Five nominees for the 2018 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming have been announced — two games, an academic journal, a competition, and RPG streaming
The award is given to the person, product, company, event or any other thing that has, in the opinion of the Diana Jones committee, best demonstrated the quality of ‘excellence’ in the world of hobby-gaming in the previous year.
The winner will be named August 1, the night before the Gen Con games convention opens to the public.
- The 200 Word RPG Challenge
A competition organised by David Schirduan and Marshall Miller
Started by accident in 2015, the annual 200 Word RPG Challenge attracts entries from all over the world — almost seven hundred in 2017, a quarter of them from people who had never designed an RPG before. Despite the tight constraint, the variety and quality of entries are extraordinary, from OSR micro-rewrites to games that are political, satirical, surreal and avant-garde. All entries are posted on the Challenge’s website and released under a Creative Commons licence, allowing other designers to work with them. It’s an outpouring of creativity, a melting-pot of influences, a foundry of new design talent, and the three winners showcase the possibilities of what an RPG can do.
- Actual Play
Actual Play is a movement within hobby-games in which people record and broadcast their games — usually campaigns of roleplaying games — on the internet. Primary examples include Critical Role (a weekly show for Geek and Sundry) and The Adventure Zone (a biweekly show for Maximum Fun). Such shows have done more to popularize roleplaying games than anything since the Satanic Panic of the 1980s — and in a far more positive way. They take RPGs out of the basement and put them on the world stage, showing a global audience exactly how much fun roleplaying games can be when played by talented people who are fully invested in their shared stories.
- Analog Game Studies
A journal edited by Aaron Trammell, Evan Torner, Shelley Jones and Emma Leigh Waldron
Analog Game Studies is a ‘journal dedicated to the academic and popular study of games containing a substantial analog component’. Over the last four years the journal has established itself as a place where scholars of non-digital games discuss their research in an accessible manner. Furthermore, Analog Game Studies has a wide readership, comes out reliably, the editorial process is fast, and the editors capable. It is an important scholarly voice in the analytical tradition discussing hobby games that has, in the past, included sites such as Interactive Fantasy, The Forge, and the Knutepunkt books. The journal is freely available online, but it also produces annual printed books of the year’s content.
A board game designed by Jamey Stegmaier, published by Stonemaier Games
In Charterstone the players play charters hired to create a village for the Forever King, competing for the king’s favour by being the best at developing the village and dealing with curveballs the king throws their way. Charterstone is simultaneously a worker-placement game and a legacy game, and demonstrates state-of-the-art design and rich, enjoyable playability in both. Significantly, when the legacy campaign is finished you’re left with a one-of-a-kind worker-placement game that is now stable for infinite replay as a normal board game. Or, as the village board is printed identically on both sides, when you’ve finished the legacy campaign you can buy a ‘recharge pack’ and play it again on the other side. This clear-sighted approach to games design lifts Charterstone to the top of its league.
- Harlem Unbound
A roleplaying game sourcebook by Chris Spivey, published by Darker Hue Studios
In Harlem Unbound, Chris Spivey and his helpers (Bob Geist, Ruth Tillman, Alex Mayo, Sarah Hood, and Neall Raemonn Price) bring Call of Cthulhu/Trail of Cthulhu out of Innsmouth and set it squarely in 1920s Harlem, turning the racism endemic in H. P. Lovecraft’s writings squarely on its head. While most games dodge the issues of racism, often claiming it not suitable for gaming, Harlem Unbound places them front and center and focuses the spotlight on them until they begin to smoke and burn. It’s an important book in that it takes games as a serious art form in which such matters can be explored, plumbed, and — if we’re lucky — understood.
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]