The Independent Games Festival has announced the nominees for the 2011 Nuovo Award, a special category within the IGF for "abstract, short-form, and unconventional game development." In other words, weird art games!

"I think what we've decided now is that even more light needs to be shed on this particular sub-section of the ever-growing sub-section that indie games already occupy in the wider gaming sphere," IGF chair Brandon Boyer told Joystiq, "the bit where developers are truly pushing at the edges and limits of what games can and probably should grow to encompass, whether that's videogames that move off the screen and into the playspace of the participants themselves, or games that tackle documentary, more personal and otherwise autobiographical subjects, or games that simply tonally run counterintuitive to the kinds of emotions games usually elicit."

The eight nominees include the following:
  1. Monobanda's Bohm, a game in which you control the life of a tree.
  2. A House in California by Cardboard Computer, a "surreal" adventure game about four characters exploring a house.
  3. Nidhogg, Messhof's two-player, side-scrolling versus fencing game.
  4. Dinner Date by Stout Games, in which you listen in on Julian Luxemburg's thoughts as you follow him through the agonizing wait for his date to show.
  5. Loop Raccord by UFO on Tape creator Nicolai Troshinsky, a game based on video editing -- you have to create "continuous movement" by stringing together clips from archive.org.
  6. The Cat and the Coup by Peter Brinson and Kurosh VaiaNejad, a "documentary game" from the perspective of former Iranian Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh's ... cat.
  7. Copenhagen Game Collective's Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now, a one-button game for up to eight players, with rules that players must enforce themselves (or choose not to).
  8. Hazard: The Journey of Life by Demruth, an abstract first-person puzzle game in which the world is constantly changing.

The winning game will be announced during the IGF awards on March 2. In addition to the eight finalists, five honorable mentions were also named: Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Faraway, Feign, Choice Of Broadsides, and SpyParty

"There's a number of things that the jury specifically called out as important to the Nuovo distinction," Boyer said, explaining the distinction between a "Nuovo" game and "normal" IGF fare. "A distinctive personal or authorial voice, techniques that attempt to experiment with the usual 'language' of games, or even better, co-opt and subvert well-tread forms like the first person shooter, the point-and-click adventure, or (in previous years) the platformer to elevate them into something that's never been done before." You can see this kind of subversion in the illogical first-person landscapes of Feign or Hazard and the soccer-style back-and-forth of the swordfighting in Nidhogg.

A few multiplayer-only titles found their way onto the list. Asked if he thought this was a growing trend, Boyer cited the arrival of "independent arcades" like New York's Babycastles, and other "hyper-local" events, which do "amazing work at pushing games back out of the bed- and even living-rooms and cycling us back to where this industry began. Playing together, a foundational part of the history of games themselves."

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NUOVO AWARD FINALISTS REVEALED FOR 2011 INDEPENDENT GAMES FESTIVAL

Finalists Vying for Video Game Industry's Preeminent Art Prize
Compete at 13th Annual Independent Games Festival

SAN FRANCISCO - Dec. 20, 2010 - The Independent Games Festival (IGF), the prestigious GDC-held video game industry event highlighting and awarding the talents of independent game developers, has announced the finalists for the 2011 Nuovo Award, which honors "abstract, short-form, and unconventional game development."

Some of this year's finalists include unconventional party game Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.), first-person dinner simulation title Dinner Date, Messhof's chunky 2-player fencing title Nidhogg, and zen-like tree simulation title Bohm.

The Nuovo Award, the top video game art prize, will be presented at the Independent Games Festival Awards on March 2, 2011 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco during Game Developers Conference 2011. In addtion, all Nuovo finalists will be playable in a special section of the IGF Pavilion on the GDC show floor from March 2nd to 4th.

Now in its third year, the Nuovo Award allows more esoteric art games from among the almost 400 IGF entries to compete on their own terms alongside longer-form indie titles, and has been newly expanded this year to include eight finalists.

The full list of this year's Nuovo Award finalists, with links to screenshots and videos of the titles on their official IGF.com entry pages, is as follows:

- Bohm, created by Monobanda - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=333
("Gives you control over the life of a tree. It's a game based on slow gameplay and the act of creation.")


- A House in California, created by Cardboard Computer - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=235
("A surreal, narrative game about four characters who bring a house to life... with environments and activities drawn from a combination of memory, research, poetry, and fantasy.")

- Nidhogg, created by Messhof - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=271
("A 2 player fencing game with football & platforming elements".)


- Dinner Date, created by Stout Games - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=199
("You play as the subconsciousness of Julian Luxemburg, waiting for his date to arrive. You listen in on his thoughts while tapping the table, looking at the clock and eventually reluctantly starting to eat...")


- Loop Raccord, created by Nicolai Troshinsky - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=119
("Manipulate a series of video clips in order to create... continuous movement.")


- The Cat and the Coup, created by Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=71
("A documentary game in which you play the cat of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran.")


- Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.), created by Copenhagen Game Collective - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=374
("A one-button party game for 2-8 players. ... rather than let the computer carry out all the rules, the players are themselves responsible for enforcing (or not enforcing) the rules.")


- Hazard: The Journey Of Life, created by Demruth - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=85
("A philosophical first person single player environmental puzzle game. The game presents no goals directly to the player, but they create goals for themselves based on what they know of the world.")

The Nuovo Award had recommendations put forward by over 150 of the IGF's Main Competition judges, and the winners picked – via active discussion and voting – by an elite jury of the video game industry's top thinkers on the future of art and the video game medium. The jury included previous winner Jason Rohrer (Between), as well as lauded game creators including Paolo Pedercini (Every Day The Same Dream), Ian Bogost (A Slow Year), Daniel Benmergui (Today I Die) and more.

In addition to the 8 Nuovo finalists, the jury also awarded honorable mentions to the following 5 outstanding Nuovo-styled titles which also deserve recognition: Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional Games), Faraway (Steph Thirion), Feign (Ian Snyder), Choice Of Broadsides (Choice Of Games), Spy Party (Chris Hecker).

"This year's finalists for the Nuovo Award perfectly embody what this award was created to celebrate -- a set of games that could hardly be more different from each other than they are from the wider body of entrants in this year's festival," said IGF chairman Brandon Boyer.

"Running the gamut from quiet reflections on both nature and ourselves, to raucous new-arcade experiences designed to entertain the audience looking on as much as the participants of the game, each finalist showcases the unconventional approach of the indie community to new forms of play."

The Independent Games Festival, produced by the Game Developers Conference® (GDC) and presented by Gamasutra.com and Game Developer Magazine, was established in 1998 by the GDC organizer UBM TechWeb to recognize outstanding independent game developers, in the way that the Sundance Film Festival honors the independent film community. Sponsors for this year's IGF include Crytek, Microsoft, Direct2Drive, TransGaming, DigiPen and ENJMIN.

For more information on the Independent Games Festival, including a more detailed statement from the Nuovo Jury and many more details on entrants and finalists, please visit the official IGF website at http://www.igf.com. Remaining IGF Main Competition and Student Competition finalists will be announced in early January 2011.

For those interested in registering for GDC 2011, which includes the Independent Games Summit, the IGF Pavilion and the IGF Awards Ceremony, please visit the official Game Developers Conference website: http://www.gdconf.com.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.