The recent news that Capcom's critically acclaimed hit, Okami, would be ineligible for awards this year from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, because of Capcom's refusal to pay membership fees to the organization, has been met with harsh criticism from the developer calling into question the credibility or value of awards that require developers to pay a fee to be considered. After all, are the awards really about recognizing the best the games industry has to offer? Or are they about recognizing the best from AIAS members only? If it's the latter, then it would seem the awards are being misrepresented.
The same is true for the Webby Awards by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, those seemingly prestigious awards that recognize "excellence in interactive creativity, establishing best practices on a yearly basis, and thus pushing the standards of web development continually higher." If a website doesn't pay the entry fee—ranging from $95 to $395 per website, per category—it is also ineligible for an award.
Last year I was approached by one of the members representing the Webbys inviting me to participate...
"I am delighted to let you know that members of the Int'l Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences (IADAS), the judging body for The Webby Awards, have suggested that Jay is Games would be a strong contender in the Blog -- Cultural/Personal and Games categories for the 10th Annual Webby Awards."
Still a full-time student at the time, I used borrowed funds from student loans for the entry fees (I entered in both categories recommended) since even being nominated for these awards would mean significant exposure for the site. However, not only did my site fail to win in either category, it was not even mentioned in the nominations. I can live with not winning an award; what is hard to swallow is the feeling of being taken advantage of. I subsequently wrote back to the IADAS requesting that I be removed from all future mailing lists.
It is easy to justify entry fees and membership dues to offset the administrative costs of running an organization, but when an organization fails to recognize excellence from those that do not "pay up" it puts itself squarely within the cross-hairs of criticism questioning the credibility of its so-called "awards".
Everyone needs to be recognized for their hard work, and game developers are no different. This is the foundation upon which this site was built and on which it has grown so rapidly. Our "Best of" yearly awards will never ask for nor require any developer to "pay to play". It is our gift back to the industry that provides us with the creative, original, and innovative interactive experiences that we choose to review.
I applaud Capcom for standing up for what they believe in. Their award-class development efforts deserve much praise and recognition. Praise that should be measured not by how many of these "pay-to-play" awards it receives, but by the praise and recognition it receives from the grassroots journalism by the people and for the people. Remember that the next time you're looking for a compelling game to play or website to read.
And if you haven't already done so, buy a copy of Okami for PS2. You will be glad you did.