It's Sunday morning in Warsaw, Poland. After two days in town I've overcome jetlag, eaten a lot of cabbage, and found out what it means to be a judge.
I'm here for Microsoft's Imagine Cup, as I mentioned last week, a student technology and design competition. I'm on the Game Design judging panel.
Friday was all about recovering from the long-haul flight from Sydney to Warsaw via Singapore and Frankfurt. A Polish feast of pork and cabbage, plenty of coffee, and a good twelve hours sleep on Friday night saw me conquer the jetlag in style.
Saturday was all about being briefed on my duties as a judge. There are five of us assessing six games. Each team gets half an hour today to present to us - that's twenty minutes of showing their game and ten minutes of answering our questions. Then on Monday we get two hours of hands-on time with all six games.
It might not seem like a lot of time. Compared to the length of time it takes to review a full game, it's not. But it's similar to how I see games at events such as E3. As such I'm used to making calls on quality based on what is quite a small slice of the overall experience.
Once we've seen all six games, we score them in four categories: Innovation (is it creative and original?), Theme (does it address the competition's overall theme, that is "to imagine a better world in which people are empowered by technology"?), Fun Factor (is it an enjoyable game?), and Presentation (which includes how well the team's conveyed their ideas to the technical polish of their game).
I'm not a fan of scoring games. But we don't just take our scores, add them up and determine the winner. They're really just a guide. The real fun comes on Monday afternoon when the other four judges and myself are locked in a room for several hours to deliberate. First we choose a top three and then later on Tuesday we have to rank that top three in order.
So exciting, in fact, I took some photos of what I've been up to so far. Take a look!
The two shots below should be viewed side by side as they're the panoramic view I have from my 21st floor hotel room. It's one of the tallest buildings in Warsaw.
Below is the stunning Palace of Culture in the heart of Warsaw. It's here where the competitions actually takes place. (My fellow judges are pictured as we made our way over for our initial briefing.)
And here's a monument in the middle of a beer garden next to the Palace. I can recommend - if not pronounce - the local Polish brew.
Inside each team, across all the various categories, gets its own little booth. The Game Design booths all come equipped with Xbox 360 controllers, as each game must be developed in XNA.
I can't show you the room where the actual judge's presentations occur, but I can show you this incredible hallway that leads to it from the booth showcase.
Finally, each team not only represents their country, but has to also come up with a team name. My two favourites are below: the Belgian team in the Game Design category and, of course, the Australian team entered into the Software Design category.
Yes, it really is a massive geekfest.
All these photos were taken on Saturday while the Palace was being setup for today's start of competition. Things kick off in just over an hour from now, so I'm off now to check out some games!