Independent Games Festival

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The Independent Games Festival (IGF) is an award festival run by United Business Media held during the Game Developers Conference, sister company to Gamasutra. Created in 1998, it gives cash prizes to independently developed games for excellence in different categories. Research done during the GamerGate scandal has revealed questionable behavior by the judges dating back to 2008, including allegations of fraud.

Procedure

The IGF is a festival open to all indie developers. Entry costs $95 as of 2014.[1] In addition to ad sponsors, this contributes to the total prize pot of over $50,000 with the prizes distributed in the following manner:[2]

  • Seumas McNally Grand Prize ($30,000)
  • Excellence In Visual Art ($3,000)
  • Excellence In Audio ($3,000)
  • Excellence in Design ($3,000)
  • Excellence in Narrative ($3,000)
  • Nuovo Award ($5,000)
  • Audience Award ($3,000)

The finalists for these awards are selected by a nominating committee of one hundred to two hundred "independent and 'mainstream' professional game designers, notable indie-friendly video game journalists, and other individuals familiar with video game design."[3] The process is anonymous and automated by software written by Flashbang Studios.[4] A winner is picked from the finalists by a team of five to ten jurors for each category.[3]

Polytron and FEZ

FEZ is a video game released in 2012 and developed by Polytron Corporation, the small independent company founded by Philippe Poisson (aka Phil Fish). It received the grand prize at the 2012 IGF.[5]

On August 22, 2014, an unknown hacker claiming to be the "Head Mod of /V/", presumably referencing 4chan's video game board /v/, compromised the Polytron servers, leaking more than 1.5GB of information stored on the servers along with sensitive personal information about employees.[6][7] Considering that there are no "head mods" of 4chan and typing /V/ instead of /v/ is a faux pas among users of the board, it is obvious this was not done by a 4chan user. Among this information, financial documents were discovered that detail the means by which Polytron was funded. The data discovered would strengthen the theory that the hacker was someone inside the company.

In 2009, a group of investors offered a loan to Polytron in return for percentages of revenue when FEZ released.[8] Among them are the following, sorted by percentage stake in Polytron:

  • Ron Carmel, co-founder of 2D Boy (World of Goo)
  • Capybara Games Inc, indie development studio (mobile and portable games)
  • AppAbove Games LLC, indie development studio (mobile games)
  • Kellee Santiago, co-founder of Thatgamecompany (Flow, Flower, Journey), now head of developer relations for OUYA
  • Kyle Gabler, co-founder of 2D Boy (World of Goo)
  • Johnathan Blow, creator of Braid
  • Flashbang Studios LLC, indie developer, creator of IGF judge software

These people would later found the Indie Fund, a group who would provide similar loans to aspiring indie devs.[9]

Years later, during the early weeks of the GamerGate scandal, Lordkat.com investigated the IGF. Through the anonymous testimony of previous judges, a disturbing realization was discovered:

"In 2011, the Independent Games Festival (or IGF) had 5 members of Indie Fund on the finalists panel, and 3 members of Polytron’s staff. That’s 8 out of 10 judges. Mere days before IGF was to accept submissions, FEZ creator Philippe Poisson had to announce the delay of FEZ. Had Polytron finished FEZ on time, the game would have been a shoe-in to win the grand prize at IGF that year as they had a controlling interest.

In 2012, FEZ gets through nominations and wins big. Of note here is the IGF anonymous nomination panel: all of the finalist judges are invited back to nominate games the following year. So the Indie Fund judges from 2011 would anonymously judge entrants for 2012.

The nomination process is simple: a majority of people who vote on your game is all that is needed to push you through to the selection process. While judges are explicitly told that they can only vote on the games they are given, this is not the case, and any judge can vote on any game; for example, eight people who are members of a small clique can give one game a huge starting bias.

In this instance FEZ would have started off with a bias of +8, and since it only takes a majority of people who voted to push a game through it would take at least 8 other judges to vote no, plus the number of judges that legitimately vote yes for FEZ.

Even more interesting is that judges are not even required to play the game to submit a ruling on them. So, no time need be wasted by the submitting judges: they merely must say yes or no to continue the process.

We know all of this thanks to leaked conversations of anonymous judges from past IGFs. We’d like to thank these judges for coming forward."[8][10]

If these claims are true, Indie Fund members rigged a competition to win a money prize which they would receive part of through their profit-sharing loan deal. This opens up the Indie Fund (and maybe the IGF) to accusations of fraud. On September 7, YouTuber ShortFatOtaku released "Indie-fensible - Bigger Fish to Fry!" which also exposed the details of this scandal as well as similar corruption in the Indiecade festival.[11] It was made private shortly after due to "party van" (slang for FBI) according to CameraLady, ShortFatOtaku's research assistant.[12] It is mirrored here: [1]


Other Indie Fund Games

In addition to FEZ, two other Indie Fund projects won awards at the IGF in 2012. Demruth's Antichamber[13] won Technical Excellence and The Chinese Room's Dear Esther[14] won Excellence in Visual Arts.[5] While it is not currently known if they had friendly developers on their side, they did have five judges from Indie Fund on the finalists panel. This creates an almost insurmountable bias toward their games.

Further Reading/Watching


See Also

Gamasutra

United Business Media

References

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