A new edition of Phil Eklund's space exploration and exploitation game, High Frontier, is going to hit Kickstarter this month, under the name High Frontier 4 All. In the midst of preparations for new artwork, the company announced a contest on BGG yesterday which was not exactly well-received. Let's see why.
When the official box cover art was revealed to fans of the game in September, the responses were mostly negative. Even though well-executed, the illustration was a better fit for a space opera game, and not so true to Eklund's scientific-industrial spirit. The action the company decided to take in light of the reactions was to launch a contest.
Space enthusiasts were asked to submit three pieces of artwork (for the box cover and the rulebook, and two modules), following specific design requirements. The art will be used by the company in the new edition, and 'for years to come'. The reward for the winner will be 100 USD or a free copy of the game (the winner's choice).
After receiving harsh criticism ('Pay your artists!') on the company's practices, Jon Manker, of Ion Game Design, responded that the contest is addressed to amateur enthusiasts, and insinuated that the winner will gain exposure in the gaming industry.
The matter is not so simple, of course: the production of high quality images, such that the game deserves, will not be made by amateurs, but clearly by professional graphic designers. In that case, the compensation is laughable, or should I say, deplorable. Exposure is not guarantee that the artist will continue to work in the board game industry either. And, from the fans/customers point of view, they will be backing a product that should have consistent style inside and outside of the box. The contest puts this consistency at risk.
It is interesting to see how this will evolve, and if Sierra Madre and Ion will withdraw the contest. Free proof-reading work by the fans was already bad, now this is taking things one step too far. As BGG user mdean said, 'keep the bullshit to Phil's footnotes, thanks'.
Update: Contest cancelled. (No submissions had been entered since it was announced).