@shanel It’s a good idea, and one we hope to implement this year with Judge Spotlights. Each judge will give a special award to an entry of their choice. This is unrelated to the three winners. Judges can name and formulate their special awards however they choose.
I also agree that the “winners” are not the “best” entries. The prizes and judges are there to incentivize participation and convince new people to give game design a try.
In fact this year we’re going to attempt to provide feedback to as many entrants as we can. It’s a struggle due to the vast number of entries we have every year, but we’re hoping that feedback will prove more valuable than the prizes/winners were. An even better incentive to participate!
@Jmstar It’s definitely something we’ve been lacking. This year we brought on Jacqueline Bryk to help us get our act together, especially with regards to representation and community management. We hope to use judges/readers/prizes as a way to feature and promote marginalized groups and the incredible content coming from those peoples.
As for constraints/themes that has by far been one of the biggest suggestions. However I think 200 Word has a comfortable niche as the “entry challenge”. That’s why games are short and sweet; low barrier to entry. I worry any kind of constraint or theme would only discourage people from participating. “Our goal is to encourage as many people as possible to make a complete role-playing game from start to finish.” So far we’ve managed to have about 25% of participants mention that this was the first game they ever wrote. That’s a huge indicator of success for us.
Thanks to Itch.io’s recent emphasis on game jams and their robust tools, 200 Word is even more important than ever as a vehicle for drawing people into the hobby. I see new game jams every few weeks, and it’s SO GOOD!
BTW You do a fantastic job with the Gold Cobra @Jmstar Thanks for speaking up with your ideas. I love hearing perspectives outside my own head-space.