NOTE: Before this article was written, a request to Indiecade was made for comment on the matter with no response received.
UPDATE: See bottom of article for information from Indiecade.
Indiecade is an international festival of independent games and it has recently come to light that the 2011 edition of the festival was tainted by conflict of interest.
Polytron (the company behind the development of Fez) had information leaked in late August 2014. Among this information was investment details and one of those investors was Kellee Santiago who did so in 2009. Kellee Santiago has been on the advisory board of Indiecade and in 2011 she was the chair of the awards jury. It’s also worth noting that Kellee Santiago was personally thanked by Phil Fish in the game credits for Fez. In 2011 Fez was entered in Indiecade and won Best in Show and a Story/World Design award. I have not been able to find any record of Kellee Santiago’s relationship with Fez being disclosed. I have not been able to find any ethics clause regarding personal, financial or professional conflict of interest when it comes to game submissions or the Indiecade team itself. There is however this explanation when it comes to jurors themselves:
Who will judge the entries? A large international jury of more than 100 members representing a wide range of expertise, including professional game designers, games researchers, authors and game writers, and artists, selects the games included in IndieCade. Jurors are selected by invitation only by the IndieCade team and the Board of Advisors. Each game will be played by 2 to 6 specially selected jurors from this pool with total confidentiality. Jurors may be affiliated with submitted projects; however, they will be required to recuse themselves from judging any project with which they have a personal, financial or professional relationship.
Indiecade has explained their selection process in this condensed graphic:
Note the note at the bottom of the picture, Kellee Santiago, the Jury Chair, who had a personal conflict herself, was the person responsible for dealing with conflicts of interest.
There are a lot of holes in Indiecade’s selection process but it will be ultimately be up to game developers, consumers, and Indiecade’s sponsors (which includes big names such as Sony, Nintendo, Alienware, and Unreal Engine among many others) to decide if they should demand a higher standard when it comes to awarding and recognizing video games.
I received a response from Indiecade:
To address your specific question regarding Fez, you are correct that Kellee Santiago was the Chair of the Awards Jury for IndieCade Festival in 2011. The Chair is an organizational position that bears primary responsibility for coordinating the juror process, but otherwise operates as a regular awards juror. The position does not award any additional privileges or voting advantages.
As you correctly surmised, all Awards Jurors are responsible for recusing themselves from discussing or voting on games with which they have a relationship – be it positive or negative. In the case you are referencing – Fez – Kellee, as a Juror, recused herself from voting based on prior discussions with Polytron about Fez.