None of the members of the GameCity Prize jury are gamers, but the odd collection of actors, musicians, politicians and journalists recruited to judge seven of the most entertaining video games of the year sure picked a winner.
A new project from the folks that put on the annual GameCity gaming celebration at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, the GameCity Prize is not your average video game award. Rather than have the prize judged by players or journalists steeped in gamer culture, the GameCity Prize seeks the opinion of folks that don't normally play games. In many ways, it's a much more important prize than a Game of the Year nod or a Spike VGA award.
The process began with a top-secret panel of industry experts picking six games that represent the best the year has had to offer. They were given a simple set of guidelines:
We're asking you which are the six games you'd show to someone in order to demonstrate what's brilliant and interesting about video games.
We want to encourage diversity — we're looking to you to show the jurors the breadth of what video games can be.
Some of our jurors may have never played a video game before, and might require a little context and guidance to help in considering the games.
Because of this, we'd like you to also write a few sentences, no more than 200 words, about each of your choices explaining why you have selected the games you have.
Using these guidelines, the seven finalists were chosen: Ilomilo, Pokémon Black, Superbrothers: S&S EP, Limbo, Child of Eden, and Portal 2.
These games were then passed on to the jury of light or non-gamers, many of them entering the world of video games for the very first time.
Having played all seven of these games, I can only imagine what a strange and delightful experience that was. To have your very first introduction to gaming be a game like Ilomilo, or Limbo? How eye-opening would that be?
After playing each game the jury delivered their verdict, handed down during a special closing ceremonies event at this past weekend's festival.
Markus "Notch" Persson, Minecraft developer said: 'We're very excited to have won the first GameCity Prize, especially since the nominees contain some of our favourite games recently. It's a great honour to be compared to those games. Winning this award helps motivate us to try to make Minecraft the best game it can be.'
It's intriguing to me that the jury, faced with big name commercial titles and singularly stylish independent games found the simple act of playing with blocks to be the most fulfilling experience of all seven titles. It puts the success of Minecraft in perspective, and might just give other publishers ideas about how to draw the remaining holdouts into our friendly and compassionate gaming community.
GameCity Prize 2011 [Official Site]