THE BENEFITS OF JOINING THE CONTEST
Many folks who consider Tabletop RPGs as their hobby have an interest, usually a nagging bug in the back of the head, in giving game design a shot. Not a lot of people actually get the inspiration, time or energy to finish even a small game. This is just a chance to give the tricky bidnezz of designing a game a shot. Low pressure, very low cost of entry (a few hours over the course of a single week), and just enough light stress to get your design juices flowing without drowning you.
It's like a creativity Boot Camp. You'll be joining in an event, "competing" (more like running side-by-side) with others, and at the end of the week with a little work you'll have a playable game!
If you join in the contest, we hope that you take a little time to critique and offer feedback for your peers' projects, just as we expect them to do the same for you. This will occour on the Iron Game Chef forums. Stay tuned for more information on feedback on the Iron Game Chef mailing list.
THE HISTORY OF THE IRON GAME CHEF CONTEST
This particular contest ("Design a complete, playable tabletop RPG within one week, based on a genre or 'theme words' ") was originally started back in 2002 by Mike Holmes at the Forge, a sort of stomping ground for small-press or independent RPG designers and discussion. It was based off of an earlier contest held by Jared Sorensen and Clinton Nixon at The Gaming Outpost forums back in 2001.
In 2002, there were 12 entries. In 2003, there were 19 entries, and in 2004 there were 33 entries. The contest lasted for one week, during which the designers would post a little about their ideas, thought processes etc on the forums at the Forge. After the contest was over, Mike Holmes went through every single entry, picking out runners-up and winners from the group based on completeness, adherence to/use of the theme words, etc. It was a lighthearted contest with no reward other than the thrill of pushing yourself to complete a game in a week, and get some solid criticism and feedback from peers while doing it.
The exiting thing that happened after that is that some of the contestants decided to take their project to the next step: Publishing. They polished up the game, rewriting it a couple times, playtested it, and put it into a publishable form. As of this date, about a dozen games spawned from the Game Chef contest have been finished, and published for free or as a for-pay game book. The interesting thing is that most of the published entries did not actually win the contest when they were submitted: Rather, the artists pushed their game, rewriting it, rethinking it, until they had something remarkable that they decided to publish. The goal of the Game Chef competition is not to crank out a design to publish... but it can happen.
Iron Game Chef Contest, 2002.