When it comes to card- and boardgames in German speaking countries the term "Spiel des Jahres“ is famous and important. It’s translation simply means "Game of the Year“.
Association Founded in 1978
There are two things indicated by this term, which are tightly connected to each other. On the one hand it is the name of a non-profit organisation of game review columnists, which was founded in 1978. “Spiel des Jahres” is a registered association (e.V.) with its company headquarters in Jülich, Germany.
On the other hand it’s also the name of the annual critic’s award, which was granted for the first time in 1979 to the game "Hase und Igel“ (Hare & Tortoise), designed by David Parlett.
The "Kinderspiel des Jahres“ critics' award was established in 2001 as a second main award. It replaced the previously-awarded "Special Award for Children's Game." The emphasis lies on games enjoyable for children up to the age of 8, but also includes those games that can be played with parents and older siblings.
In 2011 a third award was established, the "Kennerspiel des Jahres“. This award is intended to give guidance to those people who have already been playing games for a longer time and are experienced in learning new rules.
Promoting Games as a Cultural Asset
The main goal of the association is to promote games as a cultural asset to encourage gaming amongst family and friends. It is not only about the awards. The jury also publishes a shortlist of nominated and recommended games for a given year. The association has an online presence, prints information brochures and finances booths at trade fairs and further activities. Each year the association supports various projects, for example promoting the work of day schools, promoting libraries and games libraries, promoting games events, festivals, exhibitions, publications and campaigns as well as awarding games designer grants for new designers etc.
Games for Everybody, not just for Geeks and Nerds
The target group of the "Spiel des Jahres“-award is simply everybody. This is an extremely heterogeneous audience, of which only a small section consists of specialist gamers. What would interest and excite these players would possibly be too challenging for normal players, dissuading them from playing this and other games. Therefore the important thing for the jury members is to evaluate and play the games with different types of players, with casual gamers as well as games addicts, because this can show the different sides of a game. Each jury member has their own relatively wide circle of friends, acquaintances or colleagues they meet on a relatively regular basis.
The jury consists solely of people working full-time or part-time as journalists who specialize in game reviews, have worked for extended periods for newspapers, magazines, broadcast organizations or are well-known bloggers and have thereby proven their competency and ability to make sound judgments. Independence of the members is crucial. The association's charter forbids jury membership to any person involved in any way with games publishing and sales. In order to preserve its independence the jury rejects all forms of external financing. Its work is financed solely through from the license fees for the logo.
It is widely believed that the succes of the award is only possible because of the consistent competence, independence and incorruptibility of the jury members.
There is no target figure of members. At the moment (2015/2016), the association consists of 12 members (3 female, 9 male, 10 Germany, 1 Austria, 1 Switzerland).
9 of the jury members are judging for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres, which ist he same jury. The jury for the Kinderspiel des Jahres consists of members of the Spiel des Jahres association (three at the moment) and an external advisory committee (2015/2016: five people)
The Spiel des Jahres critics' award is a merit award with no monetary prize included. But because of the award’s reputation it ist expected, that the award winner will sell at least