Judging Dread: Picking The Winner

Mark’s thoughts…

Step away from the keyboard, nothing to see here

This year’s writing contest was always going to be different from the first, for several reasons.  Not only were we allowing entrants to submit reviews rather than just opinion pieces or straight-forward articles, but we made one subtle difference that would allow us to target a specific demographic and cut down on the number of ‘compers’ entering the contest.  Our reasons for doing this were that we wanted to make sure that everyone entering was a genuine gamer and not just someone who trawled Twitter all day looking for prize giveaways, and because we knew that, in doing so, it would make life easier for us when it came to selecting a winner… right?

Wrong.  While it’s fair to say that we did certainly achieve half of what we’d hoped, insofar as avoiding the flood of entries from compers, the flip-side to this was that it impacted what I’d call the ‘quality ramp’.  Rather than having hundreds of entries where the standard of writing and subject matter varied from poor through to excellent, plotting a steady increase from one extreme to the other, we were instead left with what I could really only describe as a ‘quality precipice’ whereby almost every article submitted was of a particularly high standard and the few which fell short, only did so because of the high calibre of the other entries and not because of lack of ability.

To put things into perspective, there were around sixty entries last year that didn’t get as far as the judging process because they were either poorly written, didn’t read the requirements of the contest at all, or weren’t what we could consider actual entries.  Some were mere pleas for the prize while others sent only their address, along with the obligatory “Thanks, I hope I win!” message.  After discarding entries such as these, the hundreds that we were left with could be whittled down based on content, delivery, and grasp of the English language.

This year, however, all entries got through to the judging process.  The overall standard was so high that it meant we had no immediate stand-out piece, so the first question we asked ourselves was “which of these would we not publish on the site?”, thinking that this would dramatically cut down the numbers… and it did… by only four. It was at this point that we realised we’d made a rod for our own back because we’d gone out of our way to target a specific demographic this time around, separating the wheat from the chaff before the send button was even pressed, and in doing so it became all the more difficult. To that end, each and every entry had to be re-read several times until, eventually, the pile of considered entries started to decrease.

As with last year’s contest, selecting the ultimate winner was the subject of much debate.  A final four entries were selected and, typically, this somehow increased to seven as there were those that couldn’t easily be discounted and so were brought back in as contenders.  This final seven were again re-read, several times over, along with a few hours of discussion, until finally we reached a position of stalemate. And so, with only a couple of hours until it had to be published, our decision was made.

Lorna’s thoughts…

From the shameful mess the office was left in, it is safe to say that the dust has settled on another successful GamingLives Writing Contest.  Amid the empty mugs, chocolate wrappers, ice cream bowls, and glasses are strewn countless papers, scraps of notes, and contest entries, all of which had been printed out, neatly stapled, stacked in smart piles… and are now decorating every surface imaginable as if some explosion of gaming writing just happened while we were sleeping.  Technically, I suppose you could say that it did.

When we launched the contest, we had some idea of what we were in for.  After all, last year we were inundated, but the range in quality of entries varied as much as the number was high.  This year, we never expected the quality of what was sent in to have jumped, or that our jobs would become suddenly much harder.  The last time we debated so much was about who ate the last chocolate biscuit, and whether ‘lizard’ is in fact crushed by ‘rock’ or defeated by ‘scissors’.  It swallowed an inordinate amount of time, but was somehow worth it.  It wasn’t just the quality of what was written that caught our attention however, but the diverse range of topics that seemed to have filled our inbox this time around.  Of course we had pieces about shooters, gaming life stories, and rants and we enjoyed them, but subjects leapt out that we had rarely seen, from the woes of Nintendo to the self-entitlement of franchise fanboys, the defense of much maligned games such as Brink, and pieces on the Xbox Live Indie scene and e-sports.  To sit and read something and think “I never knew that/thought of that/considered it like that” or to have your previously held opinion sway a little, or just to have someone put down in words exactly what you’ve secretly thought about something is a wonderful thing.

So, while the room may be temporarily sealed away as a disaster zone – my phone is in there somewhere, I’ve all but given it up for lost – it was worth it.  If these passionate, well written, intelligent, and diverse pieces of writing are even a tiny example of the thoughts and capabilities of today’s gamers, then it only further goes to underline points made by the winning entry and give the naysayers, the ignorant, and the Daily Mail reactionary types all the more reason to hang their heads in shame.

Congratulations to…
Alex Hawksworth-Brookes with “Marginalised, Mistreated and Misunderstood: Video Games and the Fight for Recognition“, winner of the 2012 writing contest and the prize bundle.

Runners Up…
While we swore we wouldn’t have runners up this year, it was just far too close to call at the end and so we succumbed once again. Congratulations should therefore also go to, in alphabetical order:

Adam Leonard
“Next-Gen. High definition: check. Full online support: check. Community: che… wait a second.”

Chris Peebles
“Video Games Tell Amazing Stories”

Ellis Spice
“Indie Games’ Forgotten Step-child”

Keegan Spindler
“Challenging The Online Pass”

Mark Lawson
“Fanboy Loyalty or Cowardice?”

Oli Jacobs

Last five articles by GL News



  1. Mark Mark_s says:

    I’d love to read some of the runners up. Titles sound really interesting.

  2. Mark Lawson says:

    Damn, I was close! Being runner up and mentioned in the article is very cool though!

  3. Adam L Adam Leonard says:

    Congrats to Alex, well-deserved winner. Very happy with being so close to winning myself, too. Thanks for a great contest!

  4. Rook says:

    I just missed out on watching the judging session this year and remember how it went last year with Lorna sitting literally surrounded by articles. Glad to hear there was a higher quality in writing, hopefully you got some laughs too while reading through them.

  5. Ste Ste says:

    Well this is awkward, I thought that roughly drawn sketch of my balls was a shoe in this year….

  6. Edward Edward says:

    I agree with Mark, I’d love to read some of these :D

Leave a Comment