At the recent Essen Spiel this last October I had the opportunity to talk with Mario Pawlowski about his local game club, the Hippodice Game Club, and the annual design competition that they run.
Mario Pawlowski (left) at the Hippodice Club booth, Essen 2000
The club itself has been around for many years and currently has about 80 members. In 1989 they held their inaugural design competition which saw approximately 40 or 50 games entered. This year there are around 150 or so that are initially considered. Mario mentioned that the numbers that are being sent in by North Americans is on the rise making up about 10% of the total entries. When offering up a game the designer is required to send in a copy of the rules as well as a brief description of the game. There are three judges that will look at each of these and based upon this initial inspection 50 games will be selected. The designers will then be informed and asked to send in prototypes of the games. This normally occurs sometime in late October/November. At this point the 50 games will be played by members of the game club as well as others over the next few months. It's strongly encouraged that those playing the game take notes on how the game proceeded and how well it worked. If nothing else this "blind-testing" feedback is invaluable help to any designer, established or otherwise. Come February the feedback forms will be sent to the designers and about 10 games will be selected as finalists. (The number fluctuates based on the quality of the games of course.)
Once the finalists are decided there is a jury made of 8 or 9 game company officials. These are people that are in the industry and often the ones making the decisions on what games to produce. They'll play the games and discuss and eventually decided upon a game that they feel is the best which is awarded the prize. The designers are also invited to this event which allows them the opportunity to talk with the industry insiders and find out what they need to do to improve their game in order to get it published. While not eligible for the award, "honourable mention" games might also be played during this final day. The thought being that a game company might be interested in it even if it wasn't considered a top contender.
Mario also mentioned that not only are designers anxious to have their games considered but companies also want to be part of the final jury. After all, they get an opportunity to see, in one day, 10-15 very promising games. All in all a good deal for everyone.
What's most impressive is the number of games that are subsequently published. A short list would include Chinatown, Mississippi Queen, Vino among others.
If you'd like any more information about the competition or how to enter please contact Mario Pawlowski.
- Greg Aleknevicus