Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rio Grande contest judging standards

With my entry in the Rio Grande game contest sent out, I'm eagerly awaiting the results.  The judging is based on total points in a number of equally rated categories:
  • Decision Driven (How much is the winner determined based on their decisions, as opposed to luck factors?)
  • Originality
  • Wait Time (How much time do you spend without interacting with the game/other players?)
  • Unpredictability (How often is the outcome of a turn/round known before it ends?)
  • Broad Appeal (Would you teach this to someone who is not a serious game player?)
  • Replayable (Do you want to play it again soon?)
  • Interactive (Do the player decisions impact other players?)
  • Equal Opportunity (Does every player have an equal chance of winning regardless of turn order/role?)
  • Fun 
  • Simple to Learn (the rules were clearly stated and communicated)
Scale for each criterion is set at 1-5. For each criterion that does not positively or negatively impact the game (or simply doesn't apply), the criterion is scored at 3. If a criterion does impact the game, the score is adjusted positively or negatively and a note/comment is made to explain the decision.

That's actually an interesting way to judge the contest.  Obviously, the intent is to get a "good" game out of the competition.  But that's very subjective; a Scrabble fiend might hate Settlers of Cataan, and a chess player might despise Monopoly and vice versa.  Breaking it into the ratings above is maybe useful, but weighting them equally is maybe misleading; I'd value "Fun" and "Replayable" as far higher priorities than most of the others.  You could put together a snoozer of a game that scored well in 8 of 10 categories but got a 1 in Fun and Replayable, and it would stand a better chance of winning than a wildly fun game that wasn't, say, as interactive or original or balanced.

This comment by Mark Salzwedel on BGG tries to get deeper into the categories, and it sounds like he's even providing guidelines for the judges at his regional contest.  I think that's a good idea, although tricky to standardize; I have no idea if they'll do something similar to that at the Memphis regional, where my game will be.  He worries that the "Decision Driven" category is a problem - since some folks like more luck and others more strategy, maybe a 3 is the desired outcome, but I think that ignores the instructions at the bottom, where you're actually supposed to rate from 1-5 depending on the impact of luck on the game itself, not on the amount of luck actually involved.

For Yoggity, my entry, I think the framework above might actually help me, since the game's strengths are a reasonable fit with the categories.  My game is more of a family game, and some of the other entries in my regional contest (shown here) look a bit like heavier wargames, although you can't tell too much from the pictures.  Games like that, even if they're awesome, are going to be more likely to lose points in the Broad Appeal and Simple to Learn (and often Wait Time and Replayable) categories.

Of course, it will all be up to the volunteer judges and how they decide to apply the categories, so there's no sense worrying too much, but it's interesting to ponder.

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