So we’re all on the same page here, I want to assign some reading. Here’s two recent articles:
- The Rotting Cartridge made a blog post about their game, Kale in Dino Land, not getting what they consider fair judgement.
- Jenn Frank posted a rebuttal, saying that maybe Kale in Dino land just sucked and that was the problem.
A lot of what Jenn has to say is spot-on; a lot of the games submitted to the IGF are, indeed, pretty crappy or just absolutely broken. And overall this is drama, and it’s kind of annoying to see it cropping up year after year. However, Jenn targets her ire at Rotting Cartridge in what I think is an unfair manner, and uses some straw-man arguments as well (RC’s game didn’t appear to crash on install, for example).
At the same time, I agree with what Rotting Cartridge has to say: everyone deserves a fair shake. If you paid the entry fee, you deserve to at least get some eyeballs on your game. I also partially disagree with their passionate post; at least they got some amount of play from the IGF judges.
I have no idea how to judge this particular case; I don’t know the game in question, I don’t know if I trust the game’s metric sources, and I don’t know if the bit of judging they did get was indeed fair. Reading those two articles, though, will give you the opinions of the two camps: Either you think the IGF “does the best it can,” or you have been “personally slighted” by the IGF.
Some praise for the IGF
Before I go on, I want to mention that I have the utmost respect for the IGF in general, and Brandon Boyer (and Simon Carless’s) contributions to the whole thing, and how everyone – developers, judges, organizers – wants to make it better. I don’t think anyone should say the IGF is a bad thing.
I would hate to live in a world where the IGF did not exist. I’m proud to have been a part of the IGF, and I continue to submit games for judgement there.
But the IGF is not perfect
I have my own story about the IGF judgement process that I’ve tried to hash out semi-publicly before (mostly on Twitter). It was over a year ago, and I’m over it now, but here’s the super-short version:
- I submitted SteamBirds: Survival to the IGF last year, before it was launched to the public
- The game contained input-recording (replay) functionality to aid in my playtesting pre-release.
- The game would not run if it could not connect to the replay storing functionality
- Exactly 1 person played the game for approximately 30 seconds. I am not convinced it was a judge (could have been a test-open or something; it’s hard to even get to gameplay within 30s)
After learning of this, Brandon Boyer was very pro-active at getting to the bottom of this. I think everyone agreed this was not the way the IGF is supposed to work. Unfortunately, judging had already ended, and my contribution to the gaming world would not get it’s “fair shake.”
In the end, it turned out a few other judges did play the game – they already owned it on their iPad and decided to play that version, instead of playing the version submitted for judgement. Of course, it never crossed the judges minds that the submitted version was in fact a sequel to the mobile editions they owned. For that I got heart-felt apologies, which I guess is better than nothing.
After telling this story a few times, I happen to know several other game developers that are recording similar metrics or replays in this year’s IGF games, to ensure they also get a fair shake.
So, yes, the IGF isn’t perfect. There are some problems. As Team2bit says on twitter, “I never expect perfection for $95″ – but maybe we can improve things a bit.
Let’s talk about the issues. Let’s figure out what’s wrong, and let’s work on solutions. I don’t think the appropriate response to legitimate complaints is to “STFU and deal”, as Jenn Frank implies. Boycotting the IGF is probably an over-reaction too. The knee-jerk response to someone getting frustrated shouldn’t be “try making your own festival then.”
Me discussing my problems with the IGF organizers (hopefully) turned into new policies or procedures that will prevent the problem from happening to other developers.
Ignoring the issues will not make the IGF better.
Talking about them will.