For what it's worth, I don't think there's cronyism in the juries. Just to be clear--the IGF process this year (and last) is that:
- Main judge pool are assigned a dozen games, and can nominate a game in any/all categories
- Each award has a small jury, who can see a list of what the larger judge pool is focusing on
- The juries individually discuss games on a mailing list (any games; the nominations are simply starting points)
- The jury members cast approval voting (they vote for any number of games)
- The games with the most votes are finalists
True cronyism--"I'm going to try to make my friend a finalist"--is only possible if you're on the jury. Here are the juries this year:http://igf.com/2011/12/igf_2012_reveals_visual_art_au.html#morehttp://igf.com/2011/12/igf_2012_reveals_design_techni.html#more
I think the average passionate indie developer cares more about the medium, the craft, and therefore what the IGF stands for, than they would care about falsely boosting their friend's career. Most indies I get feedback from, especially friends
, are always blunt with me. But maybe that's just my own interpersonal dynamic, I don't know.
However, here's the rub: A jurist will select a game based on their opinion
. There aren't any hard metrics to go by. There no way to "go to the tape", to get an instant reply, do a measurement, or test anyone's bloodstream. Tastes matter: Tastes about what makes a game good, what makes a game innovative, what makes a production or piece of polish excellent instead of obvious (and even what sorts of "obvious" are only obvious because of their brilliant-but-simplistic-seeming veneer).
And in that sense, yes, moving between entrant and jurist from year to year is certainly going to have an effect. I can't say what, or even how to notice what and where. But it's there. If you work on an notoriously player-difficult game for a year, you're going to respect difficulty curves and be much more perceptive of the craft that goes into them than other judges. If you work on procedural generation design problems, you'll probably have more respect for successful implementations than other designers.
You can see this in the judge discussion in the IGF backend. Some games have dozens of comments! I bet if I anonymized the comments you could pick out who was who, still. That's the way it's meant to be.
I don't think you can exploit this facet of the judging process. And I certainly don't think it automatically makes your chances higher if you have friends on the jury. In fact, many of my own friends strongly value originality to the point where "outsider design" is probably more
valuable. My feeling is that it all balances out.
TL;DR Yes, the IGF judging process has chaos. Judges pick games based on opinions. Good luck exploiting this.