Jenn Frank

Journalist for The Guardian.


Response to IGF criticism

This is explained in more detail in IGF’s page on this site.

Indie studio Rotting Cartridge, an entrant on IGF 2012, fiercely criticized the judging process of the event [1], claiming many of the judges assigned to their game, Kale in Dinoland, barely even played it. This lack of proper judgment runs counter to the supposedly meritocratic order of the awards.

A judge at the 2012 IGF event, Jenn Frank took umbrage at Rotting Cartridge’s revelations and offered a rebuttal [2], altho she seemingly wasn’t one of the judges to whom Kale In Dinoland was assigned.

Altho she raises valid points (namely, the failure of some devs to provide documentation for their entries or simply of offering buggy builds), her post is littered with assumptions, flaws in logic, personal diatribes and petty insults. Many of the comments on the post condemn it.


Undisclosed conflict of interest

Most of the information in this section comes from a thread on Reddit. [3]

On 1 September 2014, Jenn Frank published an article on The Guardian [4] Although it doesn’t mention Gamergate, it revolves arround the narrative of harassment against women in videogames, chiefly Zoe Quinn, that has surrounded it since. The initial version of the article failed to disclose her ties to Zoe Quinn in the form of support to her Patreon. On the same day, the article was edited as a tiny disclosure was added at the very end of the article [5] On 5 September the edit was changed to clarify that the disclosure (which also included Frank having briefly met Anita Sarkeesian, also feature din the article) was included by Frank in the copy she sent to the newspaper, but the editor thought it wasn’t a significant connection, thus assuming the fault for omitting the disclosure that was being unfairly blamed on Jenn Frank [6]

However, there are four other factors that aren’t mentioned anywhere that indicate conflict of interest.

The first is the fact that Maya Felix Kramer, a friend and possible PR agent of Zoe Quinn, pays into Jenn Frank’s own Patreon [7] However, the possible PR tie between Kramer and Quinn is circumstantial. The page on Zoe Quinn expounds on their relationship.

The second one is that Frank, by her own admission, Frank booked and paid approximately US$1,000.00 for the hotel room where Zoe Quinn and her then-boyfriend Eron Gjoni during Game Developer’s Conference 2014 [8] [9] [10], which is corroborated by Gjoni in his blog [11] GDC 2014 took place in San Francisco during 17 to 21 March, with Frank paying for a week’s worth of the hotel room and Gjoni paying for further two nights.

The third factor is that in the same series of tweets where she admits to paying US$1,000.00 for Quinn’s and Gjoni’s hotel room, she lashes out at Gjoni. Besides the common and misapplied epithet of “jilted ex” [12], she calls him “this idiot horrible asshole” [13] and flings even more colorful profanities [14], while wishing that he would pay her back [15] [16] [17] Beyond the vituperation, these tweets perfectly indicate her bias in the issue she covered even without considering the financial matter of the hotel room payments.

The fourth one is simply how close she is to Zoe Quinn at all, regardless of hotel fees. Being close to the would-be subject of your journalistic articles is a conflict of interest in itself. Tho Frank saw fit to disclose having briefly met Anita Sarkeesian, she far closer relationship to Zoe Quinn went unremarked upon.

These tweets predate the publication of the article on The Guardian, but to this day, it makes no mention of this financial tie, let alone her personal friendship and bias towards Quinn’s side of the story.

“Quitting” for 17 days

On 3 September 2014, Frank made a public display of quitting freelance writing, because her editor having not published her initial disclosure caused her to come under unwarranted scrutiny [18] No mentions are made of the hotel fee, her relationship with Quinn or her bias towards Quinn’s side of the story.


On 20 September she was back to penning articles for The Guardian [19]

Explaining her side

On September 11 2014, Frank made a post on her blog expounds on her short-lived decision to quit freelance writing. Between personal details irrelevant to the topic at hand, she reiterates that it was the newspaper’s choice to not initially include her disclosure, and clarifies that her payments to Zoe Quinn’s Patreon amount to three monthly payments to $5, thus an insignificant amount (“I am being taken to task for $15, far less than any journalist’s bar tab”) [20]

Again, no mentions are made of the hotel fee, friendship with Quinn or bias towards her.


N64 controllers too complex for girls

Source [21]

By 1996, most of my female classmates had stopped playing video games. I think some of this had to do with societal pressures but the rest of it had to do with the Nintendo 64. Even now its controller is nonsense; in 1996 it was outright galling. Where had all these buttons come from? Why was it shaped like that? Why was there an analogue stick stuck in the middle of it?

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Independent Games Festival, the world’s biggest awards ceremony dedicated exclusively to indie games. Part of the UBM media group.


Chairman Bandon Boyer and GameJournoPros

IGF chairman since May 2010 [1], Brandon Boyer, was a member of the now-defunct GameJournoPros list. Please see the relevant page for the list’s full membership.


Criticism from former judges and contestants

Anna Anthropy

A judge for the 2010 event, Anthropy commented on her blog [2] what she perceived as the judging process’ biggest flaws: a the frontend for the judges discouraged discussion; the inability of judges to weigh in on games that they hadn’t been randomly selected to; bad defitnions of the categories; lack of variety of backgrounds of the judges; and the participation of unfinished games.

On 2012 she protested at the fact that still-unreleased Fez, which had already entered the 2008 IGF and won the Excellence in Visual Arts category, was allowed to enter the contest again, in a lengthy article on Rock Paper Shotgun [3] Added to her disapproval of unreleased games being elligible in the first place was the fact that the same game could enroll for the events of more than one year. Anthropy’s accusation specifically mention the “cliquey-ness, the scenesters that [she yells] about”. The article states that the IGF chairman, Brandon Boyer, claimed the organizers were “taking gradual steps to limit prior finalists from re-entering the same game”, but stated that 2012 was a “trasitional year” and thus Fez would be allowed to compete.

Rotting Cartridge

Indie studio Rotting Cartridge had entered an Iphone game called Kale in Dinoland for the 2012 IGF, and in February 2012 they wrote a post on their blog containing heavy accusations about the judging process [4] Chiefly, 3 of the 8 judges to whom Kale In Dinoland had been assigned didn’t even play the game, and 4 of the remaining ones played about only 35 minutes total between them. Further, they accused the judging process to lack transparency, and credit their knowledge of judges’ playing times only because it was the first time the event was using a platform called TestFlight to judge the iPhone games: “The sad truth is, the heads of the IGF know about all of this. They made the mistake of using TestFlight and allowing us, the developers, to see backstage.”

Rotting Cartridge made a follow-up post the next day with a few clarifications, including the playing times of Kale In Dinoland’s judges [5] Part of it was intended as a reply to Jenn Frank’s criticism, seen below.

Jenn Frank responds

A judge at the 2012 IGF event, Jenn Frank took umbrage at Rotting Cartridge’s revelations and offered a rebuttal [6], altho she seemingly wasn’t one of the judges to whom Kale In Dinoland was assigned.

Altho she raises valid points (namely, the failure of some devs to provide documentation for their entries or simply of offering buggy builds), her post is littered with assumptions, flaws in logic, personal diatribes and petty insults. Many of the comments on the post condemn it.

Team Meat

Edmud McMillen and Tommy Refenes, who compose Team Meat, have been contestants in the 2010 IGF with the game Super Meat Boy [7] and judges in previous iterations of the event.

In an episode of the HAWPcast podcast published January 2013 [8], McMillen and Refenes talk at length about their experience with IGF. They criticize the judging process, accusing the judges at large of voting for games not based on merit but on subjective criteria like “need for exposure”. This hapened agaibnst Super Meat Boy itself as they say:

It pains me to have Phil Fish directly tell me that – he straight up just told us that, “I was one of the many people that voted against Super Meat Boy because I knew you guys were going to be fine.”

This bias against game which are perceived to already be successful is reflected in the judges’ strong stance against already released titles.


Note: 8bitpixelrobot’s role as a game developer is still unconfirmed, as he claims he doesn’t want to use Gamergate to promote his products.

On 7 October 2014, a Twitter user claiming to have been a IGF entrant came forward with his own experience at the Game Developer’s Conference, the event during which the IGF is awarded [9], during which a GDC staffer flat out told him games aren’t judged based on merit.


Assorted comments

In the comments of a Gamasutra article about IGF 2012, the site’s own commenters complained about the awards having become incestuous and favoritism [10]

[Maurício Gomes]: Most recent years are jokes, specially when you consider how inbred the things is… Just take a real look at the judges and winners, and you will notice lots of overlap (and things like judges that judged their own game, or thinks like: The organizer and 5 judges are personal friends of Fish, this year winner… And also winner in 2008… )

And then we have things like a iOS developer that complained that only 5 judges actually played his game, and only 1 actually played it for more than a minute, and the official reply from IGF was something like:

“Judges are busy volunteers, this happen, do not complain.”

Kinda sad when you consider you had to pay 95 USD to enter the competition.


I know some ex-Judges, and once I talked a bit with the organizers, the problem is clear: There has a general change of direction since it started (causing many old judges to stop being judges because they think the new rules are broken), and also the place where all judges are coming from is the same community (mostly centered TigSource)

So if you take a look, you will see entries of all over the world, but almost all judges are from US, Canada and Scandinavia, you do not see asian judges or latin (from south europe) judges, or latino (from south america) judges, much less african judges.

And cultural perceptions affect a lot of what a person think of each work.

Not only that, the fact judges come from the same community, they tend to like the same things, thus if things remain as they are, we will be forever seeing the same sort of games winning over and over again, it will be always something along the lines of what you see in TigSource and blog, mostly action games, platformers, retro graphics… I am very sure that Seumas McNally and his strange 3D tank game would never win a today IGF, not because he made a bad game (if it was a bad game he would not win the prize he has won), but because the culture of the judges do not favor that sort of game.

If you look at the early hall of judges, it had half of them being from AAA industry, and lots of clearly “random” people. Now we have mostly ‘indie’ devs and ‘indie’-scene journalists. With ‘indie’ meaning like a person told me once: What Derek Yu says it is ‘indie’ (ie: instead of meaning independent developer, it means small team that started without much money and do retroish stuff)


Extra note: Nothing against TigSource or Derek Yu (or IGF in fact), I am only explaining why IGF is biased toward a certain type of games and certain people (ie: you have some few people that won several times, instead of several winners that won once…)

[Michael Lubker]: Part of the issue is that judges are often asked to come back. Several times, people have been asked to judge, and then recuse because they enter something. There’s a fine line of conflict of interest.


Also I agree with Mauricio. The team I’ve been working with didn’t submit this year because we knew our game wasn’t “weird” or pixely enough.

[James Margaris]: Seems like people are waking up to the fact that these awards highly suspect (to put it mildly). For the most part it’s the same narrow slice of people awarding each other and scratching each other’s backs. The fact that you have the same people winning for the same games (that have never been released!) years apart is just ridiculous.

And that’s before you look at the the list of super judges and the incredible lack of diversity represented there. It’s 70% guys with scarves and ironic hats. The whole affair appears intensely cliquish, where games that conform to a narrow sensibility and whose creators are friends with the judges, blog with them, hang out with them at events and websites and such take home the awards.

I see a lot of high quality indie games but I see the same dozen or so names everywhere – handing out awards at IGF, winning awards at IGF, starring in movies and Gamespot videos, speaking at GDC, deciding who gets to speak at GDC…it really does appear that there are a small number of indie gatekeeper illuminati.

And that’s before you get into the dirt-digging stuff where judges don’t even bother playing the games of unhyped entrants.

[David Phan]: Why did this piece get taken off or de-listed from the news threads on the main page? I had to search for it to find it. I understand the IGF is part of Gamasutra’s network of properties, but it looks suspect when something not in your favor gets de-listed like this imo.

With regards to this last quote, it’s worth noting that Gamasutra belongs to the UBM Media group, of which the GDC and IGF are part as well.


Unprofessional behavior by judge Mattie Brice

On 4 November 2014, IGF judge Mattie Brice tweeted that she was automatically giving bad marks to games which had men in them [11], which if true, is an obvious admission of bias and a reinforcement of critics’ claims that IGF’s judges don’t regard merit on the games they’re assigned.

Initially dismissed as a joke, including by IGF itself [12] [13] [14], Brice has a history of seemingly bigoted comments [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

Regradless, IGF asked Brice to stop misrepresenting her duty as a judge even if in jest [22], and Brice responded by quitting her position [23] Several other IGF judges also threatened to leave the process unless IGF apologized to Brice:

  • Christine Love [24], who donates to Brice’s Patreon [25] and afterwards tried to hide this fact by making her Patreon profile private [26]
  • Brendan Keogh [27], who also donates to her Patreon [28]
  • Zoya Street [29]

Additionally, journalist Ben Kuchera, another donator to Brice’s Patreon as well as a member of the GameJournoPros list like IGF chairman Brandon Boyer, chastised IGF [30] [31]

IGF soon issued an apology to Mattie Brice [32] While acknowledging that Brice initial tweet “raised suspicions that judgment would be made on games without due diligence”, the apology is aimed at anyone “been made to feel unsupported by or unsafe”, and keeps the door open for Brice’s return.

As of yet, Mattie Brice has not taken up on IGF’s offer.

Friendship with 2014 IGF entrant

Mattie Brice and Brendan Keogh were friends with indie developer Izzy Gramp [33] [34], who had a game among the STudent entrants of IGF 2014, Intergalactic Space princess [35] Altho it’s currently unknown if Keogh was a judge in the 2014 event, Brice was confirmed to be involved in some capacity [36]



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