If you follow gaming news, you probably saw the Origins Awards nominations late last week. I’m very pleased that Monte Cook Games’s own Numenera is in the running for Best RPG. (And let me be clear: Credit for this lies in no way with me. The game was almost completely finished before I joined the company.) Congratulations to Monte, Shanna, and Kieran for the recognition of their incredible work.

How do ya like that logo, by the way? Yeah, I designed it.

How do ya like that logo, by the way? Yeah, I designed it. Back in the day.

(Also, congrats to the awesome Jeff Tidball, who’s Eternal Lies, which he ran for us as a campaign lasting more than a year (and about which I wrote in my last post), was also nominated.)

I ran the Origins Awards for five years. (I was the Chairman of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design from 1995-2000.) The process is somewhat different than it was when I was at the helm, but here’s something I often said then and which holds true today: It really is an honor just to be nominated.

In fact, it’s really a bigger honor, and here’s why: The nomination process culls roughly five titles from each category from among the dozens or hundreds of potential candidates. Although not always perfect, this process usually does a pretty good job of identifying the best releases of the category. And these titles are usually the standouts in the field–the games and products that really do stand head-and-shoulders above the crowd.

Beyond that, though, it’s kind of a crap shoot. Among those five releases, there’s rarely a single title that blows the others out of the water. The decision of which is “best” becomes pretty subjective, and easily affected by which has the largest or most vocal following, has better distribution and visibility, or gets an uplift from association with a popular brand. This is not to say these factors overwhelm the issue of quality–just that, when the qualitative differences are slim, other factors become more influential.

And that’s the key: The qualitative differences between the nominees are usually pretty slim, whereas all of the nominees usually stand out in comparison with the rest of the field. Nomination is what really marks a product as superlative. It really is an honor to be nominated.

So congrats to the folk behind Numenera, and Eternal Lies, and 13th Age and Love Letter and FATE and all of the other nominees. It’s an honor to be counted among you!