals when the time comes.

The two teams that judge the Expo RPG awards come from varied backgrounds, they are split across the whole spectrum of gamer ages and genders, half are women, half are men, a few are aged 50+, a few are under 20, and the rest in the 20-50 age range. Some are industry veterans, some have barely started the journey into roleplaying. The only thing that all of them have in common is that none of them work for the products that are submitted, or receive payments of any sort from the companies that put the entries in.

For the veterans, this isn’t always possible, so on occasion, this has meant that they have had to step back from judging a particular category. It also means that all the judges aren't allowed to tell the world that they’re one of the judges. We don’t put out a list of the things we like to play, what games we’ve enjoyed in the past, or what we’ve been looking forwards to, because it skews the field, it gives people the impression that if what they submit isn’t on the Like, Enjoy, and Looking Forwards to list, it has no chance. Worse still, if they submit something that happens to be on the Like, Enjoy, and Looking forwards to list, the question we inevitably get is “Why didn’t we win…”

We hear a lot of talk about separating “Indie” games from “Mainstream” games, having separate prizes for companies with lower budgets, wanting different categories than just the three that we have.

Where do you draw the line on what’s a large company?

Is it the number of people who work on the book, the turnover of the company, how many products they have out? There are those who say that the larger studios can put more into production values, more artwork into the book, reduce costs by printing more books at once, and that’s all true. However, if all any award amounted to was who put the most artwork into a book and sold it for the least price, Mork Borg would have won this year, and as much fun as Mork Borg is, for the Judges this year, it wasn’t the best product. We’ve had the discussion, we ask if it’s fair to judge a game that came from a studio such as Chaosium, or Paizo, or Modiphius, against a game that was produced by a single person in their spare time, and the answer is always the same.

In any other competition, where you’re looking at the best in the world, do you exclude those who’ve been training longer, those who have a bigger support staff, those who have sponsorship, or do you accept that you’re in the competition to go up against the best in the world, and that you’re there because you want to prove that you’re the best in the world?

What matters is the game itself, we got asked last year how Valkyrie Nine won in the adventure category over the massive Masks of Nyarlatothep slipcase set, when one had obviously had far more time, artwork and money put into it than the other.

The answer?

The Judges loved the idea behind Valkyrie Nine, they loved the way in which it subverted the normal use of the creatures in the scenario, and they loved that it was an easily accessible price point that got more people into gaming. That Masks was a larger product with better production values, a far larger team, more artwork and thirty times the adventure wasn’t in question, the Judges found Valkyrie Nine more interesting, and one thirtieth of the price.

Why am I going into this at such length?

Because every year I get comments from those who’ve entered the awards, some asking why they didn’t win, some asking why they did, and I often get complaints after the awards have been announced saying that their product was better and it should have won, or that they’ve been entering products for years and never won anything and they think they judges don’t like them.

Let me be clear.

The Judges vote is not a popularity contest.

The Peoples vote, that’s a popularity contest

This year, there’s been some concern over how a company managed to submit two games into the same category, and the simple truth is that we don’t disallow entering more than one game into the awards. We considered it several years ago when one company entered twenty products into the same category, but when we looked at the judging that year, it was clear that the only thing they’d managed was to dilute their vote. If they’d put one product in, their best product, then they’d probably have won, but in flooding the votes, they took away their chance to win. We always advise a company if we think they've put something in the wrong category, but it's their choice as to if they take the advice or not.

When it comes to the awards, any awards, if you believe in what you’ve made, put it in. If you can’t afford to send a print copy of it, send us the PDF, we’re not looking to bankrupt anyone.

I like to give the Judges feedback out to all those who entered, because we’re grateful for every entry, not because it’s one more thing to hand out to the volunteers, but because it’s one more game out there in the world, and when you’ve been around as long as some of us, we remember the days when there were very few games, and they were all very similar, so every new game that comes in, every new idea that gets brought across, is something more for roleplayers to enjoy..

And in that, we’re all the real winners…

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