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 https://web.archive.org/web/20100527183248/http://www.igf.com/, 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
A judge for the 2010 event, Anthropy commented on her blog https://archive.today/6yoqY 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 https://archive.today/OWvmj. 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.
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 https://archive.today/MpeFi. 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 https://archive.today/XIYLt. 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 https://archive.today/7C9zj, 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.
Edmud McMillen and Tommy Refenes, who compose Team Meat, have been contestants in the 2010 IGF with the game Super Meat Boy https://archive.today/EjCOi and judges in previous iterations of the event.
In an episode of the HAWPcast podcast published January 2013 http://hawpcast.podbean.com/e/keepin-it-real-with-edmund-mcmillen-and-tommy-refenes/, 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 https://archive.today/qqWT5, during which a GDC staffer flat out told him games aren’t judged based on merit.
In the comments of a Gamasutra article about IGF 2012, the site’s own commenters complained about the awards having become incestuous and favoritism https://archive.today/AodVE.
[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 Indiegames.com 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 https://archive.today/mhjYp, 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 https://archive.today/o9Ady https://archive.today/Wya91 https://archive.today/HQQGE, Brice has a history of seemingly bigoted comments https://archive.today/5Zt6u https://archive.today/jpBrS https://archive.today/N7K64 https://archive.today/KfP8E https://archive.today/KfP8E https://archive.today/05Z42 https://archive.today/VP4YZ.
Regradless, IGF asked Brice to stop misrepresenting her duty as a judge even if in jest https://archive.today/40Dqd, and Brice responded by quitting her position https://archive.today/hHMfm. Several other IGF judges also threatened to leave the process unless IGF apologized to Brice:
- Christine Love https://archive.today/8HZjS, who donates to Brice’s Patreon https://archive.today/Qtzgs and afterwards tried to hide this fact by making her Patreon profile private https://archive.today/UNrYl
- Brendan Keogh https://archive.today/3NOJ7, who also donates to her Patreon https://archive.today/yWmyj
- Zoya Street https://archive.today/xXDNr
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 https://archive.today/G2MBR https://archive.today/I76Df.
IGF soon issued an apology to Mattie Brice https://archive.today/7vm6F. 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 https://archive.today/7YMc4 https://archive.today/iXE4n, who had a game among the STudent entrants of IGF 2014, Intergalactic Space princess https://archive.today/5GAAf. Altho it’s currently unknown if Keogh was a judge in the 2014 event, Brice was confirmed to be involved in some capacity https://archive.today/Fn4FX.
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