To create a new Hugo Award category, a formal proposal must be submitted to the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Business Meeting, where it can be be voted on by any Worldcon members who attend. If the proposed category passes, it must be ratified at the next Worldcon's Business Meeting the following year. The constitutional wording is generally accompanied by a brief justification and explanation of the maker's intent. We are actively developing the discussion section of the proposal by seeking public feedback, but you can see the proposal put before the Dublin Worldcon Business Meeting in 2019 in the Dublin Worldcon Business Meeting agenda. It contains a summary of our research into WSFS member engagement with games and how other game awards function.
Our proposed definition is split into two parts so that “interactive work” can be defined first and excluded from intervening category definitions (the prose categories, Best Graphic Story, and both Best Dramatic Presentation categories) until we get to the new category.
[underlined text indicates proposed additions to the WSFS Constitution]
Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of creating a new Hugo Award category for Best Game or Interactive Work by inserting new subsections after existing Sections 3.2.4 and 3.3.9, and revising Sections 3.2.6, 3.3.7, 3.3.8, and 3.3.9 as follows:
3.2.X. An interactive work is
(1) a game, or
(2) a narrative or presentation in which active input or interactive play is an integral component of the work itself or where it impacts the outcome, narrative, or order of elements of the work itself in a non-trivial fashion, and
(3) is not ephemeral, in the sense that the interactive elements of the work are accessible to participants through published or shareable artifacts, and the work is not an event requiring the participation of specific named persons.
3.2.6: The categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story shall be open to non-interactive works in which the text is the primary form of communication, regardless of the publication medium, including but not limited to physical print, audiobook, and ebook.
3.3.7: Best Graphic Story. Any non-interactive science fiction or fantasy story told in graphic form appearing for the first time in the previous calendar year.
3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Any non-interactive theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.
3.3.9: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Any non-interactive television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.
3.3.Y: Best Game or Interactive Work. Any interactive work or interactive substantial modification of a work in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects, released to the public in the previous year and available for public participation in the interactive elements of the work in that year.
Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2026 Business Meeting, this Section shall be repealed; and
Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2026 Business Meeting.
[This section provides a condensed summary of our research and reasoning as it will appear in the Chicon 8 Business Meeting Agenda. Please see our FAQ for details.]
This proposal is proceeding at the recommendation of the Hugo Award Study Committee.
A Hugo Award specifically for games and interactive works is not only viable and recommended, but necessary for explicitly recognizing a vital site of speculative fiction storytelling. Many common questions and issues are addressed at gameshugo.com/faq, where you can find further supporting evidence, documentation, sources, references, and discussion, but a precis is provided below.
The viability of a Best Video Game category was demonstrated at DisCon III in 2021.
This proposal is for a permanent, medium-neutral category: Best Game or Interactive Work. It is not limited to video games.
Like Best Related Work, it includes both new works and substantial modifications to existing works.
This category is accessible in terms of time, finances, and ability.
The viability of a Best Video Game category was thoroughly demonstrated at DisCon III in 2021, with 40.5% of voters casting ballots in that category that year. In the nomination phase, nominations in this category were comparable to Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form while outperforming many established categories, such as Best Graphic Story and most of the artist, editor, and fan categories. The finalists comprised three AAA titles (an informal label used for games produced by large publishers with substantial budgets), two indie games, and one free browser game. Extensive research into existing game awards (see gameshugo.com/report for more details) has shown that this is a typical and representative spread, demonstrating that a Hugo Award for Best Game or Interactive Work would not be dominated by AAA titles. The viability of this award's participation in the Hugo Voter Packet was also demonstrated that year, with three of the finalists providing free full copies of their games and two finalists working with Worldcon staff to put together representative promotional and explanatory material.
The present proposal is not for a permanent Best Video Game category, but for a permanent expanded, medium-neutral category, Best Game or Interactive Work. Another trial year is not necessary, as the proposed category will build on the success of the Best Video Game category's trial year, while expanding the category's accessibility to voters and lowering the burden on Hugo administrators. An expanded, medium-neutral category offers more types of games and interactive works a better chance to be recognized, and it is more future-proof and more in keeping with the WSFS community's relationship to games and gaming. The proposed category does not require Hugo administrators to legislate the increasingly blurring line between physical and virtual play, and it provides a category in which analog/physical games and interactive prose are more likely to get recognition than in Best Related Work or the story categories (where they are respectively currently eligible). While digital titles are expected to make up the majority of nominees and finalists, standout analog titles such as Arkham Horror, Gloomhaven, or new versions of Dungeons and Dragons would have a better chance at recognition.
This category is accessible in terms of time, finances, and ability. Many public libraries and other institutions lend games and even gaming systems, and many Hugo voters interested in games already own the equipment and games themselves. As discussed above, roughly half of nominated and finalist titles are expected to be more inexpensive indie titles. While games tend to take longer to get through than other single eligible works in other Hugo Award categories, there are also fewer of them, and playing a representative slice of a given year's games is comparable to average reading patterns for a representative slice of a year's prose output. Playing 12 games (twice the number that populates a Hugo category in the nomination stage) takes 223 hours on average, while reading 24 novels of a typical length for adult readers (assuming a conservative 2 books a month for a year, with an average of 400 pages) takes 264 hours.
Finally, for those who are not able to or prefer not to play games or parts of games themselves, watching playthroughs is a thoroughly accepted and normalized practice within the gaming community for enjoying and evaluating games, comparable to how those who can't attend live performances of musicals can still enjoy and evaluate the work through reading the script, listening to the soundtrack, and watching recordings. While individual Hugo voters may not want to use playthroughs as their own personal means for evaluating games, this should not prevent others from doing so, and should not preclude the category for existing. Policing the means by which people experience a work is ableist, classist, and generally exclusionary, and playthroughs, like soundtrack recordings of musicals, are a democratizing force that makes games more accessible to more players and fans. WSFS does not attempt to control the means by which people experience a work, nor how much of it they must read, hear, or watch before voting, and it's antithetical to the democratic spirit of the Hugos to say that this well-established means of experiencing games is not a valid way for any given Hugo voter to evaluate games. A full discussion of using playthroughs to evaluate games is provided at gameshugo.com/faq/playthroughs.
The "substantial modification" and genre requirement are necessary parts of a Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo Award category definition. Modifying games is essential to the culture and craft around games and gaming in both virtual and physical spaces, permitting both professional and fan participation. Explicitly including this clause, which is based on an identical clause in the Best Related Work category, recognizes this essential aspect of games and alleviates the burden on Hugo administrators of determining whether a given entry is sufficiently standalone separate from its base game. We can trust the voters to gravitate towards truly significant modifications that add substantial content or meaning to the base work, rather than superficial additions.
In terms of the genre requirement, what makes a game speculative is a notably blurry boundary, so this stipulation is intended to provide similar guidance to the language used in categories such as Best Dramatic Presentation (LF or SF) and Best Related Work. The definition is also structured to exclude conventions and certain other works that are not in the spirit of the category via the "specific named persons" clause, which entails that a work in this category not hinge on a particular ephemeral execution but instead be a broadly reproducible experience or a platform to provide such, similar to how a musical hinges on the script, direction, etc. of the production, rather than whether a particular actor or their understudy performs a given part.
The Games Hugo campaign has thoroughly analyzed all concerns raised at previous Business Meetings and within the WSFS community in the intervening discussions. This category is viable, accessible, and necessary. Please see gameshugo.com for any further questions or concerns.