There are a number of different RPG awards given out each year, and some of them pique my interest as a GM more than others.
In most gaming groups, the GM is the one who owns the most books (at least, for the game currently being played) — and you have decide what to buy somehow. How much of a role do RPG awards play in helping you decide which games to buy — and therefore, to run?
These are the four most prominent RPG awards that I’m aware of:
- Diana Jones Award 
- GenCon EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) 
- Origins Awards 
- Pen & Paper Fan Awards 
All of them take a different approach, which is handy since it prevents a good deal of overlap.
Diana Jones Award: From their “about” page: “The Diana Jones Award is decided on merit, not popularity or commercial success. You may never have heard of some of the nominees, but you can be certain that they are all outstanding in their fields. What is more, because the winner is chosen by a closed, anonymous committee, it is impossible for a manufacturer or publisher to stuff the ballot or interfere with the voting.”
ENnies: The ENnies are “a peoples’ choice award, and the final winners are voted upon by the gaming public at EN World.” The process is an interesting one: EN Worlders vote on who the five judges will be (anyone can apply to judge); publishers submit products to the judges; the judges decide which products will be nominated for awards; and during the voting window, gamers visit EN World and vote for their favorites (the “peoples’ choice” aspect).
Origins Awards: The Origins Awards are run by the Academy of Adventure Games Art and Design , and Academy members select the best products in several categories (a closed process). These are the longest running awards by far — they’ve been giving out Origins Awards since 1975 — and probably the most prestigious.
Pen & Paper Fan Awards: From their description: “The Pen & Paper Fan Awards are voted on once a year by visitors to this site. Voters are free to select any product they wish; no predetermined nominees are selected.” Like the ENnies and the Origins Awards, the Pen & Paper Fan Awards span a wide range of categories.
I’ve voted in the Pen & Paper Fan Awards for the past couple of years, and in the ENnies since their inception. I’ve never been on the Diana Jones committee, and I’m not a member of the AAGAD, so voting in either of those awards is right out for me.
Personally, I have to say that none of them have a major impact on me as a GM. I generally know what’s “out there” in terms of RPGs (although the Diana Jones Award recipients can definitely catch me by surprise), and through a combination of research on the net and flipping through books at my local gaming shop, I usually have a pretty good idea what I’m interested in buying — and running.
That said, I do enjoy the ENnies and the Pen & Paper awards quite a bit, mainly because I have the opportunity to participate in them. That participation gets me thinking about games I might not otherwise have considered, and that’s one of several factors that can pique my interest in running a game.
On the flipside, even though the Origins Awards are the closest in format to the Academy Awards, which I love to watch, gaming is so much more of a participatory hobby than watching movies that I tend not to pay too much attention them.
RPG awards definitely heighten awareness that there is a wider gaming community out there, represent major accomplishments for the winners and have plenty of other things going for them — I think they’re a good thing, and I’d love to win one someday. I’m just not sure how useful they are to most GMs.
I can see where these awards might be a useful tool for some GMs, though: as a way to find new games to play, as the “tipping point” in picking up a game you were already thinking about, as a shortcut through time-consuming research into different games and so forth.
How about it — do you pay attention to any RPG awards? Have you ever bought or run a game largely (or even solely) because it won an award?