Let's Talk about the ENnies
4 June 2019
For those that don’t know, the ENnies are the award ceremony that gets hosted at GenCon every year. From the ENnies’ own about page:
The Gen Con RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming. The ENnies give game designers, writers and artists the recognition they deserve. It is a peoples’ choice award, and the final winners are voted upon online by the gaming public.
The ENnies just posted their form for judge nominations for 2020, and it’s caused a bit of a stir in my corner of the internet. Now, I saw this form without the accompanying announcement here, and that’s worth mentioning as we’ll get to later.
First off, let’s talk about the Disclaimer, which I’ve quoted below.
Disclaimer: All applicants…
- must be at least 18 years of age as of August 1st, 2019 and able to enter into a legal contract.
- not have any professional relationship with any RPG publisher during the period from January 1st, 2018 to August 1st, 2020; if you have questions about your eligibility based upon your work for a publisher, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- must declare any relationship with any publisher in which they receive money, product, or special consideration in exchange for their services.
- must be able to read English and communicate clearly therein.
- while campaigning and if voted in as judge, must in no way, shape, or form promise favors to fans or publishers in exchange for votes.
- this must not be the third consecutive year for judgeship.
Note: The ENnie Awards reserves the right to reject candidates who have displayed significant disregard for the ENnies Organization or an inability to work cohesively with a team as determined by the Submissions Coordinator and Business Manager. The last day to apply is Saturday, July 6, 2019, at 11:45 pm PST.
Let’s take this point by point, shall we?
- No issues here: must be 18 and able to enter into a legal contract.
- Not have any professional relationship with any RPG publisher in time frame of potential entries with a buffer around it. This makes a lot of sense, too, as long as you understand that they’re going for a “peoples’ choice award”.
- Must declare any relationship with any publisher that’s compenstated in some way. This one is probably so that reviewers or others that may have received free product are still eligible as long as they disclose that.
- Must be able to read English and communicate clearly therein. The ENnies are at GenCon, and most of the RPG products likely to be nominated are in English. Okay, a bit of a minor quibble with the wording at the end here, but that’s because my editor brain sees potential for problems with the vagueness of “communicate clearly”.
- Don’t bargain to get peoples’ votes. Now, for those who don’t know some of the history behind the ENnies, this may seem innocuous. However, there have been issues in previous years with passionate/rabid fanbases of certain designers and products showing up en masse and tilting the results in their favor a la the Sad Puppies. There was even a walk-out in 2015 (full disclosure: I’m friends and acquaintances with those that walked out, and I fully support their decision to do so, even though I made the choice to stay to support other nominated designers.)
- No more than 2 consecutive years as a judge. No issues with this one.
Did you notice that I haven’t even gotten to the application itself yet? Let’s do that now, shall we? First off, some of the information from the announcment should be on the application page. There’s vital context there, but I’ll also mention specific other things in the point-by-point below.
I’m not going to go into all of the questions/blanks on the application, just the ones I want to comment on.
- Phone number: Why do they need that? I can see communication being easier, but it’d be nice to know why they need it, or make it optional.
- Photograph: Looks like this one is optional, so no issues here.
- Address: Asking for an address isn’t a big deal for many, especially when you understand that they’re gonna ship physical product to you, but it’d be nice to see that made explicit instead of relying on people reading the announcement first. Also, for those concerned about privacy, it would also be good to say that P.O. Boxes are acceptable.
- Introduction and Platform: I suppose this is to let the committee know who you are, but “platform” is a bit of a weird word to use.
- Time and Energy Commitment: Woof, buckle up. First major issue I’ve got is right here with flashing lights and a klaxon. PAY PEOPLE FOR THEIR TIME! Especially when you know and state that it’s a large time commitment. Doubly so when you ask whether you’ve got support to do so (gaming group, other individuals, family (weird and presumptive wording there) ). Triply so when you’re attempting to cast a wider net to bring in more diverse judges (sorry for the inside baseball on this one).
- Change and Status Quo: And now for the coup de grace of bad questions. To be clear, this is a good and proper question to ask, but not for judges applying. At best, this question is well intentioned, but completely out of place. At worst, it’s a dog whistle to gatekeep who becomes a judge. If I hadn’t mentioned the history in point #5 up above, I doubt the wording here makes a lot of sense. I think this whole question should be removed.
A Final Thought
Ready for a bombshell? I really don’t think the ENnies need to be a thing any more. I think it’s time for a new award. While I believe that the people involved in the ENnies are doing their best to make up for past mistakes, I don’t think the value that the ENnies provide to the community and the industry justifies its continued existence. But Jeremy, why take the time to write a blogpost when your TL;DR is “get rid of the ENnies”? Because my voice alone isn’t enough to make them not exist any more, and I think it’s important to offer my opinion and critique while it does exist.
If you feel like I missed something or think I’m out of my gourd, feel free to tweet at me.