Triple Award Drama

So TRAUMA recently won the German Computer Games Award. I wanted to write a bit about it because there was quite a bit of drama associated with the award. In fact, there were 3 separate pieces of drama.

Drama 1 – Crysis Crisis

Deutscher Computerspielpreis 2012 - Neumann

Minister of culture Bernd Neumann having a speech at the ceremony. © Deutscher Computerspielpreis 2012 / Fabian Matzerath

Perhaps the biggest drama was the fact that Crysis 2 was nominated. You see, computer games in Germany are highly controversial. There is a great deal of fear mongering going on from conservative politicians and the tabloid press regarding games and violence. The key word we developed here is “Killerspiele” which means “Killer Games” and refers to vaguely to violent games without actually bothering to define what it means and where to draw the line. But of course, that never stopped a conservative shitstorm. After all, we need to think of the children.

The irony is that Germany already has one of the most complicated and restrictive game rating systems in the world. The German Computer Games Award started as an alternative solution and it’s actually one I appreciate a lot. The idea is not to condemn violent games but to reward culturally valuable ones.

Of course the problem here is that the only internationally relevant development studio in Germany is Crytek. And their business in unapologetically hardcore, violent shooters. So on the one hand it’s exactly the thing the German Computer Games Award wasn’t supposed to reward. On the other hand, banning such an influential company as Crytek from participation kinda undermines the credibility of the award itself.

So even before the show last week there were quite some discussions when it was announced that Crysis 2 has been nominated. Some politicians condemned the choice and questioned the validity of the award. On the other hand, the industry and the award’s organization defended the choice of finalists which was the result of a diverse jury of independent experts.

Personally, I’m torn about this. On the one hand I’m tired of the persistent stigma of computer games in Germany. My games aren’t violent but what if I wanted to make some poignant piece about – say – rape or concentration camps? It would be very easy to slip into adult content territory there.

On the other hand, as an Indie, the Michael Bay-ish bullshit Crytek pukes out is exactly the kind of cancer that is eating our medium alive and I’m dedicated to provide alternatives. Having awards that reward such efforts seems like something that could really help to compete with the giants of the industry.

Perhaps the most positive outcome of this is that it seems it’s becoming harder and harder for politicians to harp on the tired “games need to be banned” cliche. This time around, there seemed to be even counter-arguments among the conservative party.

Drama 2 – Browser Games Battle

Deutscher Computerspielpreis - Majewski

Jürgen Hilse from the jury and the German games rating board handing over the award to me and my GF. © Deutscher Computerspielpreis 2012 / Ulf Büschleb

But the identity crisis of the award was apparent not only in the main category. The category TRAUMA was nominated in – browser games – also showed signs of schizophrenia. The biggest contender was the game Drakensang Online by another German games industry giant Bigpoint. Bigpoint is pretty much the German Zynga – a browser-based money factory with questionable ethics at best. Drakensang is their newest browser-based Diablo clone. A massive, technically impressive production.

On the other hand it’s exactly as mindless and dumb as Diablo is. It’s about killing hordes of monsters by clicking on them. If Crysis is lacking cultural value, Drakensang is certainly not much better off. But of course, Bigpoint is incredibly influential. In fact, they probably financed a fair share of the award themselves. It feels weird to sit down at an award ceremony and find elaborate marketing material for your award contender in the goodie bag.

In any case, Drakensang won. But it’s kinda remarkable that so did TRAUMA. There was a separate special jury award for TRAUMA. The jury member, who handed me the prize emphasized that they really wanted to reward the artistic nature of the game. It was amazing of course. However, I can’t help to observe that it seemed a bit tacked-on. There wasn’t even a slot for it during the award ceremony. I smell that this is the result of some internal struggle and discussions. I certainly hope so. Because sadly, there wasn’t a monetary reward for it either. So the rich guys got all the money. All I can do now is to troll. I wonder if there was a profit at the bottom line for Bigpoint?

Drama 3 – Rondomedia Rip-Off

Deutscher Computerspielpreis - Not TRAUMA

“Heey, it’s my gam… WTF!? That’s not my game!”

Finally, more of a personal drama for me. There was an exhibition associated with the award. Each game was playable on a station along with a short, printed description. Someone charged with the layout for the descriptions managed to put up the wrong cover for TRAUMA. The mistake is equally understandable and unfortunate. They printed the cover of a cheap knock-off I recently discovered on Amazon. Apparently, the company Rondomedia decided to cash in on my game. They made a Hidden Object game with the same title and a similar theme. If you look for TRAUMA on Amazon, that’s what you find. I guess that was their plan all along.


The German game industry immediately cannibalizing it’s own indie newcomers… with a smile. Way to go, Rondomedia.

I pointed this out to the award show’s organization and of course they apologized multiple times. The question of what I’m going to do about the knock-off remains.

So that’s a lot of drama for just one evening. Generally, I had a lot of fun. Sure, I haven’t gotten any money. But I haven’t lost anything either. Actually, I was enjoying having my game at the heart of such turbulent ceremony. I’m looking forward to see how the award develops in the future. There were some talks of re-thinking the categories. It might be a good idea.

Oh and by the way: if anybody has some sound legal advice on what to do with the TRAUMA knock-off, drop me a line! I’d hate the fuckers get away with this.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

3 responses to “Triple Award Drama”

  1. Shane

    I wish I could see something positive in all this or offer some sort of useful advice, but I can’t. :/

  2. daniel

    äh … watt?
    also bei expeditions ins unterbewusstsein … da fehlen mir ja /total/ die worte.

    so eine verfickte %#&§$ !!!

    ansonsten – latürnich – congrats :-)

  3. whatever

    Big Fail (I would say) of the organization for the “rip-off” display!
    How many people could get wrong because of that?
    Maybe an apologie is not enough,
    it would be good some kind of reparation action,
    like putting the real ad in a better point for some time,
    or helping you with the unfair “fakers”.

    Thanks for sharing all this infos,


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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