Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Take on the Origins Awards

If you won an award at Origins 2011, then you should probably just move along, because I'm likely going to offend you and that's not my intention. This is meant as a criticism of the awards themselves and not those that won them.

I don't think there was a bad product among the winners, I just think that many either weren't the best, or weren't properly classified.

It's been about three weeks now, and I've had some time to digest the results of the 2011 Origins Awards. Listening to episode 215 of the Dice Tower helped both confirm and solidify my initial impressions: the Origins Awards are a joke.

I don't want to minimize the accomplishments of some of the winners, particularly the folks at Evil Hat for their wins with the Dresden Files RPG, but in most cases the best of those nominated did not win, and in several cases it was the worst that did.

Let's look at the winners, starting with the single most egregious in my mind: Best Historical Board Game. The winner of that category was Catan Histories: Settlers of America Trails to Rails. This game shouldn't have even been nominated to this category. Just because a game has a lightly pasted on historical theme does not make it a historical game.

Moving on, we see Zombie Dice winning the best Family, Children's, or Party game. First, the category itself has issues. A family game is different from a children's game which is different from a party game. Mashing them all together makes little sense. I suppose they are going for best "casual" game, but they need to rethink the definitions of the board game categories if that's what they are going for.

Zombie Dice is not a terrible game, but every other nominee in the category is better. If you tell someone "you can only have X number of games for the rest of your life" no one is going to choose Zombie Dice. At least a couple of its competitors in the category could conceivably end up on such a list.

The same could be said of the winner of the Best Traditional Card Game category. Back to the Future is not a game I've played, but it's pretty obvious that the only reason it won was due to the theme. I've not actually played any of the games in the category, but I've heard really good things about some of them. I've heard no one praising Back to the Future in a similar manner.

For Best Board Game, the apparent top tier of the board game categories, at least the winner is a good game. Unfortunately it's also the weakest of the nominees. Every game in the category is better, but Castle Ravenloft apparently wins because it's Dungeons & Dragons.

Moving on now to roleplaying. While I think Dresden Files is a great game, and a serious contender for best roleplaying game, I would have chosen Fiasco. Everyone I know who has tried it has made it one of their go-to games. It's simple and innovative, and consistently produces good gaming sessions.

Best Roleplaying supplement is a close one. Having run both Dresden Files and Pathfinder games I have found the Advanced Players Guide more generally useful than Our World, but am willing to admit this is probably the most subjective call out of a lot of subjective calls in this article. As such, this is the one category where I don't really have an issue with the winner.

Moving on once more, we come to Best Hobby Game Accessory. Our nominees include such wonderful choices as Color Primer: Dragon Red... really? People couldn't find better nominees for this category than a color of paint? At least it didn't win, but the winner was almost as bad: a Cthulhu dice bag. A dice bag won the Best Hobby Game Accessory. I guess the Crown Royal bag wasn't eligible. Unless the bag actually opens into an extradimensional space, I think a better candidate could have been found. In fact, I have one, actually an entire category: everything else nominated was a better choice, except maybe the paint.

Most of the problem here is the over-broadness of the category. Everything else was specific to miniatures painters or players of a specific game, whereas the dice bag is more generic. Never mind that it doesn't even look very practical: it's cute and has broader appeal, so it wins.

I would have given Best Gaming Publication to Hamlet's Hit Points, but I haven't read Shadowrun: Spells and Chrome, so I can't say it didn't deserve to win. I can say that a category that includes both gaming fiction and non-fiction is a poorly designed category.

Best Miniature Rules: Heroclix won this. I know a lot of people like Heroclix, but were the rules included in the Blackest Night Starter Kit significantly different enough from previous editions to warrant inclusion in this category? Also, a BattleTech technical readout counts as rules? This category needs to be tightened up.

I can't really comment on the Best Play by Mail or Play by Email game, except to point out that the very existence of this category really calls into question the thinking process of those behind these awards. It's 2011, you have ten categories to cover products in a vastly diverse hobby, and you dedicate one of them to Play by Mail games.

I do have to give them credit for the Hall of Fame entries, which was the one area of the awards that I could agree with 100%. Although, paired with the Play by Mail category, I think this just goes to show that the Origins Awards has a much better grasp of the past of gaming than it has of the present.

Of course, anyone can whine about the poor quality of gaming awards, but what would make for a more useful system? I have some ideas, but I'll save them for a later post.


BlackDiamond said...

Another completely irrelevant award.

Fulminata said...

Pretty much, and as a member of one of the 2011 awards committees, Tom Vassel goes into some detail on why they are irrelevant in the episode of his podcast I mentioned in the post. Also, he suggests some ways to improve things.

librarian said...

Relevancy is the key here, and I think the Origin's awards fall flat. That said, by tightening up the categories, they will either need to have more categories (not desirable), or drop some "areas of interest" (also not desirable). If forced to choose between lesser of two evils, I guess I'd go with dropping areas of interest, with remaining categories tight and major. Like drop PBM and Accessory, unless something comes out that is totally wicked-sweet, in which case give out a special mention.

I think best Gaming related Fiction and Hobby Gaming related non-Fiction should be stand alone categories.

Fulminata said...

I'm working on a post that discusses some of that, but in general I agree. I like the idea of special awards to cover anything particularly worthy that doesn't fall into one of the regular categories.

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