Thursday, July 16, 2009

Before product discussion begins...

I know I said I’d finish my Free Products commentary today. I’m sorry to push it back, but as I was typing it a thought came up, and I felt it was important enough to take precedence. Sorry it pushes things back a bit.

Before I get started I wanted to thank everyone for all the helpful discussion and commentary over the last couple days, especially those here in the comments section of my own blog.

Now, to the actual topic:

Talking about individual products is always hard because it's impossible to cover everything. I really enjoy judging, but I'm no blogger or reviewer. Coming up with content is tough for me, and I don’t always have a huge amount to say about every single thing that I read. If I miss something you want to hear about let me know, it’s probably not because I disliked it or anything, most likely I just didn’t think about it.

Following the nominations announcements you can count on a few things: Some people are going to disagree and tell you what should be on the list. Some will pat you on the back and tell you what a good job you did. Some will find something important enough to them to argue about. Some will be disappointed that their pick didn’t make it, and wonder why.

The last one in the tough one. The others are easy enough. They can be chalked up to differences in taste or misunderstandings for the most part. Some are because of something that really does need to be looked at, and therefore can be far more valuable than the kudos.

That last one however? It sucks. It sucks because there isn’t always a good answer. It’s not like people throw their time and money away on a product that they don’t think has a good chance of winning. Therefore almost everything we get has some real value. In the probably 500 products I have reviewed for the ENnies I can probably count the number of actually “bad” products on my fingers.

No, most often the real answer is, “It didn’t make it because we only have five slots, and the five of us fight over them tooth and claw so the things that we want to see recognized.” It sucks, but it’s the truth.

Beyond that however, it breaks down even further. Roleplaying products are curious beasts, they come in different shapes, sizes, and varieties, and not only to our own individual tastes need to be sated, but the variety of different types of products needs to be considered. If you have a category that’s an amalgamation of products that are really different, but could be grouped on some similarity (read: almost every RPG product out there) you need to make sure that not only the absolute best is represented, but also the best of its type.

For example, if you have one cover with an amazing art piece on the cover, one where the cover is dominated by a fairly simple, but extremely attractive logo, and one with an embossed, textured cover, but maybe not an attractive hard-cover, I feel like they should all be represented if at all possible. Therefore you can’t just look at the five best books, but must make some attempt to show the best of the various types, even if they can’t be directly compared to one another well.

In their Origins Awards episode the Brilliant Gameologists touched on this with their “best of breed” analogy, and they do a far better job of explaining it, so I won’t go into details here, but I will steal their analogy.

What’s important here is that in every category there are only five possible winners, regardless of how many of the 260 or so products that we reviewed qualify. Those five slots must be broken down according to the various sub-types in each category, and then further sorted by each judge’s tastes. If there are five covers with absolutely amazing art, we must still at least consider the one that is just a fantastic logo. It may not always make it, but if it does then we only have one four slots left for those five amazing pieces. It doesn’t mean that fifth piece is any worse; it just means that something, somewhere, had to give.

I say this because I want to make sure that it is clear that just because something didn’t make the list it was somehow ‘rejected.’ Most likely we just didn’t have room for everything we love.

More often than not one or more of us comes out of each list just as disappointed that something we were rooting for didn’t make it as any other fan.

Like maybe a book whose cover is just an awesome logo.

No comments: