Industry Insights: The Origins Reports
Who Won What
(or My First Origins) at the 27th Annual Origins Awardsby Jason Paul McCartan
July 9, 2001
© Copyright 2001 Jason Paul McCartan – Tor Mythir Game Studios firstname.lastname@example.org
Industry Insights: The Origins Reports
Who Won What
(or My First Origins) at the 27th Annual Origins Awardsby Jason Paul McCartan
July 9, 2001
© Copyright 2001 Jason Paul McCartan – Tor Mythir Game Studios email@example.com
I moved to Columbus, Ohio, two and half years ago. Work and other commitments got in the way of my last two planned visits to Origins in 1999 and 2000. I was determined not to let this year go by without seeing one of the most well know gaming industry events worldwide. I had always wanted to see the GAMA Origins Awards ceremony. This year I did. It was also a good chance for me to get to see the faces of the other people in the industry and hopefully prepare me for the future, if any of the games I develop now or in the future gets nominated.
Around 6:30pm in the evening, bodies started to congregate in the foyer to the Terrace (room). By the time I arrived with Lewis Pollack, from Misguided Games (www.misguidedgames.com), there were a small number of the award nominees and the general public milling about. Strangely enough most of the bodies were congregating around the alcohol stand. Although the dress code for nominees is classified as semi-formal, there was a wide range of dress displayed; from Arab sheik costume to tuxedos, to jeans and t-shirt and a few others that dressed smartly even though they weren't nominees. Yours truly dressed in what I term "dot-com interview clothing" – the ubiquitous light tan khakis, white shirt and simple tie. I felt like the new hire at the company, and in some ways I was.
At 7:00 the doors open and the nominees were invited in first. They have fixed seats near the front of the stage that they were allocated to sit in. After another 15 minutes the doors were opened to allow others into the room. The Origins website indicates that the seating for the public is on first come, first served basis, but if we wanted to, each person could have had four seats to themselves. Perhaps the switch from the normal ballroom venue to this new venue in the Terrace Balcony was the reason there were so many empty seats. From the few people I spoke to who had been before, there is usually no problem finding seating though, so perhaps it was just that few people decided to attend the ceremony.
Once inside I found a good seat where I could see the projector image on the wall, which would show the nominees and winners, as well as the awards podium. It took around another five minutes for people to settle down and the ceremony to begin.
Mark Simmons of GAMA took to the stage to bring the crowd to attention, but unfortunately the mike system started to play up. He worked without it until it was fixed by Mark MacKinnon, which received a small round of applause from the crowd.
First on the agenda was to be the issuance of three industry awards, recognizing long term service and dedication to gaming.
The first award, the Merit of Service, went to a man I had the pleasure of meeting on Thursday for the first time, and who I hope to be working with in the future on some gaming advocacy-related topics. Recognized for 10 years work in charge of the GAMA Games and Education Committee, David Millians accepted his award with a humbleness that says a lot more about him that I can possibly say in the few words I write here. After speaking to him only a small number of times, I can say that he is genuinely interested in pro-actively introducing children and teachers to the benefits that roleplaying and board games can bring. He has some great ideas and I am really looking forward to working with him.
The second award, the Honor of Service, went to Will Niebling who was recognized for long time directorship and international communications. Will simply stated on acceptance that he likes "to do what I can when I can."
The third award, for contribution to the gaming industry, was a special award given posthumously to Winston Hamilton, a long time industry veteran and the founder of GR/D who is no longer with the gaming community. Bruce Neidlinger spoke affectionately about his friendship with him and his memories of him. Nearing the end of his emotive speech, it was obviously getting harder for him to continue. After completing his speech, a solemn round of applause acknowledged the receiver of the award.
After Bruce left the stage, Mark returned to it and commented on how Winston would have reacted to GAMA naming this new award after him in one word: "pissed".
There was then a short lull as the stage master of ceremonies was changed. Replacing Mark Simmons was James Ernest of Cheapass Games, who handed the podium to Charles Ryan for a few moments to allow him to thank the nominees and everyone for coming.
When James reclaimed the podium, he commented on how he was nominated for six awards, which drew some applause from the crowd. Grinning he added, "No, I'm not going to win them.
With the crowd on his side, he decided to entertain everyone with some juggling tricks. As the house lights came up, he balanced a wooden plate on his fingers and started spinning it, explaining that it was called plate-spinning because he was spinning it.
"There's the little hole in the middle, so once I get it it's not hard any more", he wise-cracked.
Next he squatted and managed to keep the plate spinning as he rotated his arm in a full circle at the elbow to a round of applause. Continuing, he performed the other tricks, which included putting a ball on the plate while it span, as well as rotating his arm with the ball still on the plate. For his third trick he had help from a member of the audience to whom he handed a "big pointy stick". As that plate spun on the stick she held, he put another plate on what looked like a giant pencil and spun that too. Taking the stick from his helper on-stage he placed her stick and plate on top of his and had both sticks and plates spinning on top of each other. The crowd applauded, enjoying themselves at this display of skill (and it was skill. Either that or very clever optical effects). Grinning again, he commented that that was his trick, and it was cool.
And with that, the actual awards ceremony started in earnest with Ernest (forgive the pun) opening with the beginning of the awards speech, which was written by Marcelo Figueroa of Avalanche Press.
"As we gather here on the year of the new millennium (because we're gamers and we know when it really starts) ...". The audience chuckled loudly.
First up to the podium is Ann Dupius of Grey Ghost games to announce the category of Play-By-Mail Game and Game Accessories. The winner of the Best Play-By-Mail Game was Starweb, developed by Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo Inc., and who accepted the award with a very concise "Thank you very much, I am very honored". Rick Loomis is generally regarded as the father of modern play-by-mail and all derived games such as play-by-web and play-by-email owe a great deal of their existence to him. This was of interest to me as I plan to move into developing and running some play-by-mail games in the near future.
The next winner was for Best Game Aid or Accessory, and went to Steve Jackson Games' The Munchkin's Guide to Powergaming, designed by James 'Grim' Desborough, Steve 'Big Steve' Mortimer and Phil 'Editor' Masters.
The next award was for Miniatures and Miniature Games. James comments that he would like to "win a miniature award of my own, because I don't think the big one will fit in my pocket." Behind him the towering form of the Calliope Statuette seems to glare at him in the half-light of the spotlight resting on the podium.
Miniature and Miniature Games was the next Category. Mark MacKinnon of Guardians of Order introduced the winner of the Best Historical Miniatures Rule sub-category, after a slight mixup with his winner envelopes. The winner was Fields of Honor: The American War of Independence, published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group and designed by Shane Lacey Hensley, who commented on his winning product as "a great game in a lousy box".
Mage Knight: Rebellion by Whizkids received a huge round of applause when it won the Best Science-Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures Rules. This is probably due the fact that it has also been one of the most talked about games at the show. In the gaming area there was a large area set aside for players to demo the game, surrounded by lots of flag artwork. Jorden Weisman accepted his award saying "We'll keep it brief, thank everyone for their work, we had fun doing it and don't plan on leaving the industry soon.". Kevin Barrett, the co-designer added that "Jordan has the longest coat tails in the industry, and I'm glad to be riding them right now."
The award for Best Vehicular Miniature award went to Forge World for their very impressive Shadowsword: Titan Hunter. An Academy representative accepted the award on their behalf as they were still in Great Britain. As a Scot who now lives in the United States, I find it contrary at times that other countries refer to the (dis-)United Kingdom as Great Britain, as the title still seems to infer some of the power of the 17th and 18th centuries. Off-topic I know, but what I can tell you is that Forge World make great miniatures. The detail on the tank is incredible and although I've not had a chance to look at it first-hand, I'll be making sure I do, as a previous Warhammer 40k player of way back.
The Best Historical Figure Miniature Series Design award was won by Easy Eight Enterprises for their Hammer's Hellhounds (US Paratroopers), with the award being accepted by an Academy member on their behalf.
Wizards of the Coast won their first award with their Beholder miniature in the category of Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Figure Miniature, beating down the Knights of the Dinner Table Miniatures and the Warlord Ghazghkull Thraka for Warhammer 40k (which prompted James Ernest to chime in that he should start giving his games some unpronounceable names).
Marcello from Avalanche Press took to the stage personally to give the first of four Milestones in Adventure Gaming, celebrating some of the major steps that gaming has had throughout the years. Little Wars, a game by the well known fantasy writer H.G. Wells is credited as being the first public implementation of wargame rules, and is credited for a lot of wargaming conventions that are still with us today, including "Line of Sight" rules and playing within defined boundaries. Wells had tried to persuade the governments of the world to use his game to enact battles without the catastrophic loss of life that accompanies war. He is ignored and next year the Great War of 1914 breaks out. His legacy lives on though in the gaming systems we still play today.
For the first Hall of Fame induction of the evening, a game that everyone knows, or at least has heard of is given prominence because it deserves it. Mike Stackpole, himself a Hall of Fame inductee in 1994, talks about Paranoia, the classic game of clone abuse and back-stabbing in a computer-controlled dystopia, where everyone has a secret agenda. A superbly silly game, it found that it didn't fit into the niche that a lot of gamers though it (the game you play in between campaigns), but instead became a success in its own right, spawning multiple supplements and launching the careers of more than a few game developers. As a big Paranoia fan, I was happy to see this. Remember that the Computer says Paranoia is a great game, and the Computer is always right.
Moving onto the Fiction Categories, John R Phythyon introduces the two winners in this category.
For Best Game Related Short Work, the laurels and award went to Dork Tower for Matt and Gilly's Big Date which got one of the loudest rounds of applause of the evening. John Kovalic accepted his award, stating "I would like to start off with a juggling trick. I became a cartoonist at first cos I really suck at public speaking... I'm stunned". He may have been stunned, but I don't think a lot of the audience were. Dork Tower has a loyal following worldwide and can be seen in multiple publications where it's Dork-ness appeals to the readership.
Margaret Weiss accepted the award for Best Game Related Novel, which she collaborated on with her long-time writing partner Tracy Hickman. As she apologized for Tracy not being able to be at the Awards, she seemed to be overcome with emotion, and is incredibly happy to have won.
The Board Game category was next, where one of the most establish companies in the industry, Avalon Hill took home Best Historical Board Game for Axis & Allies:Europe, which was designed by Larry Harris.
The next two awards managed to get mixed up in order by the speaker. Instead of announcing Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game, she announce the Best Abstract Board Game. To me it seemed that when she realized she had mixed them up, she decided to carry on and do the correct category later. Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set by Looney Labs won the Best Abstract Board Game. Andrew Looney accepted his first award of the evening with gusto stating "10 years ago we were making melting things to make pyramids in our room and our landlord told us to knock it off ... John say something.". John simply replied "Thanks". Andrew thanked his wife Kirsten as well.
James Ernest of Cheapass Games won Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game with The Great Brain Robbery, thereby disproving his other statement earlier that he wasn't going to win. He also accepted his award on behalf of .. himself.
Milestones in Adventure Gaming continued with the second installment looking at Avalon Hills' contribution to the gaming industry, with Marcello talking about how some of the game elements implemented in many wargames these days started off in their early games, such as using hexes.
The second Hall of Fame Inductee for the evening was Dr. Reiner Knizia, and ex-professor and now full time game developer of many fine games such as Modern Art, which was at the forefront of the growing German game industry years ago. Charles Ryan talked about Dr. Knizia's contribution to the gaming industry, how we has won awards continually (including the German game design award three times), and how 11 of his games are currently on the Games 100 list. Dr. Reiner's American publisher accepted the award on his behalf. Near the end of the acceptance speech.
The Awards continued by moving onto the category of Periodicals, which is the one I was most interested in seeing the results of . I've known Mike Marchi of Demonground for some time, but yesterday I managed to meet him and his lovely wife (and co-editor) for the first time. I voted for Demonground (www.demonground.org) to win as I enjoy the magazine online, and it supplements some of the games I play. Unfortunately it didn't win. The Best Amateur Game Periodical was won by Lee Gold for her Alarums and Excursions. An Academy member accepted it on her behalf as she wasn't available, and just like he asked, I won't mention that he use the wrong gender when accepting the award for her.
The Best Professional Game Periodical was hard to judge who would win. With the lineup of nominees including Dork Tower, Knights of the Dinner Table, Dragon, Games Unplugged and Pyramid, I was convinced that Games Unplugged would win as it was the relative newcomer and seems to have a lot of market share. Steve Jackson Games scored another win in the evening for Pyramid.
John Zinser Sr., of Alderac Entertainment Group was memorialized by one of the Alderac team, whom I think was John Zinser, his son. I could see tears well in his eyes as he recounted John, and towards the end, his voice started to show how affected he was at speaking about the passing of this leader of Alderac. I've heard that the Alderac team are particularly close to each other, and I'm sure the loss of John Sinzer Sr. has hit them hard.
To lighten the moment and continue the Awards, Mark Simmons recounted a quick story about one of the reasons he's still loves the industry and being part of it. It seems that a gamer came up to him earlier in the day saying that he got Mark's autograph from a 1979 GENCON event. In Mark's own words, this was "cool", and to me shows the longevity of the gaming industry professionals as well as the fans.
The Card Games category was up next, with David Radzik announcing the winners. The Best Traditional Card Game award went to Andrew Looney of Looney Labs, his second award tonight, for Chrononauts, who summed up his surprise with a simple "Wow... two. Thanks everyone. Thanks to Kristen again."
Brawl: Club Foglio by James Ernest of Cheapass Games won the Best Card Expansion or Supplement Design, moving his total up to two.
The Best Trading Card Game award went to Sailor Moon, from Dart Flipcards and which was designed by Mark MacKinnon, Jeff Mackintosh, Karen McLarney and John R. Phythyon. Mark Mackinnon accepted his award saying that the game was successfully targeting "the young girl group .... as well as the 20, 30 and 40 year old males group".
Milestones in Adventure Gaming part three discussed Dungeons & Dragons and how two people Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax merges two sets of basic rules to come up with the game that would redefined adventure gaming over 30 years ago. Mention was made of the game has managed to become, including a cartoon show as well as a major Hollywood movie. Giggles in the audience broke out at that point, with Marcello countering "Yes it was. It had the budget. Just because it didn't make its money back isn't our fault". Most people I've know regard the Dungeons and Dragon movie in the same category as Hercules or Xena, an enjoyable romp through a fantasy world, but not a Hollywood blockbuster.
The next game to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was Vampire:The Masquerade. Nicole Lindroos of Sphinx group talked about the game and how it changed the perception of many gamers, taking White Wolf from being a small company into being a household name. Nicole even found time to plug Exalted, which is White Wolf's new game, and from all accounts I've heard is very good. Mark Rein*Hagan accepted the award and mentioned how the game grew out of his excitement at seeing the Lost Boys movie.
The Graphic Design category was presided over by Pete Fenlon who co-founded Iron Crown Enterprises and is now heading up his own company Steel Room Studio and Mayfair Games.
The winner of the Best Graphic Representation of a Board Game went to The Hills Rise Wild!, with Jesper Myrfors accepting the award for himself and for John Tynes as well.
Brawl: Club Folio won it's second award of the evening for Best Graphic Design of a Card Game, putting another award notch in James Ernest's stick.
The Best Graphic Design of a Roleplaying Game, Adventure or Supplement was one by the team that designed the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast's second award of the evening. As the award was accepted on Sean Glenn and Sherry Floyd's behalf, comment was made about what they would say to their win: "I wanna raise".
Milestone In Gaming part four covered the phenomenon of Magic: The Gathering and the incredible rise of a small game publisher in the early 1990s that redefined the entire gaming industry by introducing a new gaming genre: the collectible card game.
The fourth Hall of Fame Inductee had ties to Wizard of the Coasts. Ryan Dancey, who was responsible for overseeing the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition brand line, introduced the inductee, former CEO Peter Adkinson, by talking personally about him before reading the script that he had in front of him. He also recounted the story of what is known as The Million Dollar Fax. For years, Peter had dreamed of owning TSR, and as TSR moved into a more untenable position over the years, the option to buy TSR was given to Five Rings Publishing. The owner of Five Rings contacted Peter saying that he had something that he'd pay a million dollars for. Peter laughed and said there was nothing that he could be offered that he would pay that much for. When the fax showing the rights that Five Rings had been granted to buy TSR arrived at Peter's desk though, he had only one thing to say: "cash or check".
The crowd gave a standing ovation as Peter Adkinson took to the stage to accept his induction into the Hall of Fame, and said he would indulge himself for a few minutes as he's not sure how often in the future he would be able to be in the position to talk to a captive audience. He had two great quotes for the evening, one right after the other. "Let's up the ante ... it's not enough to play the games, let's be proud to play the games!" and "I'm damn proud to accept this award, and damn proud to be a gamer along with you guys".
The final category was the Roleplaying Games category.
First award in the category , for Best Roleplaying Adventure, went to Death in Freeport, a d20 adventure module written by Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing. Accepting the award, he said that he would like to thank Peter for making the last 10 minutes agonizing, which got the audience chuckling. This was Chris' fifth nomination, and his first win.
The Best Roleplaying Supplement award was another winner for Steve Jackson Games, with GURPS Steampunk taking home the trophy.
The final award was the one everyone was waiting to see. In it, the nominees were All Flesh Must Be Eaten (which received a tremendous round of applause) by Eden Studios, Big Eyes Small Mouth by Guardians of Order, Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium by the LUG Team now at WOTC, Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, Fudge Expanded Edition by Grey Ghost Press, and the new Star Wars Roleplaying Game from WOTC.
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition won what was probably the most contested category in my mind, as all the games in that category are excellent pieces of work, with a lot of talented and skilled people making the games.
As the awards ceremony wrapped up, James Ernest said he would like to thank everyone, except John Kovalic, which raised another chuckle from the audience. Charles Ryan closed the ceremony by thanking everyone that was involved in the arrangement and setup of the awards ceremony this evening. The ceremony closed at 10:20pm
As I left the ceremony, to quickly run to my car parked a block away in a car park that closed at 11pm, all the nominees and winners were congregating outside the hall to congratulate each other. I wish I had a chance to have stayed and talk to more people, but I had to head home to my young daughter and my pregnant wife.
There's always next year I suppose.
After all, there's always a chance that I could be up there accepting an award in the future.
At least that's the plan. And as some of this years winner's proved, it can be done.