This is the third and last year for the Indie RPG Awards with myself at the helm. In a few weeks, the baton will be passed and the awards will live on. It's been a hectic, crazy and fun three years: A project that started off as work of procrastination (I was working on a game of my own and couldn't concentrate, so I started making these awards) turned into its own full-blown "thing", complete with dozens of peer participants (well over 80 at this point), interest, excitement and momentum. I had a lot of fun running them, and can't wait to see what happens next year.
As always, the awards themselves are a byproduct of a celebration of individual performance and designer solidarity. While we're not here to find the Ontologically Best Independently Produced Games, we set out to hammer out a friendly gathering of Indie industry folk to gather around and throw their 2 bits in on games that they found to be remarkable for one reason or another.
This year... wow. I gotta say, when games started to roll out in 2004, I started looking at the task of this year's awards with a little dread and horror. There were more indie games produced than in previous years. There were more obviously ground-breaking, supported, and most importantly fun games this year than in previous years. It doesn't matter which side of the fence you're on, or where your gaming interests lie: 2004 was Our Year, as gamers. More games, more supplements, and more support for every gamer out there; hardcore and rules light, free games and hardcovers, games for combat sim grognards and heavy in-character drama queens, and everything in between.
Aside from the hell on our wallets, this is normally an excellent turn of events. However, it's Hell on us when trying to run an awards ceremony, when you see so many worthy contenders, yet in the end only a few can be recognized.
So this year I'm recognizing as many of these games as possible, not just the "Top 3". And I again remind the viewers out there that the spirit of these awards are to take a grand look at everything that came out in the year, and give out a round of applause for everyone who managed to put together a game, and maybe check out a few games that you didn't hear about until you saw them here.
In the end, these awards have little meaning outside the community that gives and receives them: They don't guarantee sales, they don't shake the RPG industry, and they don't mean that one game is objectively better than another. However, they do give a little recognition to the hard-working folks who put their time and sweat into their products of love and labor. And that is enough to matter.
It was really simple: Some 80+ Peer Reviewers from all walks of life and all backgrounds (all of whom designed games themselves or worked in the industry, either independent or mainstream) got together to vote for each award. Each judge had three votes for each category, and each vote they had had a weight: 5, 3, and 1 points respectively. We tallied the games and supplements that received more than two votes, and made a list of the winners, in order.
We tried when possible to get feedback from the judges on their choices. In most large gaming awards, we just see a list of winners, with no indication as to why they were chosen (or why "Game X" was chosen over "Game Y", etc). The feedback helps people get an idea of why the games were chosen. Feel free to read through some of it: You might find a game that you like. Personally, I ended up buying about 5 games after reading the recommendations and feedback from other judges.