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You’ve seen, probably, the recently released list of Origins Awards nominees for games released in 2009. I dig the Origins Awards. Congratulations to all of the fine nominees, many of whom are Friends of Gameplaywright.

The Origins Awards are given annually by a body called the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design. The Academy is not so much the organization you’d think, given its name. Rather, the Academy is either an arm of or a front for (depending on your level of cynicism) GAMA, the Game Manufacturer’s Association. The Academy has a Chairman, who is currently Friend of Gameplaywright (and of Jeff) Paul Tevis. If GAMA’s rules haven’t changed in the last few years, the Academy Chairman serves at the pleasure of the GAMA Chairman.

In the past, the Academy has had a membership, of varying size based mostly on whether it charged for membership in any given year. It rarely did a lot other than give out the Origins Awards, and sometimes it mostly failed even at that.

Waaaay back in the day, while Charles Ryan was Academy Chairman, I was a member of the central committee of the Academy. (This body, largely informal even then, does not exist now, so far as I’m aware. It’s possible that the various Origins Awards juries are now the official constituents of this larger membership. It’s hard to find this kind of thing out. Anyway.) I always thought that growing a strong membership to constitute a vigorous Academy of game design professional was a worthwhile goal.

I’m no longer sure whether that’s true. I think that film benefits, generally, from its professional organizations. (It definitely benefits from its strong unions.) I think that GAMA membership generally makes sense for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. I think young game designers could do with better mentoring opportunities. The IGDA—the body for computer game developers—seems to be popular. I think it’s a little disingenuous (or confusing, at the very least) for GAMA to give the Origins Awards under the auspices of an organization that doesn’t particularly exist, at least not in the sense that its name implies. But I also observe that organizations like the Academy I imagine all too often tend to function as a thankless time-sink for people who could be doing other, generally more awesome, things. So I don’t know.

In any case (and finally!), your Friday question:

Do tabletop game designers need a professional organization? Why or why not?