The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, a member-funded, not for profit organization, seeks to elevate the profile of games -- particularly through its yearly Interactive Achievement Awards ceremony, which runs alongside DICE, its Las Vegas executive summit which takes place every February.
The president of the Academy since 2004 is Joseph Olin, formerly an executive at Eidos and Microprose, and an advocate for gaming in all its forms. Recently, Gamasutra's Brandon Sheffield had the chance to quiz Olin about the state of the video game industry. The interview also starts by touching on the the AIAS Awards -- one of two major game industry-centric awards showcases which has been labeled a somewhat controversial show.
Firstly, I want to ask something about the AIAS. You guys are not-for-profit…
You are funded by membership, correct?
JO: Also correct. We actually fund through membership, and through our registration and admission fees for the DICE summit as well as sponsorship packages we sell as far as the DICE summit.
Do companies pay for their game to get into the DICE Awards?
JO: For the Interactive Achievement Awards there is a $1000 per-title submission fee. It has been that way, I believe since the inception of the awards.
Do you think that's a barrier for certain people to enter?
JO: Only if they let it be. Only if someone lets it become a barrier. For most game development companies, even independent studios, a thousand dollar admission fee to participate in the awards does not seem to be a barrier for them, and membership fees... corporate developers start at $1000, and that would take you to a revenue of over $5 million. For a small 5 to 8 man shop, they're not doing 5 million in revenue.
So we don't believe that this structure has been a barrier and without
going back and reliving the discussions of Capcom’s decision not to
participate in the Academy... our Board of Directors basically stand by
the Academy's policies that have been in place for going on four years
now, and it seems to work for all of them, and it only seemed not to
work for a couple of publishers, and we continue to believe that the
things we're doing for this year in terms of our programs... that every
major publisher will consider submitting their titles. And as far as
the process itself, it’s the peer panels that choose the games to
And then it's up to the company, whether they want to participate?
JO: That is correct, and about 98-some-odd percent of the time, what was requested by our peer groups [was] submitted by the publishers. Even if they are publishers that aren’t members of the academy. CCP joined last year for EVE Online, and were thrilled to do so. A number of Xbox Live Arcade games come from small developers or side publishers. So we think the policy and procedures for the panels are very open and we really respect the 400 plus people who serve in these things. And I get a lot of feedback from them.
The issues with Capcom and the AIAS put me in mind of events with the ESA; it had some problems with its own members and had to scale E3 down into this strange thing. Are there any kind of changes coming up on your side?
JO: I think that right now with the advent of bringing the awards to consumers this year, we're looking for ways to ensure that craft awards, as well as genres, and what we recognize are as relevant to consumers as they are to game makers. And I have a subcommittee made up of our board members and some of our Academy members who serve as peer judges who are very diligently having some very loud, long discussions about how to make the balance between making what we do read relevant to the widest audience possible. And I think, like all things, it's kind of a balancing act.
We may move in one direction and then the other as we try to establish
that balance, but were very mindful that way. When I took over the Academy, years ago, we recognized 44 awards. We're down to 32,
including our Hall of Fame and lifetime achievement award, so that was
a major accomplishment.
I would suggest that if given the opportunity, I'd be happy to, as we get closer to the award cycle, talk about our process and have some of our peer judges talk about why they think this is the best process for game makers, to be able to recognize a wide range of craft elements at work and genres and that’s certainly not the type of thing that the Choice Awards do, or what they intend to do.
The Choice Awards recognize different things than we do and whether it was by design or not is out of my control. But I'm very pleased and proud to represent the people who've spent a lot of time, in the holiday season, playing through 40, 50, 60 games and writing copious notes and then arguing amongst each other to come up with something. It's a fun process to be a part of.