Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ennies judge, part 1

This year, I had the unique opportunity to judge for the Ennies.  What are the Ennies?  Well, short-version, they are awards to Role-Playing Game related products that are given annually at Gen Con. 

Anyone can run to be a judge, and judges are elected for one year by the same fans voting on the awards.  The judges’ job is then to read / view all entries and select the nominations for the Ennies.  Those nominations are then put to fan vote, which decides the winners.

So, long story short (too late), I have had over 300 books/websites/podcasts/etc to read and evaluate since Gen Con of last year.  The vast majority of submissions were received in April and May, so I’ve been a bit busy!

Though at times I felt overwhelmed by this process (and had the resultant whining to my friends), overall it has been very gratifying.  I wanted to share some things with you, and also document them for myself.

So why did I get involved in judging?

First, my main goal in this process was to learn more about Role Playing Games.  I play and enjoy them.  I like GMing.  But I don’t have a breadth of knowledge about the games available.  Most of my experience has been with systems that my friends know and enjoy playing.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  But I like to learn, and I wanted to educate myself about other systems and basically come to a more holistic understanding and appreciation for the industry.

Second, I really enjoy reading.  I wanted to see what inspired me about different worlds and settings.  I wanted to learn more about myself through discovering what I gravitated to.  I hoped to spark creative thinking within myself by taking this journey.

Third, I am a girl (duh) in a hobby that is male-dominated.  Now, I am not male-bashing.  But there are a couple of underlying issues here. 

One, the RPG community tends to be viewed by “outsiders” as a bunch of nerds without social skills being dorks together.  While some of that is true (I’m a nerd and a dork), there is more to the community – and role-playing – than awkward people trying to have a good time.  [Aside --The couple who introduced me to role-playing consist of a brilliant, beautiful woman and perhaps the most socially adept man I’ve ever known.  Hard to beat that for non-stereotypical.]   So, being a woman in this hobby, I was hoping that by being a female judge I could draw attention to some products that might be more female-friendly so to speak.  Did I succeed?  Who knows.  But it was a thought in my head.

Two, when I applied to be a judge candidate, there were zero other females who had done so.  None.  But about 15 guys had applied.  Now, a couple of other women applied before the end, but it really pushed my buttons at the time.  I had hesitated about applying, knowing how much work would be involved – and how seriously I take my commitments.  But this basically pushed me over the edge from “thinking about it” to “okay, do it.”   Does that mean I was the token girl on the judges panel?  Probably.  But I will take that and run with it.

So this documents why I decided to apply.  And low and behold, I got elected!  (And totally yelled “Holy Crap” in a restaurant full of people in Indianapolis when I found out.)

To be continued with a post about judging itself, and then eventually discussion of the nominees (which will be announced July 13).


  1. Kat, it was a pleasure having you as a fellow judge. I don't think you were a "token" at all: your input, especially in the latter part of the process, was welcome and helpful, and really had a meaningful part to play in setting the final list of nominees!

    You have a lot to be proud of: don't sell yourself short by blaming your success and impact on tokenism!

    1. Well, thanks Kennon! I'm glad my involvement was positive. I was thinking more "token" in terms of the election -- but I'd like to think I contributed as a judge too! :)

  2. Thanks for judging this year! You did a great job and I couldn't have been happier. See you at Gen Con! :)

    1. Thank you! It was a pleasure, and I look forward to meeting you there as well!