[MAY 14th 2021, LONDON, UK] – The 2021 Orwell Youth Prize has extended its list of categories to include gaming alongside poetry, fiction and essay writing, for the first time. Now young people aged 13 to 18 can submit a game concept or game narrative as part of the annual competition.
The Orwell Youth Prize is an annual programme for students in year 8 – 13 (or equivalent) culminating in a writing prize and the youth programme of The Orwell Foundation. Rooted in George Orwell’s values of integrity and fairness, the prize and the activities around it introduce young people to the power of language and provoke them to think critically and creatively about the world in which they are living.
George Orwell’s example has encouraged writers and campaigners across the world, in fiction, journalism and politics, but also in gaming, where game designers and players across the world continue to be inspired by the imagination and moral and political insight of his great novels Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The new Youth Prize gaming category will include a focus on both game narrative and form.
The Orwell Youth Prize acknowledges the importance of gaming as a storytelling medium after a pivotal year that saw an increased awareness of the importance of game narratives as a platform to educate, engage and inspire young people. With fears over the education gap widening and a disruption in children’s education after the first lockdown, the games industry saw young people and families turn to games for escapism, entertainment but also for education. As global gaming sales rose 20% and surpassed $180 billion in 2020, this resulted in the games industry becoming bigger than the film and American sports industries last year. This reveals the enormous potential for gaming as a platform to inspire action but also to engage young people in the key issues of our times. As many film, game and TV writers and directors continue to consider new multiplatform ways to tell their stories in the future, gaming has become central to the writing agenda.
This year, the Youth Prize is seeking a response to the theme, ‘A New Direction, Starting Small’. Young people are asked to consider this theme, looking around themselves with an inquiring eye and create a gaming concept or narrative that responds to it in order to enter. Participants get the chance to get their work published, have a broader range of political experts and writers respond to their ideas, get recognised by their peers and professionals, receive feedback from games industry experts, win books for themselves and their school, become part of a wider group of young engaged people whilst helping to shape the national conversation on the issues which matter to them.
Support for the Youth Prize’s move has come from volunteers and partners across the games industry including Dan Bernardo, Founder of Playtra Games, Imre Jele Co-Founder and Creator-in-chief of Bossa Games, which includes the Animal Farm game inspired by the classic George Orwell novel, and Charlene Sharp, Head of Games at Way To Blue and a PhD researcher in Storytelling and digital culture, which includes a chapter on gaming. These advisors are currently giving feedback based on entries and outlining the criteria for judging the game narrative entries.
“We’re really excited to expand The Orwell Youth Prize into gaming. We believe that gaming and game development is fertile ground for thinking about politics and society so this is a key focus for us as it aligns with our mission to open up the awards to new voices. Gaming offers a new storytelling platform that can offer deep engagement and aid reflection and contemplation alongside an immersive experience, therefore, we think it’s essential to open up the category to this area to reach new storytellers of the future’, said Alex Talbott, Programme Manager, The Orwell Foundation.
“George Orwell asked tough questions of himself and everything that happened around him. He was the first to take really popular forms - from postcards to comics to thrillers - utterly seriously. He was a master storyteller. So it feels natural to launch a games strand. Would George have played? For sure.” Professor Jean Seaton, Director, The Orwell Foundation.
“We began conversations with the team about George Orwell’s Animal Farm and it opened up new avenues for partnerships and awareness of storytelling in games xxx’. Animal Farm brought forth the intersection between gaming and politics more broadly, and how the Orwell Youth Prize might be able to spur new thinking in this dynamic form. Gaming, like any community around an artform, is a broad and diverse one. However, this community is particularly active, filled with passion and passionate views about the best types of games and where gaming is going so The Orwell Youth Prize opens up a new route for young creatives with imaginative perspectives to expand the boundaries of gaming and interactive storytelling in new forms’ said Imre Jele, Co-Founder and Creator-in-Chief of Bossa Games.
Dan Bernardo, Founder of Playtra Games will bring his experience in game design and writing to the Youth Prize judging panel said: ‘It’s an absolute privilege to be the first judge for game narratives for The Orwell Youth Prize. I’m delighted to see game narratives being recognized for their value in parallel to other forms of literature, from poetry to fiction, and essay writing. Game narratives have developed substantially in the past decade and the games industry is at a tipping point in terms of new routes and opportunities to explore new forms and ways to tell stories now and in the future’.
The 2021 Orwell Youth Prize is generously supported by Rethinking Poverty: The Webb Legacy. Rethinking Poverty is a hub for discussions on eradicating poverty and creating a good society, with the aim to create a narrative on a good society and help connect key people and promising approaches.
For further on The 2021 Orwell Youth Prize see here: https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-youth-prize or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE ORWELL YOUTH PRIZE AND THE ORWELL FOUNDATION
The Orwell Youth Prize is a writing prize for young people from across the UK. Orwell claimed that his main motivation for writing was ‘political purpose’, which he defined in the widest possible sense as a ‘desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind society that they should strive after’. Today, Orwell’s desire to push the world in a certain direction has inspired writers and campaigners across the world, whether in politics, journalism or civil society, as well as countless individual readers. The Orwell Youth Prize aims to ensure young people have the opportunity to be part of this group, and that they have opportunities to discuss and debate the society they are a part of and to communicate their own ideas for the society we should be striving after today.
The Orwell Youth Prize is an initiative of The Orwell Foundation, the UK charity which also awards the prestigious Orwell Prizes for political writing, awarded each year to the books and journalism which best meet Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Through these prizes, and the growing number of Orwell-related activities which take place under its auspices – from events and lectures to dramatised live-readings – the Foundation aims to use Orwell’s work to celebrate honest writing and reporting, uncover hidden lives and confront uncomfortable truths – and, in doing so, to promote Orwell’s values of integrity, decency and fidelity to truth. In keeping with Orwell’s remarkable legacy as a novelist, a writer and a reporter, The Orwell Foundation aims to bring together creative and critical styles of political writing and reporting across both ‘traditional’ and contemporary media: the opening of the Orwell Youth Prize to game concept designs follows the launch of a new Orwell Prize for Political Fiction in 2019, while The Orwell Prize for Journalism and The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils both encourage video journalism, radio, podcasts and online reporting.