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Interview: Joseph Olin discusses DICE awards


Joseph Olin, president of the The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, is a busy, busy man this week. Hosting DICE and getting ready for the 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards tonight, which will be streamed on (and shown on IFC's cable TV network the following week). We were curious to know a little more about what the academy has planned for its public image and who Olin is rooting for tonight.

Joystiq: Do we call it the Interactive Achievement Awards ... or do we say I.A. awards?

Joseph Olin: Interactive Achievement Awards. I think most people just give them the moniker "The DICE Awards." Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain certainly sums up why people make games. I'm comfortable with that.

Is this the first year the show will be streamed live?

Actually, this will be the third year it'll be streamed live. But, last year our good friends at IGN had a problem with their uplink relay on their end. So we were streaming and nothing went. So they captured and were about 30 minutes behind. As we all know, the internet is a flawless piece of technology and as reliable as the mail. So, yes, we're excited about IFC streaming it this year because they have a much better track record of streaming their content.

So, we should say this is the first year IFC is streaming it?

This is the first year IFC is streaming it live. Then the highlights show will be on the following Friday, the 26th.

Is the academy trying to develop a higher profile? We typically hear about it during DICE and that's pretty much it. Is there more public outreach that's going to happen?

Yes, that's been part of the academy's strategic directive, if you will. It's really at the core at why the academy was created by the board [what is now the ESA] in 1996. It was to provide a consumer recognition mechanism that would be a parallel to the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. I think that the board in their exuberance for this great idea had no true understanding of the nature of a competitiveness between the creative community and publishing community going back into the '90s when there were four times as many publisher then as there are today. I think it's taken a little longer to get to where we have an entertaining and engaging show and we have the local support from the creative community to make a peer-based award system really work. We're the only one.

So, what would you like to see?

Our overall goal would be to have the DICE awards be as ubiquitous within the entertainment consumers mind as would be the Oscars, Grammys or Emmys. So, if you see our little trophy on the side of a game box and it won game of the year that I should probably play this or that it's been given a certain level of status by the people who know, love and make games.

On that note, two years ago the academy had that relationship with GameStop where they put stickers on boxes for the winners. Is that still going on, is that planned for this year?

Absolutely. The one thing we've decided doesn't necessarily work in the same ways it did in other mediums is that stickers on boxes don't necessarily get seen. More and more people are looking at posters and other in-store materials at retail within the GameStop environment. And, in general, people see everything online. So, literally, the night the awards show finishes up the winners will be receiving electronic media for winning, and stickers and GameStop's site will have a number of the winning games featured.

Will it only be GameStop or you planning on doing it with other retailers?

We're doing it with Hollywood Video and Game Crazy ... it's probably more emphasis on Hollywood Video today, sadly. And we're working with other third-party retailers to pick up the program as well.

We've heard it mentioned that you think the DICE awards are the only gaming awards and show that "matters" Why is that?

I think we're the most important of the various recognition shows within games and interactive entertainment because we have the largest number of passionate game makers who set aside hundreds of hours of their lives to evaluate and to look at what's being done within their space and to single out those who've done really, really excellent work.

Explain a little bit more about how these awards get chosen behind the scenes, because it's not "viewers choice," it's actual developers and industry folks.

We have about 400 peer panelists and, I would say, the average level of experience is about 14 years of making games. ... We work with our panelists to self-select their areas of expertise. So our awards structure is originally patterned after how the Oscars looked at film, from craft and technology within their scope.

Is there anything you'd like to add about the DICE awards that we wouldn't know to ask?

The fact that we're the only awards within games where all the people play all the games. They select the games that should be conferred upon, not the academy. We don't tell them what they should play. We ask them what they think is worthy and then we act as the conduit to make sure that they get copies of games and that publishers are part of the academy and their teams are supported. It's people who make games.

Who are you rooting for in the overall game of the year category? And if you don't know them off the top of your head, we have them here.

No, I know them all. I love all of them. I would suppose the one I've spent the least time in is Dragon Age because it's not my sweet spot of how I like to game. But I have nothing but incredible admiration for the two doctors and the teams at BioWare. I loved Arkham Asylum. I don't want to say it was my favorite, but one of my favorites was playing Borderlands, which I think is equal to the other finalists.

So, from the finalists, which one would you choose?

I can't ...

We're not leaving this room until you pick one.


[PR lady half-joking: Listen, I'm sorry, but he has another appointment]

What I would choose isn't necessarily what our voting members in the academy would choose. I think it would really be a toss-up between Arkham and Uncharted 2. I think they are both great rides in different ways.

We'll find out who actually wins when the DICE awards stream live tonight on

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