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Spiel des Jahres
The Beginning

The idea to form the society Spiel des Jahres took life at Tom Werneck's annual "Journalistentreff" in a Nürnberger Beerhouse during the toy fair in 1977. The society was founded 28. August 1978, and the first winner was awarded by Mrs. Antje Huber, then Federal Minister for Family & Health, at a ceremony 6. September 1979.

The Jury

No member may be involved in the design, production or marketing of games, and they must be well-established game critics in the German language public media. The jury appoints its own members and doesn't have a fixed number of seats. The members of the present jury, including 3 of the original founders, are presented here.

The Objective

Is to increase the gaming values for families and friends. The target group is not the hobby gamer nor the specialist, but the broad population across all levels of society. The critics in the jury have no obligations towards the industry, but feel a great obligation towards the German public. The last two decades have clearly shown that the German public recognizes the little red pawn with the golden laurels, and knows that is stand for games of high quality in components, innovation and play value - which again is a strong incentive for the publishers to create better games.

The Election

Any game released in Germany within the current and the previous calender year is eligible. Winners of Spiel des Jahres are no longer eligible, but other games from the selection list may be re-elected within the same two-year timeframe. Older titles may become eligible if a new edition is judged to include considerable improvements. A 3/4 majority of the jury may decide that no game is worthy of the award.
 
Lists of the new games will be provided each year at the Nürnberg Toy Fair, where-after the hard work of gathering information about and testing the games will be divided in teams. Some games may be dismissed immediately, either because the game is a remake of an existing game, or because the rules are useless, but the majority of new games needs extensive testing before an opinion can be formed.
 
It is impossible to judge a game objectively, so instead is each game carefully judged subjectively by each member of the jury in which the following criteria are discussed:
Idea: Originality, Playability, Play value
Rules: Structure, Clarity, Comprehensibility
Layout: Format of packaging, game board and rules
Design: Functionality and Manipulation of the components

In a prelimenary election will each member rank five favorite titles:  1
1
5 points
0 -
6 -
3 -
1 point

This will not only narrow the list down considerably, but a few possible candidates will usually emerge upon which future discussions will concentrate. A month later will the jury assemble for several days to agree upon the official list of Recommended Games (medio May). A few weeks later will a new ranking using the same procedure decide upon the Top 3 Nominated games (early June), and a few weeks later again will the jury select the final winner (usually the last sunday in June).

The Winners

In principle may any type of game suitable for family gaming (from 8 years and up) be elected. It can be a card game, board game, trivia game, role playing game etc. just as neither publisher nor designer are taken into consideration when judging the games. Only when the jury cannot decide between several equal worthy games during the final selection may it be questioned whether that fourth game from the same publisher ought to be on the list and the other not represented at all.
 
When selecting games for the list will the jury try to include a variation of game types, playing styles and difficulty levels to ensure that anybody should be able to find a recommendation suitable to their taste - again remembering that the true gamer don't need guidance, so the advice is targeted entirely towards the general consumer.
 
In addition to the main award may a number of special awards be presented. Most frequently have been the Best Childrens Game, elected for the first time in 1979 and which today has its own separate jury and a significant baby-blue logo. The games selected are for the age group 3-7 years
 
A number of Special Awards may be given to games deserving recognition in a particular field. During the first 18 years did they award the Most Beautiful Game, and special recognition have been given to various "off-beat" game types such as dexterity and solitaire. 2001 saw a new trend when two games were awarded for their relations to other cultural fields (history and Literature).

The Logo

Use of the information is free, but a fee must be paid in order to use the trademarked logo. The society received no income during the first 10 years, and each member had to pay all expenses out of his own pocket. Given that the winner usually increase sales from a few thousands to half a million copies, I find it a logical and reasonable way to finance the award.
 
The fee is a few cents per copy with the exception of the first 10.000 copies of the recommended games. This is to secure the small private publishers, who could easily loose their entire profit on a small reprint. The fee will usually have no impact on the retail price, and many titles will actually see a huge price reduction due to the extra sales. The right to use the winner-logo never expires, but there is a 2-year limit on the use of the Recommended (Auswahl) logo and a 3-year limit on the Special prize.
 
The income is used to finance the German Game Archive in Marburg, activities at schools, fairs and conventions around the country and to cover the basic costs at the election meetings. But the members receive no payment, and will have to rely on their work as professional reviewers to obtain test copies of the games.




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© Mik Svellov 1998-2002editor@brettboard.dk23. jun 2002