How to Get Your Game into Award Shows and Show the World How Good it Really is
You’ve done it. Your game is out and you’ve smashed it. Reviews are good, player numbers are up, and that one bug that kept the team up at night got fixed right at the last minute before launch. Everyone’s done a great job — such a great job in fact that you’ve considered nominating yourself and your wonderful game for an award.
What sort of gaming awards are there? Which ones should you go for? How do you even nominate yourself for an award? Let’s find out.
What You Need to Know About Gaming Award Shows
The first step to winning an award happens months before the awards are given out. Not only should you plan which awards you want to go for, but you should decide which award categories you’re aiming to nominate yourself for, and previous winners of these awards.
There are obvious decisions you shouldn’t make of course — like putting your narrative-focused RPG forward for the best First Person Shooter category — but there are also categories that you may need to have a serious conversation with your team about. Is it realistic to expect your game to win best art direction if it’s a military simulator with an emphasis on realism rather than an artistic approach? If not, it may be worth skipping that category, especially if there’s a financial cost attached for submission.
Speaking of financial costs… Many award shows are entirely free to enter, however, some (especially some of the most popular ones like the BAFTAs and GDC awards) have a cost attached to nominating a game. If you’ve picked out a selection of awards you want to aim for, find out if they charge for entering a game — the last thing you want is to make it to the submission deadline and realise you haven’t budgeted for the nomination. Also, while this isn’t so much of a concern with COVID stopping the majority of travel and in-person events, travel costs should also be considered. You don’t have to show up in person to collect an award, but if you want to, flights, hotels, and other necessities must be taken into account.
What Kind of Video Game Awards are out there?
It’s important to understand exactly how large the world of awards centered around gaming actually is. Knowing what’s out there, alongside what you’re eligible for, will ultimately allow you to earn greater accolades than if you were to only aim for the largest and most prestigious titles
The smallest awards out there, but incredibly valuable for developers who are just starting out. These act as fantastic opportunities for games that would otherwise not get attention to show off just how good they are, and can be a great way of garnering attention. Examples include LudoNnarraCon, and Freeplay.
A curveball you may not have considered when looking at awards to go for: several countries have their own dedicated awards for developers native to their country with the aim of showcasing the best from that region — valuable for established and budding studios alike. Examples in the Canadian Game Awards and Tokyo Sandbox.
Press Outlet Awards
Many of the biggest press outlets have their own awards — meant to shine a light on their team’s favourite games of the year. Different websites value different kinds of games – some love adventurous indies while others prefer the biggest AAA releases – so make sure those who are likely to love your game have gotten their hands on it long before they pick their yearly best. Examples include the PC Gamer Awards and the IGN Awards.
The Big Ones
There are a handful of awards that come with their own lofty level of prestige. These are usually the hardest awards to win for obvious reasons — the biggest games of the year usually take home the most accolades — but if you feel you’ve got a shot at winning, go for it! The benefits of winning one of these are more than worth the cost of admission. Examples include The Game Awards and The Baftas.
How do you Nominate Yourself for Awards?
Most award shows have their own dedicated submission process where you, or the PR agency representing you, puts your game forward for a number of awards. Aside from a choice of which awards you’re going for you’ll also need assets for your game (without watermarking), a number of game keys so the judges can try out your game themselves, and occasionally a written “pitch” on why your game deserves consideration.
This process isn’t usually too time-consuming, but it’s important to have it done early rather than leaving it to the last minute. The more time the judges have with your game, the more they can play it and the longer they can think of its many positive qualities.
Some award shows — like The Game Awards and the PC Gamer Awards — have no nomination process. Instead, the judges must enter their own selection of nominees for each award. In the case of the PC Gamer Awards, you must make sure the team has played your game, so send them codes for reviews, guides, etc. so they have experienced it first-hand. It may also be worth sending a polite email close to the date of the awards reminding them of your game and offering to provide additional codes if any other members of the team wish to play it.
As for The Game Awards — their nominations come from a vast selection of global press outlets. You can find this list of outlets on their website — but needless to say to ensure you have the best chance at an award you’ll have to fork out a large number of codes throughout the year to make sure everyone has your game in the back of their mind.
Why Should You Go for Awards?
What’s the big deal with awards anyway? We’ve gone through so much information about them, and they look like a lot of hassle, so what are the benefits here?
For one, winning awards like these (or even getting nominated in some cases) can be a fantastic way of raising awareness for your game post-release. Viewers of these award shows, or readers of articles that summarise the results, will (perhaps for the first time) see your game and fancy trying it out. People deciding whether or not to buy your game may very well be pushed over the edge upon seeing you take home gold in a chosen category. Tell Me Why, which won the Games for Impact award at The Game Awards last year, saw steady growth in players following their win at the show in December and is an example of the benefits awards can provide.
Let’s not forget the benefits to the studio once you win an award! Being the creators of “the award-winning game that took the world by storm” helps build the prestige of your studio and excitement for future games you work on. Especially if you’re an up-and-coming developer, taking home awards can help separate you from your competitors and build an audience around the kind of games you want to make.
Finally, there’s the pride of winning one. Making games is hard, it takes years of work and sacrifice from everyone involved. Sure, there are quantifiable benefits to taking home a BAFTA, but ultimately it’s a testament to the excellent work the team behind your game has done. So take the time to show off the talent of your team, flex that awesome game you made, and apply for some awards!