2022 Diana Jones Award

The 2022 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was presented at the annual Diana Jones Award ceremony in Indianapolis on August 3, the unofficial start of the Gen Con Indy convention.

The winner is Ajit George, an activist and game designer advocating for a more representative hobby games industry.

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 tabletop gaming in the previous year.

Ajit George’s finalist citation explains why he was up for the award:

Ajit George

Ajit George has been a tireless activist in games who draws on his extensive nonprofit experience in poverty alleviation to advocate for a more representative and equitable industry. For over a decade, he has worked with individuals and organizations to change the trajectory of the community. In 2016, he helped lead a groundbreaking year for Gen Con, which achieved gender parity and greater representation for both POCs and LGBTQ+ for its Industry Insider Speaker slate for the first time in its history. In 2019, he created and continues to lead a POC training and mentoring program which matches industry veterans from Bioware, Evil Hat, Riot, Wizards of the Coast, and other companies with up-and-coming POC professionals looking to break into the industry. He also conceived and led the first POC games industry mixer at Big Bad Con in 2019, which led to 75+ job opportunities at a wide variety of companies including Critical Role, Darrington Press, Evil Hat, Paradox, and Wizards of the Coast. As a game writer, he has been the first writer of Indian origin to write Indian-inspired material for a number of games, including Dungeons & Dragon’s Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. He most recently conceived, project-led, and wrote for the first book written entirely by POCs in Dungeon’s and Dragon’s 48-year history, Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel.

Visit his website at ajitageorge.com

2022 Diana Jones Award Shortlist

Four finalists for the 2022 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming have been announced — a website, an activist and game designer, and two RPGs.

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 tabletop gaming in the previous year.

In alphabetical order, the finalists are:

  • Across RPGSEA, a website and newsletter promoting Southeast Asian games.
  • Ajit George, an activist and game designer advocating for a more representative hobby games industry.
  • Haunted West, an epic weird west RPG with a focus on marginalized people.
  • Mothership, a stunning space horror RPG fueled by its community of contributors.

The website discusses each in detail under the “Finalists” tab on 2022 Award page.

The winner of the 2022 award will be announced on Wednesday, August 3, at the annual Diana Jones Award ceremony in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con Indy convention.

2021 Diana Jones Award

The winner of the 2021 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was announced on September 15.

  • Nibcard Games, a game publisher/manufacturer. This Nigerian board game company is helping to build a sustainable tabletop industry in Nigeria and producing AB Con (African Boardgame Convention), the first tabletop-game convention in West Africa.

Nibcard is the multi-faceted company at the heart of the nascent Nigerian games industry. It designs and publishes its own games but also manufactures for other companies, mentors new designers, evangelizes games as a hobby, and runs Nigeria’s first games cafe and annual convention. All this is down to its founder, the tireless Kenechukwu “KC” Ogbuagu and his vision of “telling Nigerian stories through board games.” Nibcard is much more than a local company doing well. It’s a strong and original voice in publishing, creating a community of new makers and players across Africa and setting an example to the rest of the world of how to use games to make a difference.

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 tabletop gaming in the previous year. The award website discusses each nominee in detail here.

The Diana Jones Award committee has also announced the winner of the inaugural Diana Jones Emerging Designer Program, seeking “to highlight rising and impactful talent in the analog tabletop game industry.”

  • Jeeyon Shim — The co-creator of Field Guide to Memory, Jeeyon is a groundbreaking game designer, multimedia artist, and outdoor educator based in California.

Jeeyon Shim is a second generation Korean American game designer, multimedia artist, and outdoor educator based in California. Her work is defined by her lyrical prose, innovative mechanics, and ability to create lasting connections between players and the world around them. Jeeyon’s games have been featured on Polygon, Shut Up and Sit Down, and Dicebreaker, among other publications. 

The 2021 Diana Jones Award ceremony was held in Indianapolis the night before the opening of Gen Con, the world’s largest tabletop games convention.

2021 Diana Jones Award Shortlist

Six nominees for the 2021 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming have been announced — two conventions, two publishers, a designer, and a board game:

  • Big Bad Con’s 2019 Babble On Equity Project and PoC Programming, a fundraising effort to bring people of color to Big Bad Con. 
  • The Game Crafter, a print-on-demand manufacturing service for tabletop games. 
  • Nibcard Games, a game publisher/manufacturer. 
  • Mike Pondsmith, a game designer. 
  • Session Zero Online, an online tabletop gaming convention.
  • Wingspana board game by Elizabeth Hargrave, published by Stonemaier Games. 

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 tabletop gaming in the previous year. The award website discusses each nominee in detail here.

The Diana Jones Award committee has also announced the inaugural Diana Jones Emerging Designer Program, seeking “to highlight rising and impactful talent in the analog tabletop game industry.”

It takes special care to focus on communities that have historically been excluded from the larger industry conversations. This year’s winner will receive a Gen Con package that includes a free badge, hotel room, travel reimbursement, and a food stipend. The chosen designer and their work will be showcased during their annual awards event. We are excited for the opportunity to highlight creators whose breakout designs push the industry forward toward better and more inclusive storytelling while enriching gaming as a whole.

The 2021 Diana Jones Award ceremony will be held in Indianapolis on Wednesday, September 15, the night before Gen Con, the world’s largest tabletop games convention.

2020 Diana Jones Award

The winner of the 2020 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming is Black Excellence in Gaming.

The Diana Jones Award committee has decided to do something different this year. For our community to continue to grow and improve, we must do better to mend the rifts that pull us apart in our industry and the world at large. Thus, rather than announce a shortlist and a winner, we choose to award the concept of Black Excellence in Gaming. We want to recognize the often-overlooked Black professionals throughout tabletop gaming’s history, up to and including the present day. This is overdue, deserving of the spotlight, and is but one small step.  

We have given the award to broad concepts in the past in much this same way. This year, to recognize specific people and highlight their achievements, the committee has selected over two dozen professionals in the games industry as honorees who are representative of Black Excellence in Gaming.

The Diana Jones Award committee has also announced plans to give a new Diana Jones Emerging Designer Award next year. The award is intended to amplify the voices of up-and-coming designers. The committee says, “As part of the process, we pledge to make a special effort to seek out qualified and deserving members of marginalized groups as a component of each cohort of candidates.”

The Emerging Designer Award winner will get a free badge and hotel room at Gen Con, and the opportunity to be showcased as a promising designer at the event. This new program will begin with the resumption of Gen Con’s normal schedule.

The committee expressed hope that these awards “will help move our community toward becoming more diverse and inclusive.” They also acknowledged the efforts of the Babble-On Equity Project, the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, and Dissident Whispers, among others. “Black lives have always mattered, and we pledge to be a better ally going forward.”

The initial list of 21 initial Black Excellence in Gaming honorees follows the jump.

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2019 Diana Jones Award

The winner of the 2019 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was announced tonight in Indianapolis —

  • Star Crossed, a role-playing game by Alex Roberts, published by Bully Pulpit Games

The Diana Jones 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.

Star Crossed: The Two-Player Game of Forbidden Love

2019 Diana Jones Award Shortlist

Four nominees for the 2019 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming have been announced — three games and a book.

  • Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana, a book by Mike Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer, published by Ten Speed Press
  • Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr, a board game by Michael Fox and Rory O’Connor, published by Hub Games
  • The Mind, a card game by Wolfgang Warsch, published by NSV GmbH and Pandasaurus Games
  • Star Crossed, a role-playing game by Alex Roberts, published by Bully Pulpit Games

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 July 31, the night before the Gen Con games convention opens to the public.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

2018 Diana Jones Award


The winner of the 2018 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming is Actual Play.

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.

Actual Play is a movement within hobby games in which people record and broadcast their game sessions — particularly campaigns of tabletop roleplaying games — over the internet. Primary examples include Critical Role (a weekly show for Geek & Sundry), The Adventure Zone (a biweekly show for Maximum Fun), Maze Arcana (a biweekly D&D show featuring Satine Phoenix and Ruty Rutenberg), Acquisitions, Inc. (an irregular D&D show by Penny Arcade), the One Shot and Campaigns Podcasts on the One Shot Network (by James D’Amato and Kat Kuhl), and a variety of shows produced by Geek & Sundry.

This list could go on for pages. There are hundreds of these shows, each with a dedicated audience. Some are arguably more popular than the games their members play within them.

Actual Play shows — whether broadcast via audio, video or both — 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.

More than that, Actual Play can help gamers become better gamers. Game designers have long bemoaned the fact that it’s impossible to put themselves into the box to show people how to have the most fun while playing their games. Actual Play gives players of all skill levels full-bore examples of how to get the most out of their own games, presented in a format that’s easy to share and enjoy.

Actual Play puts the focus on the fun. It inspires gamers new and old to start up games of their own, or to improve the games they’re already running. Roleplaying game sessions have been described as twenty minutes of fun packed into four hours, but Actual Play demonstrates how players and game masters can become amazing and fine practitioners of this challenging and ephemeral art. They take what many of us have known in our private lives for years and make it obvious for everyone to see: gaming is perhaps the best kind of fun.

The Diana Jones Award Committee is proud to declare that Actual Play exemplifies excellence in gaming, and to award it our trophy this year.

The 2018 Award was presented at the annual Diana Jones Party, an industry-only event held at the Tin Roof in Indianapolis on August 1m, the night before the Gen Con games convention opened to the public.

Representing the Actual Play community, Satine Phoenix, Ruty Rutenberg, James D’Amato, and Ivan Van Norman accepted the Diana Jones trophy from Adrian Swartout, who had accepted the trophy on behalf of Gen Con last year.

2018 Diana Jones Award Shortlist

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.

https://200wordrpg.github.io/

  • 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.

http://analoggamestudies.org/

  • Charterstone

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.

https://stonemaiergames.com/games/charterstone/

  • 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.

http://www.darkerhuestudios.com/shop/harlem-unbound-core-book

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

2017 Diana Jones Award

The winner of the 2017 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was announced on August 16, the day before the start of Gen Con, in Indianapolis.

The winner is:

 

Gen Con A games convention

Gen Con is a fifty-year-old game convention originally organized in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, by Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax. Now accurately billed as ‘The Best Four Days in Gaming’, under the stewardship of Adrian Swartout Gen Con has become the key annual gathering for the entire worldwide tabletop gaming hobby. Not simply long-lived and highly regarded, Gen Con’s greatest impact lies in showcasing, year after year, the amazing diversity of gaming’s events, people, commerce, and camaraderie.

 

The Award was decided by judges whose names are generally secret, except for Peter Adkison, Matt Forbeck, John Kovalic and James Wallis, who have revealed their panel membership.

The award winner receives the Diana Jones trophy, which they may keep for a year before it passes to the next winner of the Award. They and the other nominees receive the right to use the Diana Jones Award logo for promotional purposes.

As for how that misshapen lump of plastic filled with scorched bits came to be the award trophy —

The Diana Jones trophy was originally created by the UK office of TSR Hobbies in the mid-1980s, to commemorate the expiration of that company’s licence to publish the Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game and the subsequent destruction of all unsold copies of the game. It was liberated from TSR Hobbies by forces unnamed and subsequently came into the custody of a member of the Diana Jones committee.

The trophy is a four-sided pyramid made of Perspex, standing ten centimetres high and mounted on a wooden base. Sealed within the Perspex are the burnt remains of the last copy of the Indiana Jones RPG, including two still-recognizable cardboard ‘Nazi™’ figures, as recorded in gaming folklore.

The Diana Jones committee believes that a trophy that embodies the destruction of the last copy of one of the games industry’s most unloved and least-mourned products is a suitable symbol for the aims of the Diana Jones Award.