As the 2021 Independent Games Festival moves into the jurying phase for July’s awards, the organizers would like to introduce the various industry experts judging the nominees for this year’s show.
These fantastic jurors come have come from all across the game industry to evaluate and celebrate the games submitted to this year’s IGF 2021 awards ceremony, taking place at the all-digital Game Developers Conference in July.
Here are the panels assembled for the Excellence in Design Award, the Best Student Game Award, and Best in Visual Art Award for IGF 2021.
The Excellence in Design Award
The Excellence in Design award celebrates the innovation and quality of the underlying blueprint of each entered game -- including component parts like its level design, mechanic design and difficulty balancing. It will be awarded by the following jury:
Sarah runs Northway Games and is the designer, producer, coder and writer for games like the Rebuild sim-strategy series. She's currently working on the upcoming narrative life sim I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, and can't wait to get back to traveling while doing it.
Ben Wilson is an indie turned AAA turned indie again game maker from the UK. He’s currently at Die Gute Fabrik, working as the Creative Producer on their next project. You can reach him on Twitter at @zerofiftyone_
Tom was a games critic for 9 years before releasing his first game, Gunpoint, and has been designing, writing and coding games for the last 11 years. After playing with noir electricians in Gunpoint and proc-gen spaceship hijackers in Heat Signature, he's currently dressing wizards in kevlar for the forthcoming Tactical Breach Wizards.
Ji "Atlas" Chen
Atlas is a Game Designer & Designer Manager at thatgamecompany. Game design is a way for him to explore the truth about life and the universe and to share his findings and joyance with others. He has shipped game titles including Sky - Children of the Light and Gemini - A Journey of Two Stars.
Cindy is the Design Lead at Studio Mayday in New Zealand. They have been designing games for over a decade, working on a wide range of games from We Are Chicago to Disney Infinity. They also help out with several local developer community groups. You can follow them @pigglebutts on twitter.
Sarah is a designer, producer, and developer passionate about crafting innovative experiences across games, film, theater, and themed entertainment. She served as Producer of Outer Wilds and was part of the Advanced Creative Technology team at DreamWorks Animation. She currently works in virtual production at Scanline VFX and is Game Director at her indie studio Tinted Stardust.
Richard is the CEO and one of the co-founders of Clever Endeavour Games. He also works in design, with the occasional foray into art and audio. He has worked as a judge for the IGF and the Indie Megabooth, was also an advisor for the Kowloon Nights games investment fund, and is a member of the board of directors at GamePlay Space, a shared workspace for game developers in Montreal, Canada.
Bennett Foddy is the designer of past Nuovo award winner Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, and is also known for QWOP, GIRP and Sportsfriends. He teaches game design at NYU and most recently contributed to the PC and Switch title Ape Out.
The Best Student Game Award
The IGF 2021 Best Student Game award will be given to a student developer (or team of student developers) to mark their submission as a standout example of an impressive, enjoyable and high-quality student-made game. Here are the jurors who will award it:
Faculty at the University of Utah's top-ranked game program. He wrote “Ludoliteracy” and edited “Videogame Ethics Reader”, “Role-Playing Game Studies”, and "Game Design Snacks" which was authored by students. José was honored as a distinguished game scholar by the digital games research association (DiGRA) and is a fellow in the Higher Education Videogame Alliance (HEVGA).
Creator of Kairo, The White Chamber, Journal and Cosplay Maker.
Liam Edwards is a game director and designer based in Kyoto, Japan. An independent developer formerly of Rockstar Games and Q-Games. Liam has previously worked on numerous indie titles including most recently; Scrappers and Cursed to Golf. He's also a podcaster and hosts both the Dad & Sons podcast and the Final Games podcast."
Lindsay is Knight Chair in Interactive Media and an associate professor at the University of Miami School of Communication. He is Vice President for the Higher Education Video Game Alliance, 2019 recipient of the Games for Change Vanguard award, author of Doing Things with Games, Social Impact through Design and the designer/developer/artist behind scores of indie games.
Nick Zhang is a game designer and creative director at NExT Studios. Notable works include audio driven detective game Unheard and atmospheric game Gemini - A Journey of Two Stars. He is also one of the first graduates of NYU Game Center game design MFA.
Jeff Petriello is the Producer at Half Mermaid, Sam Barlow's studio based in Brooklyn, NY. He also teaches Game Design at the NYU Game Center.
Jana Reinhardt is a game designer, graphic artist, game journalist and design educator. Together with Friedrich Hanisch she founded the independent game studio Rat King and is known for her community work at the Indie Arena as well as former PR work for the Indie Arena Booth. Her goal is to connect game developers and show the potential of games as well as game tech for industrial, health, education and cultural heritage projects.
AP Thomson is a designer and programmer who has worked on numerous games including Fortune-499, Swap Sword, Multibowl, and Beglitched (winner of the 2016 IGF Student Award). AP is currently working with Beglitched co-creator Jenny Jiao Hsia on their upcoming game Consume Me. AP also regularly teaches classes at the NYU Game Center as an adjunct lecturer.
The Excellence in Visual Art Award
The Excellence in Visual Art award seeks to celebrate the highlights of innovation and quality in visuals for independent games, and its jury for 2021 is made up of the following experts:
Jesse "The Drawbarian" Turner is an artist based out of Vancouver. He's been working for 14 years in the games industry on titles like Griftlands and Viking Squad and you can find him and his crazy characters on twitter @jouste.
Zhenghua Yang (Z)
Zhenghua Yang (Z) is the founder & director of Serenity Forge, a values-driven game development & publishing studio behind critically acclaimed titles such as Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, Neversong, Half Past Fate, and Lifeless Planet.
Motion design industry veteran, Stugan and Sundance New Frontier alumna, and 2D enthusiast. Currently a Senior Lecturer of Animation at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
As part of Thekla Inc. for the past ten years, Orsi has provided tons of art and puzzle design for the critically acclaimed game, The Witness. She is currently creative directing Thekla's new, unannounced project.
As Creative Manager on Penumbra's Partner Development Team, Gaurav Mathur collaborates with a global network of external studio partners and therapists to develop virtual reality therapy games on the REAL Immersive System. Over the last twenty-five years, he has worked on titles including the critically acclaimed Grim Fandango and Psychonauts, and the bestseller Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. He runs gamedevmap -- a curated living map and catalog of game development around the world -- launching it over fifteen years ago.
Marielle is an environment artist at Red Hook Studios, currently working on Darkest Dungeon 2. She has been a 3D artist in games and film for over a decade. She loves strong silhouettes, muted colors, horror movies, dogs, and deadlifts.
Chandana Ekanayake is Co-founder and Creative Director at Outerloop Games, a minority-led, fully distributed indie game studio.
Specializes in environment art and surreal nature illustration. She contributed to Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Waking Mars, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, among others. She's currently working on her own projects.
Yngvill Hopen is a concept artist and CEO of Henchman & Goon, of which she is also one of the co-founders. With her background in traditional art and theater, she has 20 years combined experience in visual development.
Ruel Pascual is the Studio Art Director for Night School. He's worked in the industry for 18 years for companies such as Blur Studio, Double Fine, Little Zoo, Reel FX, and Disney Interactive. His recent projects at Night School include Mr. Robot, Afterparty, and Next Stop Nowhere.
You can view all entries for the 2021 Independent Game Festival on the IGF website. Competition finalists will be announced soon, with winners announced during the award ceremony at GDC 2021
The IGF Awards will be livestreamed alongside the Game Developers Choice Award on the official GDC Twitch channel. Subscribe now to be notified when the awards are live!