I’ve always said that Game Chef was about creative experimentation and that winning was an honour but otherwise tangential to the more important business of making art together. I was, of course, lying.
Game Chef is about cash money.
I’m kidding, obviously. But I am excited to announce that this year, there is a prize to honour our English-language Game Chef Winner, who will be revealed tomorrow at 2pm (PST).
The Class of 2004 Memorial Prize is awarded to the winner of the 2014 English-language competition, in honor of all the chefs who participated in Game Chef 2004. On our 10-year anniversary, Jonathan Walton offers this award of $100 in a salute to his 2004 comrades (Island! Ice! Dawn! Assault!) and to demonstrate our excitement about and confidence in the future of game design. Congratulations to the champion!
I just wanted to take a moment and explain how the 8 language communities interact, and how their 8 competitions are related to one another.
All of the rules and explanatory text are first written in English, by the global coordinator. A theme and four ingredients are chosen by that global coordinator. Then, awesome volunteers in other languages put together volunteer teams to translate/localize/run the competition in their language. Each language has its own coordinator.
From the moment that materials are handed over to a language’s coordinator, they are in charge of their own competition. They choose what kind of online conversational spaces will be set up (whether it’s a forum, Facebook group, Google+ community, or something else). They can modify the rules or procedures as desired to better suit their community and its expectations. During the competition, each language coordinator may end up making judgement calls or arbitrations. Their decisions will be correct, even if a different language community implements the rules differently in their competition.
As global coordinator, I try to keep all the other language coordinators in communication. I try to provide guidance and structure. But I also trust the volunteers I work with (and especially the language coordinators) to make good choices for their communities and competitions.
Game Chef gains momentum every year. I’m anticipating over three hundred submissions across the eight participating languages. Like every year before it, this will be the best year yet. But amidst all the excitement, I’d like to take a moment to ask two questions that I think are really important:
- What does the Game Chef format do well?
- How do I get the most out of Game Chef?
What does the Game Chef format do well?
Game Chef pushes people to create in parallel. As a result, there is an energetic momentum that happens around this time of year, an extra push toward putting pen to paper (or finger to key, more likely). Game Chef is full of infectious enthusiasm. In addition, the deadline and competitive twist mean that you’ve got a big push to set out the time to do it, to really sit yourself down and make something. In our daily lives, it’s so easy to let art and creativity go by the wayside as more pressing needs arise. Game Chef brings people together in an excited tizzy, and it gives them a reason to make something right now. That combination of excitement and deadline pressure has a really welcome side effect. It tends to kill off your perfectionism. Perfectionism likes to tell you that your art isn’t good enough to share with others yet. It tends to kill creative momentum, and it gets in the way of actually improving. One of the keys to improving is to share your work and get feedback on it. To develop working prototypes and then iterate from there. To feel proud of your half-awful mess of a first draft, because that half-awful mess of a first draft is an important stepping stone. Game Chef is a great place to experiment with new ideas. If you submit a game at the end, you’ll get peer review from four other designers. That feedback can be really helpful in growing as a designer. Game Chef rewards creative risk-taking. You don’t need to worry about whether an idea is polished, precedented, or even playable. Your peer reviewers will still engage it.
How do I get the most out of Game Chef?
The Game Chef format doesn’t often produce polished games. Many of the games submitted aren’t ready for playtesting. The flipside to a design environment killing off your perfectionism is that what you produce probably won’t be perfect. So, lean into that. Forget perfect. Aim to make a game that is compelling, experimental, troubling, new, weird. Use your Game Chef energy to launch an inquiry, to find out whether an idea can work. And submit your results, so that others can engage with your brilliant mess. Make a mess. Engage others. Give people feedback. Cheerlead others when their energy or confidence flags. The more you put into the Game Chef design community, the more you’ll get in return. The return won’t always be fair or balanced, but it will be there. Respect the community. That means adhering to the posting guidelines of the Google+ community (which will be posted tomorrow). It means attempting to make your game as accessible as possible. It means asking people what kind of criticism they want, throughout the public design process. It means trying to help everyone around you succeed. Get hype. Get experimental. Give feedback. Give support. Design to find out what happens.
Game Chef begins this year on May 10th (and runs until midnight on May 18th). You might be asking yourself, “What can I do to prepare?”
Since the theme and ingredients aren’t revealed until the start of the competition, there’s nothing to prepare in the way of designing. However, there are still things you can do to set yourself up for success:
- Read through the rules, on the front page of the site. Make sure you’re clear on how the competition works.
- Pencil the important dates into your calendar.
- As much as possible, try to set aside free time near the end of the competition (ideally May 17th-18th).
- Pencil in a coffee date during the competition, to give you an opportunity to talk through your design, ideas, and barriers in person.
Other than that, the only thing you need to do is wait patiently.