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Eric: And the Cable ACE award goes to... OLD STARSKY AND HUTCHES!

For many years now, the preeminent award given for Role Playing Games and related categories -- the industry's most prestigious award -- has been the Origins Award Diana Jones Award. This artifact, highly prized and stylized, is consistently given to a highly deserving and creative person, game or other RPG nominee selected from a published shortlist.

However, the award everyone's heard of in gaming are the Origins Awards, given out at the Origins convention under the auspices of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design (which typically goes by the acronymn AAGAD, which itself sounds too much like an exasperated "Egad!" to be a coincidence) which itself operates under the auspices of the Game Manufacturer's Association, which started life as "the RPG Industry Group that wasn't TSR, damn it," and since has become "the RPG Industry Group," period.

The selection process for the Origins has been the subject of debate for years, with the inevitable arguments between those who feel the choices should be based on aesthetic and design merit versus those who feel the choices should be based on popular tastes, and always crossed with those who believe those FOOLS AT THE ACADEMY DIDN'T NOMINATE ME, GOD FUCKING DAMN IT! THESE AWARDS ARE WORTHLESS.

At this stage of the game, they have settled this by having juries select the nominees, which then can be voted upon by the membership of the Academy. It is worth noting that I am eligible for Academy Membership -- specifically in the Role Playing College -- and indeed thought I was a member, only the website doesn't recognize me, so I reupped it earlier today. So, I am in fact eligible to vote on the listed nominees. (Sadly, we don't receive screeners, to my knowledge.)

So, as reported by GamingReport.com, the the 2004 Nominees have been announced.

Now, bear in mind, these are the games and supplements that a series of juries, ostensibly staffed by the most expert and discerning minds in Role Playing Design, have selected as nominees. We the hoi palloi can but select from the list provided (I don't know if we can write in or not, I should mention), but we can do so confident that the Jury has selected the very finest fruits of our industry's collective imagination. In theory, we should be pretty happy regardless of who wins.

So. Let's have ourselves a look at the nomines for best Role Playing Game of the Year, shall we?

Best Role-Playing Game Nominees: (Role-Playing College)
‘ Ars Magica 5th Edition - Atlas Games
‘ Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game - Wizards of the Coast
‘ GURPS Basic Set, Fourth Edition - Steve Jackson Games
‘ The Authority Roleplaying Game and Resource Book - Guardians of Order
‘ World of Darkness Storytelling System Rulebook - White Wolf

A...hah.

So... the best Role Playing Games designed last year are... the fifth edition of a Role Playing Game ruleset... the fourth edition of a Role Playing Game ruleset... the stripped down 'kid friendly/simple to pick up' edition of the most ubiquitous (and least innovative given the proliferation of stock d20 materials) Role Playing Game... a licensed sourcebook that happens to contain the basic rules for the d20 version of their previous Silver Age Sentinels product... and a redesign of a set of core rules that have been in revision since the early 90's.

I can sort of see World of Darkness being on there. I really, honestly can. Purging themselves of every successful game line and starting from scratch took balls, and the redesigned game really is a new game.

All the others -- and I say this with affection to GURPS 4th -- are retreads, stripped-downs, or a supplement disguised as a full game.

This is the best we have for the last year, according to the juries of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design.

This is the best we have for the last year, according to AAGAD.

In a year that saw Dead Inside, Dogs in the Vineyard (Ken Hite's choice for best RPG of 2004, I would add), and the redevelopment, complete redesign, and relaunch of Paranoia XP (which was out of print for so long and was so completely repackaged it was no more a retread than Gamma World was last year), these are what the AAGAD have presented as the best of 2004.

I was pretty sure that when Nobilis failed to be nominated for the Origins Awards (though it received the Diana Jones Award in its year, proving the relative merits to me, at the very least) that the Origins were pretty much done. This lackluster list of safety nominees just puts the last nail in the coffin. I'm not sure I'll even bother voting in this category -- if so, it'll go to World of Darkness, which at least was ambitious and represented a massive aesthetic decision.

If WoD and, say, GURPS 4th were on this list, alongside some innovators? I'd be perfectly fine with that. But this list is a triumph of "hey, I've heard of that" over "hey, this is good," and in the end I don't see why awards need to be given out under those conditions. I know we've heard of these things. That doesn't make them the best of the year.

Well, there's always the ENnies....

Dungeons and Dragons Basic. Jesus.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 16, 2005 12:57 PM

Comments

Comment from: Wednesday posted at March 16, 2005 1:05 PM

I refuse to believe the not-Paranoia part, friend citizen.

I... I just can't. There is no brain.

None.

Comment from: benlehman posted at March 16, 2005 1:17 PM

When the Origins Awards shafted Nobilis in favor of HackMaster, it looked like they were in serious need of a redesign.

When they put My Life With Master in the electronic games category because it was for sale as both a PDF and hardcopy book, it was a massive strike against them. MLWM won the Diana Jones that year, and was Ken Hite's best Sui Generis RPG.

This year has been one of the best years in the history of RPGs. Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures, Dead Inside and The Shadow of Yesterday all came out this year. None of these are in the Origins awards. Coincidentally, none of them were produced within the corporate production engine of most RPGs.

The Origins, at least in the RPG realm, are meaningless. We might as well call them the "Highest Advertising Budget" awards.

Fortunately, we have a crop of somewhat more prestigous awards to take their place. I'm looking forward to the Diana Jones, The Indie RPG Awards, and the ENnies, myself.

yrs--

--Ben

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 16, 2005 3:04 PM

I think it just proves my theory on entertainment awards... the longer they're around, the more useless they become. Take the Oscars: the only Oscar I even remotely care about now is Best Original Screenplay, because I find worthy movies actually stand a shot at that one (occasionally, I'm forced to acknowledge Best Adapted Screenplay too). Beyond that? Dreck.

Name any other major award for a medium, and you'll find the same thing (did anyone give Katamari Damacy a Game of the Year award? Did the golden years of the Simpsons win any non-animated Emmy? Has anyone really earned their Grammy - and I say that when my two favorite musical acts have three Grammys between them?).

Award shows exist for two reasons. One, they're great advertising for companies. Two, people like arguing over these things. As the saying goes, if thine eye offends thee, pluck it from thine head. Or, in this case, if the awards really bother you, wash your hands of them.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at March 16, 2005 3:12 PM

32 -- I agree. I think the Origins have degraded even farther than that, however. This is like Spider Man 2, Chronicles of Riddick and Blade Trinity being put up for Academy Awards while Sideways and Million Dollar Baby get left off.

And I thought the Oscar Nominees were thin as crap this year as it was.

Comment from: quiller posted at March 16, 2005 4:06 PM

You know, Katamari Damacy may not have gotten game of the year, but it has gotten a lot of award recognition. A couple of awards from GDC, Best Puzzle/Rhythm game from Gamespot and Top 10 games of the year from Gamespy. It wasn't exactly ignored.

Paranoia was one of the best one shot RPGs back in my college years. I've never known anyone who tried a campaign with it, but it was a great game to make up a character, run them through a module or custom adventure, and see how many different ways people got killed. My favorite moment has still got to be having my clone killed and the replacement transported with an experimental new teleportation device on top of a moving vehicle, which was being chased by Vulture Troopers. The kicker was I randomly wound up with my arms on backwards.

Comment from: Grumblin posted at March 16, 2005 6:18 PM

Oooooohhhh ParanoĆa....

Now there was an RPG that could have you in stitches for *hours*...

*happily wanders down Memory Lane*

Comment from: miyaa posted at March 16, 2005 6:19 PM

If these Origin jurors claim they hadn't heard of such independent RPGS such as Dead Inside, who's fault is it that they weren't informed of such potential worthy candidates? Is the responsibility of the Origin members to ensure that the jurors are aware of all candidates, or does that fall onto the shoulders of the producers of such obscure publications themselves?

As far as I know, people that I associate with in my gaming groups or at the local gaming shoppe don't really look at whether or not a certain game has won a particular award to see if a game is any good or not. In this day of where everyone and their dog seems to have a web blog opineing what they think is good or bad, awards seem to have lost their luster.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 16, 2005 6:25 PM

I'll avoid commenting on Katamari Damacy other than to say that it's probably my favorite new game from the last five years. And that people seem to want to call Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the GOTY from 2004. Utter blasphemy.

But Eric, as to your point, you have to realize that there's a ton of people who hated Million Dollar Baby, of which I'm one. The ending was absolutely terrible, and left me hating the entire movie. I don't just mean "Geez, that was not worth my ten bucks" (stupid Boston movie prices) like Spider-Man 2 was. I mean, completely violent and angry for having spent a portion of my life on it. To me, seeing that even nominated for (let alone winning) Best Picture when movies I really loved, like I I'll avoid commenting on Katamari Damacy other than to say that it's probably my favorite new game from the last five years. And that people seem to want to call Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the GOTY from 2004. Utter blasphemy.

But Eric, as to your point, you have to realize that there's a ton of people who hated Million Dollar Baby, of which I'm one. The ending was absolutely terrible, and left me hating the entire movie. I don't just mean "Geez, that was not worth my ten bucks" (stupid Boston movie prices) like Spider-Man 2 was. I mean, completely violent and angry for having spent a portion of my life on it. To me, seeing that even nominated for (let alone winning) Best Picture when movies I really loved, like I I'll avoid commenting on Katamari Damacy other than to say that it's probably my favorite new game from the last five years. And that people seem to want to call Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the GOTY from 2004. Utter blasphemy.

But Eric, as to your point, you have to realize that there's a ton of people who hated Million Dollar Baby, of which I'm one. The ending was absolutely terrible, and left me hating the entire movie. I don't just mean "Geez, that was not worth my ten bucks" (stupid Boston movie prices) like Spider-Man 2 was. I mean, completely violent and angry for having spent a portion of my life on it. To me, seeing that even nominated for (let alone winning) Best Picture when movies I really loved, like I I'll avoid commenting on Katamari Damacy other than to say that it's probably my favorite new game from the last five years. And that people seem to want to call Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the GOTY from 2004. Utter blasphemy.

But Eric, as to your point, you have to realize that there's a ton of people who hated Million Dollar Baby, of which I'm one. The ending was absolutely terrible, and left me hating the entire movie. I don't just mean "Geez, that was not worth my ten bucks" (stupid Boston movie prices) like Spider-Man 2 was. I mean, completely violent and angry for having spent a portion of my life on it. To me, seeing that even nominated for (let alone winning) Best Picture when movies I really loved, like I

In some ways, though, I'm glad for these awards and their mass-market short-sightedness. I mean, I don't move much in table-top game circles anymore, so I wasn't even aware that Paranoia was completely overhauled. I've been waffling on Dead Inside, but the outcry over its exclusion has convinced me that it is worth the money and I'm going to order the dead tree edition tonight.

I'm a snob about entertainment and I freely admit it. (Or, as I've said before, you say "elitist" like it's a bad thing.) So for me, times like this allow me to gauge what really evokes passion by being ignored and really check it out.

I think what might be most productive would be to send in a protest vote, and not merely just for the new World of Darkness books because they come closest to your criteria for the award.

Don't settle for good enough; shoot for what you believe in.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at March 16, 2005 7:40 PM

miyaa:

If these Origin jurors claim they hadn't heard of such independent RPGS such as Dead Inside, who's fault is it that they weren't informed of such potential worthy candidates? Is the responsibility of the Origin members to ensure that the jurors are aware of all candidates, or does that fall onto the shoulders of the producers of such obscure publications themselves?

We know specifically that they got sent comps of Dead Inside, actually. So that particular example isn't apropos.

But there is a review press as well. The arguably best known reviewer in RPGs mentioned everything I mentioned in his "Best of 2004" column. I think that alone should at least put these products on their radars.

Comment from: trpeal posted at March 16, 2005 9:59 PM

Eric:

I just bought Dogs in the Vineyard based on clicking the links you provided. That looks like a freaky game, and unlike anything I've ever read or played before. You're right; stuff like that is so much more innovative and worthy of note than retreads of well-established systems.

I've bought more RPG stuff in the past two years than in all my adolescence (not counting all those issues of 1980s-era Dragon magazine I have stacked in the cupboard).

Comment from: the_iron_troll posted at March 17, 2005 3:47 PM

I must say, though, Ars Magica is not what I would call a Big Name. I'm glad to see that it's getting some of the recognition that (I hope) it deserves.

I completely agree, though - it's a cryin' shame that we can't rely on an awards ceremony like Origins to do more than tell us who's popular. Paranoia is the only game on your list of includes that I'd even heard of before I started reading your stuff, Eric. I'll be giving them all a close inspection, now that I now they exist.

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