Alongside the announcement of 2010 Independent Games Festival finalists, the IGF Nuovo Award jury has revealed its finalists for the $2,500 award, which is intended to “honor abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development which advances the medium and the way we think about games.”
The Award, which was won (when called the Innovation/Nuovo Award) by Jason Rohrer’s acclaimed abstract multiplayer title Between in 2009, allows more esoteric ‘art games’ to compete on their own terms alongside longer-form indie titles. For the 2010 Independent Games Festival, the IGF Main Competition judges, numbering over 160 in total, recommended games entered into the IGF Main Competition this year to be considered for this award.
But a separate panel of notable game and art world figures — spanning previous IGF winner Rohrer, Area/Code’s Frank Lantz, N+ co-creator Mare Sheppard, EA division head and art-game creator Rod Humble, and more, have decided the finalists (and will decide the winner) for the Nuovo Award in discussion-based, juried form — mirroring similar, artistically important awards in other industries. All five Nuovo finalists will exhibit their games at GDC 2010 in San Francisco in the IGF Pavilion, and a Nuovo Award winner will be revealed at the IGF Awards Ceremony on the evening of March 11th, 2010.
The Nuovo Jury’s finalist statement discussing and justifying their picks – also adding a number of ‘honorable mentions’ for games that were just outside the finalist selection, but had fascinating characteristics – reads as follows:
“To start, we wanted to thank everyone who submitted their games to the Independent Games Festival this year. All of you were in consideration for this award, and there were over one hundred games recommended to the Nuovo Jury by the Main Competition judges as being potentially worthy to be a Nuovo finalist. This shows the breadth of talent out there in independent games right now, and especially those looking to push the boundaries and produce new ideas and new concepts.
The Nuovo Jury has selected games that deliver two kinds of ‘newness’: Firstly, does the game have a new game design mechanic, element, or idea that makes they jury think: ‘Wow, I really haven’t seen that done before in this way’. Secondly, does the game make the jury feel something new — something that a game rarely or never has, emotionally or otherwise?
With this in mind, we discussed the games that were most-recommended by Main Competition judges, as well as putting forward our own picks from IGF entrants. We have decided (via jury voting) on the following finalists for the 2010 IGF Nuovo Award, each of which will receive all-access GDC 2010 tickets and the opportunity to exhibit their game in the IGF Pavilion there:
– Today I Die (Daniel Benmergui)
The jury was struck by the evocative game mechanics of of discovery and exploration in Daniel’s experimental Flash game Today I Die. The game uses words and poetry as a gameplay mechanic in striking, emotion-inducing ways, and while short in length, leaves a lasting impression.
– A Slow Year (Ian Bogost)
This newly coded set of mini-game experiences — made for the distinctly retro Atari 2600 console — consists of “slow-moving meditations on time and attention”. And A Slow Year made it to its Nuovo finalist position due to its charmingly retro art and thoughtful, deliberate, determined gameplay, which a number of jurors found relaxing and genuinely evocative.
– Tuning (Cactus)
The jury found praise for Cactus’ platform game thanks to its bold style and its “uncompromising exploration” of almost psychedelic abstraction. Although the title can be frustrating as times, one juror noted that “you have to see the visual distortions and transformations as gameplay”, and under that lens, the game seems even more charming.
– Closure (Closure Team)
Tremendously evocative in its audio and visuals, and with some genuinely new gameplay concepts that come with the complete absence (or presence) of light, Closure was praised by the Nuovo jury for twinning robust gameplay with rarefied atmosphere and a fully realized game world.
– Enviro-Bear 2000 (Justin Smith)
Enviro-Bear 2000 blossomed from its ‘constrained competition’ origins to a Nuovo finalist, thanks to two things that struck the jury. Of course, the first is the joyfully off the wall, grin-inducing concept and art direction. But the second is the genuinely novel gameplay idea of having a ‘time management’ approach to limited player controls (steer or eat fish or attack badger?).
There were a number of titles that were recommended or advocated for by judges and received multiple votes in our final tally, but did not make the Finalist list due to insufficient votes. Nonetheless, we’re happy to mention and recommend these titles as Nuovo ‘honorable mentions’, that those interested in alternative independent games should certainly check out:
– Hazard: The Journey Of Life – a genuinely interesting philosophy-based abstract first-person action game mod.
– Trauma – an atmospheric photo-based evolution of the adventure game with gestural elements.
– Fig. 8 – in which you ride a bike through technical diagrams, with clever wheel-based gameplay elements.
– Lose/Lose – as you destroy aliens, you destroy files on your hard drive. Controversial, but still thought-provoking?
– Flywrench – extremely tricky, rewarding vector-ish art game with a cunning central gameplay mechanic.
– Art Of Crime – a semi-procedural detection game with an interesting, alternative illustrative style.
Clint Hocking, Eric Zimmerman, Eddo Stern, Frank Lantz, Rod Humble, Jason Rohrer, Carl Goodman, Marcin Ramocki, Mare Sheppard, Jesper Juul, Simon Carless.
[IGF 2010 Nuovo jury].”