Headline News

Game Chef begins this year on May 10!
Game Chef ends on May 18.
Winners will be announced on June 11.
The shadowy international cabal will declare a World Champion on June 30.

Game Chef 2014

Game Chef is an annual analog game design competition. First held in 2002, it’s led to the creation of hundreds of envelope-pushing first drafts. Game Chef gives participants 1 theme, 4 ingredients, and 9 days in which to create an analog/tabletop game design.

The competition runs simultaneously in five languages. Entries are peer reviewed, with finalists submitted to a shadowy cabal. A winner is chosen in each language, with one emerging as the year’s world champion.

Game Chef is for you, regardless of whether you’ve ever thought of yourself as a game designer. We aim to make the competition as accessible and welcoming as possible.

The Basics

Design and submit a playable draft of an analog (non-digital) game between May 10th and 18th, inspired by the theme and ingredients listed below. Historically most Game Chef games have been tabletop roleplaying games or live action games, but the divisions between different types of games (board games, card games, roleplaying games, live action games) are constantly being broken down and re-envisioned by innovative designers like you. Feel free to push the boundaries of what counts as a roleplaying game, an analog game, or a game.

Each participant will review four games that others submit, and this peer-review process will determine finalists. A winner for each language that Game Chef runs in will be declared, though the real victory is completing a game in the first place.

This year, Game Chef is also being run in several other languages, with site links to be announced soon.

2014 Theme

This year’s theme will be revealed on May 10th.

Let the theme inspire you and shape your game as you work on it. You’re free to interpret the theme in any way you want, and to have a different interpretation than other competitors.

When you design for Game Chef, you don’t need to worry about creating a polished product. Instead, focus on creating something that’s accessible and engaging, full of excellent ideas. Maybe you’ll want to work on the game more after Game Chef is finished. Maybe you’ll want to take some of your better ideas from it, and do something new with them. Maybe you’ll just congratulate yourself on finishing a game, and use that accomplishment as fuel to keep working on another project. Any of these are great results!

2014 Ingredients

This year’s four ingredients will be revealed on May 10th.

Incorporate 2-3 of the ingredients into your design. Try to incorporate the ingredients as centrally as you can, as part of the premise or the rules or however else makes sense to you. A passing reference is okay if that’s all you can come up with, but really drawing strongly on the ingredients is suggested. Like the theme, you’re free to interpret these ingredients in whatever way you want.

For example, the 2004 ingredients were [ice, island, dawn, assault], which ended up inspiring games like The Mountain Witch (climbing icy Mount Fuji to assault the witch’s fortress), The Dance and the Dawn (try to find your true love at an island social gathering, hoping that — when dawn breaks — you don’t end up with the one that has a heart of ice), and Polaris (arctic elves struggle against themselves and a demonic assault, with the dawn finally coming for the first time in hundreds of years).

Game Format

There are a few guidelines for game format, and each of those guidelines is there to make sure your game is accessible (especially to the peers who get randomly selected to review your game).

Strive to make your game formatting as accessible as possible. Make an effort to ensure that your game is accessible to those who are blind (and using a screen-reading device), deaf, or colour-blind. The easiest (but not the only) way to ensure that your entry is accessible is to submit it in one of the following formats: a plain text file, a tagged PDF, or a Microsoft Word document. Avoid the use of cluttered backgrounds or anything low-contrast. If you want to submit your game as a video file, provide captions and a transcript. If you want to submit your game as an audio file, provide a transcript. Doing extravagant things with your submission is fine, but the responsibility lies with you to make sure that it remains accessible to readers.

The game needs to be submitted via a single download or link, and require no proprietary software. In order to submit your entry, you will need to provide a single download link (or youtube link, etc, etc). If you have multiple files, put them in a zipped folder. Make sure that no proprietary software is needed to access your submission.

Additional formatting restrictions will be revealed on May 10th.

Rule on Previous Work

You may draw on concepts you have thought about or worked on before the contest, but everything you submit must be new work, not existing material. Plagiarism or self-plagiarism will get your game disqualified.

Rule on Intellectual Property

It is ultimately the designer’s responsibility to deal with all rights-related issues. Including excerpts from public domain or open source content is fine, as long as it’s cited. Drawing inspiration from other games is also fine, but be sure to give credit and put it in your own words.

Design Discussions

This year, we’re using Google+ communities to make connecting and supporting one another easier throughout the competition.

The English-language Google+ community is here. Please join! If you want to talk about your game in progress, we ask that you limit yourself to a maximum of two posts to the community. Conversation can happen via comments in those posts, or you can add interested parties to a personal G+ circle and continue the conversation via personal posts.

Game Submission

Games are due before midnight (in your own time zone) on May 18th. To submit, post to the 2013 Game Submission thread with your name, email address, and a link to the game. Your game materials can be presented in any easily-accessed format (including: zipped folder, hypertext, captioned Youtube video). In order to do this, you’ll need to upload your files somewhere (options include: Dropbox, a WordPress media library, or other solutions). Contact an organizer if you need help doing this.

You may submit as part of a team. You may only submit one game to one of the participant language competitions.

Initial Reviewing

Once games are submitted, each participant will be assigned 4 games to review. You will have until June 5th to pick one of the four to recommend for the next round. Your recommendation can be based on whatever criterion you determine to be most important. You may want to consider what each game accomplishes in terms of innovation, clarity, ingredient usage, and current playability. You don’t need to explain or defend your decision – just pick and recommend one of the four games.

As part of reviewing each game, we ask that you write a short critique/appraisal and send it to the game’s author. As Game Chef is a short competition that will inevitably create half-finished products, you don’t need to focus on fine details of language. Instead, share what you liked, what you were confused about, any ideas that you have for improvement or development, and any decisions you hope the designer will rethink. You can either email the designer your feedback or post it to their design thread if they started one on Praxis or elsewhere. Aim to be helpful and encouraging.

Picking Winners

The games that receive the most nominations will be reviewed by Avery Mcdaldno (and other judges to be determined). A winner will be chosen from among these finalists and crowned the 2013 English Game Chef champion. Additional awards and achievements may be awarded by a shadowy cabal of past Game Chef participants.

The winner from each language of Game Chef will be translated into a common tongue and judged by an international cabal. One game from the ranks of English Game Chef, Italian Game Chef, French Game Chef,  Game Chef Brasil, and Russian Game Chef will be crowned the 2013 international winner.

Winning Game Chef is a funny business. It’s a great honour, but the real focus of the competition is in stirring a great number of people into creative endeavour. We choose a winner in order to create that extra edge and push competitors to do their best work, while acknowledging that the real victory is getting a community to come together and make new stuff.