So, the Origins Awards nominees got released today. It’s an incredibly pleasing list for the categories where I’m personally invested. Dresden Files: Your Story got a nod for Best Roleplaying Game. Dresden Files: Our World got one for Best Roleplaying Supplement. And Family Games: The 100 Best, which I had an essay in, got one for Best Game-Related Publication. The competition in these categories is fierce, especially in the Best RPG category, which reads like a someone took a good hard look at my “most admired games of 2010” bookshelf but forgot to keep looking before they got to Smallville. (EDIT: Read Ryan Macklin’s post taking a quick look at our fellow nominees. He gets it right.) When folks say “it’s an honor just to be nominated,” they mean moments like this. But Rob has covered our mutual sentiments about all that over on his blog today, which you are of course reading already because you are a right-thinking person.
So, how does one get nominated? (Let’s take it as a given that you’ve already created and published a game of quality, and move past that part as something outside the scope of this post.)
To get nominated for an Origins Award, you need to get on the radar of brick & mortar retailers. This alone makes it a tough row to hoe for a micro-publisher, because that’s a plural noun I used right there. It’s not enough to make a splash at Endgame, as much as I wish that were true. You’ve got to penetrate the consciousness of a wide spread of those guys, and honestly a lot of that is luck built atop your game of quality. (The license, yes, helped.) You’ve got to do this because (and this is where I may be summarizing based on old info) they get formed into committees that select first-round nominees, that in turn get voted upon by retailers in attendance at the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas earlier this year. You’ve got to have something that’s been heard of and been well received by retailers on that committee, and retailers attending that show. It’s a trick. And in order to start all that you need to give a handful (5 or 6) of your hope-they’ll-get-nominated products to the folks running the awards so they can use them to evaluate, display, etc.
If you manage to run that gauntlet successfully, against every other eligible, submitted product in the relevant categories, you get on a very short list like the ones published today.
So, how does one get a win?
This is a little complicated, tho the process is pretty simple to describe: the Origins convention happens (which I’ll be attending along with a bunch of other Evil Hat folks this year, tho we intend this to be largely “for funsies” — no Evil Hat booth); there’s a ballot in the program; attendees vote on the products they believe are worthy; ballots are submitted, tallied, and winners determined. Finis.
Yeah, but, how does one get a win?
Like I said, it’s complicated. But, clearly, it boils down to: You need to get into the mind of the Origins attendees who make the effort to vote.
There are a number of ways to do that, and one very strong component is by having a strong presence at Origins that year. Luke ran the hell out of his game the year Burning Empires won. The Looney Labs guys have an incredible presence at Origins every year, and that goes a long way towards supporting their games when they get nominated. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it) that the wins are still well-deserved and the products, well-selected. But as a game company you can put a little english on that with your presence. (Evil Hat’s going to be at Origins, but as people not publishers, so I’m not sure we’ll get the “presence” boost. I’m okay with that. Origins is about the people, for me, and I pretty much never get to hit a big con and treat it as a non-business event. This time, I will, and that’s worth a lot to me. No booth-running stress sounds like heaven!) You can also use your presence there, beyond simply running games or selling your stuff at a booth, to ask for folks to vote for your stuff, actively. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get proxies to do some of the presence thing for you too (I certainly hope IPR will be campaigning both for Fiasco and Dresden this year, through their booth, and I would be pleased as hell to hear of people running our game both on and off schedule.)
Hopefully you’ve gotten a boost in the time since your product was released and leading, as well. It’s always nice when a voter shows up to Origins already knowing about your game and thinking it’s the best. But I don’t know to what extent that secures a win over active, at-show efforts. Again, it’s a situation where a micro-publisher is liable to be facing an uphill battle: potentially smaller audiences and a greater likelihood of not having a presence at the show.
So what does a win mean for a publisher?
Mostly, it’s prestige. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone, at least recently, report that winning an Origins Award had a palpable effect on their sales. But who knows? That sort of thing is hard to track, and certainly a game that can be called “prestigious” might have just a little bit of an extra shot at capturing a customer.
Me, I try to look at awards like this (as with the ENnies) as the nomination being the real honor. I’m gobsmacked at the company our game is getting to keep in that Best RPG category (which should not shock you, given my goopy radioactive retro-love for this year’s Gamma World, my tragic shot-in-the-head admiration for Fiasco, my dark bloody four-color appreciation of Green Ronin’s work). And if you’re gunning for the awards, yourself, that’s where you might want to put your hopes, too.
Now that said… if you’re going to Origins… please vote. 🙂