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BAFTA update

Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Fri, 25 Nov 2011

Ste Pickford

There was lively internet response to the opinion piece I wrote for SPONG, published earlier this week then picked up by several other news outlets, criticising the structure of the video game BAFTA awards.

Whilst most of the comments were positive and supportive of my arguments, not everyone agreed with the article.

A few critics focused on my discussion of the cost of entry, pointing out that this is the norm for such awards in other industries, and that without an entry fee there would be simply too many entrants to judge properly. I still think that the price is set too high for micro-budget developers, who often do great work worthy of recognition, but I now wish I'd not mentioned the fee at all, as it was the smallest of my criticisms of the BAFTAs, but the one which generated the biggest response.

A few other critics accused me of sour grapes, saying that I was just moaning that our game couldn't win, or worse, accusing our game of being rubbish and not worthy of entry anyway. Well, it is the internet I suppose.

A lot of the critical discussion veered towards the judging process and the make up of judging panels, etc. This is a subject I know nothing about, and didn't address at all in my piece. It's something that a lot of people seem to feel strongly about though.

Interestingly I didn't read a single disagreement with my central point that the award categories themselves are a problem, and favour big budget games rather than recognising excellent work wherever it occurs. There were general nods of agreement about this, with critics of the article mostly ignoring this main point and focusing on weaknesses in my choice of film analogies, or other more minor details.

A disappointing response from a lot of people, supposedly replying in agreement to the article, was the call for special categories for indie games or low budget games. This is the exact opposite of what I was arguing for, and would represent the worse possible change to the awards, in my opinion.

I was suggesting that we make better categories that are relevant to all games (such as a UI award where a clunky AAA UI like Skyrim's was up against a much better designed UI from a little flash game, or a level design award where great Cut The Rope levels were pitted against dull AAA shooter brown corridors), rather than a special prize for (implied) inferior work.

It was an interesting experience being at the center of a (very tiny) internet news story, and not as scary as I'd imagined.

The best thing about the publication of the article was that almost instantly a couple of people directly involved in the video game BAFTAs got in touch, and were nothing but open and receptive about the piece. I know that Tim (the publisher at SPONG) offered BAFTA a right of reply, and was disappointed that they didn't take him up on the offer, but the direct communication I've had with BAFTA has been very positive and helpful.

It was tentatively suggested that maybe I join one of the judging panels this year, but I declined this offer. As I don't really agree with the structure of the award categories, I don't feel that it would be appropriate for me to judge games within those categories. Representatives of BAFTA also offered to meet face to face at some point, for a chat about my criticisms, and I'm hoping to take them up on this gracious offer early next year.

Finally, we were told that as our game had already received 'committee recommendation' (along with quite a few other mobile games, apparently), we were allowed to enter with only the developer registration fee to pay (£145), rather than the full fee of almost £500 that we'd initially baulked at. We've taken up this offer as well, and entered the game after all. I can't see us winning anything, but the positive response of the organisation to criticism has made me feel much more inclined to become involved than I was last week.


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