Back in 2010, the XYZZYs changed up the awards roster, creating (among other things) the new category Best Supplemental Materials. Based on community feedback, the award was specifically crafted to focus on material outside the work proper – predominantly feelies and books.
There are some historical reasons for that focus, but these don’t seem as relevant to games being made now. In an age where IF is overwhelmingly distributed by download – which has been the case for over two decades – feelies are inevitably a little anachronistic. A really cool anachronism, to be sure – but it’s tough to justify as the centre of a category, or to expect that they’ll appear in a wealth of games each year.
As such, the award has always been a little bit uncomfortably apples-and-oranges. Nobody would really deny that Aaron Reed’s Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 was deserving of the inaugral 2010 award – but at the same time, its competitors included a teaser image for the as-yet-unreleased Counterfeit Monkey – nice work, to be sure, but odd to weigh on the same scales. Supplemental Materials has had the lowest first-round voting of any category; I think this indicates that it’s confusing and doesn’t quite fit with what’s needed. Some voters have used it to vote for in-game art, which – as was the case with Best Use of Medium before it was split in two – suggests a need that wasn’t being clearly addressed. And text-entry always presents a problem about how specific or general a nomination should be.
So this year, we’re renaming the award Best Use of Multimedia and making it a drop-down choice rather than a text-entry one. (We’re conscious of the irony that this bold, forward-thinking word choice puts us into the bright new era of 1997.) The award covers all aspects of media used by a game, beyond straight text within the game itself: sound and graphics, presentation and fancy text effects, feelies, tie-in novels, whatever. This does exclude work in the IF sphere that wasn’t tied to a specific game – though if Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 was released today, you could still justify it under Sand-dancer.
Stay tuned for the first round. (We are running behind a little this year, for which I apologise.)