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What gives prestige to VR/AR awards?

What gives prestige to VR/AR awards? Photo credit: Albert Millis.

Let’s talk about the nature of VR/AR awards. The industry is still (relatively) young, and it doesn’t have the broad swathe of titles that usually go with more established areas like marketing. If conducted properly, awards give genuine prestige to the winner. But at worst, they become pay-to-play bits of plastic that help companies fake it until they make it. 

I’ve been inspired by the topic because I was awarded a title recently (the organisation will be unnamed). The problem is that I could then dictate the actual title of the award – and after some discussions, I could change the title of it to ‘Best VR/AR newsletter – UK‘. And having won the award, I could then pay for a digital badge or a physical trophy – for hundreds of pounds (£). This was the first time I came across something like this, so it got me thinking for a couple of days. But in the end, how can an award have any worth if I can literally dictate the title so it makes it look good for me? What is the award, if not a baseless title to boast about with no substance behind it? As such, I declined.

So it got me thinking – what makes a good award? 

There are two parts: the funding model, and the prestige. Funding can take the form of either paying for submission – a chance to be reviewed – or paying for tables at an awards ceremony. Of the two, I would prefer the former. Paying for experts to judge the quality of submissions makes more sense for what the award represents, rather than after the announcement when a company then has to budget expensive tables at a physical (or virtual) venue. Another way is to have sponsors, which help to finance the event itself – something which AIXR has done well with the VR Awards. 

Then there is prestige, and that takes time and a huge amount of effort. Good awards are never bought –  they’re earned. It takes repeated years of work, high-quality judges, and word of mouth to make certain awards the best they can be. As one good example, the WebXR awards will be more respected over the next few years, for example, if it is repeated a few more times. 

Organisers would argue that awards need to be expensive to correspond to their worth. But really they are expensive because organising them takes a gigantic amount of work and finances, from manpower to venue organisation. It’s why we see high prices which can block out worthy smaller contenders, while entrenching the positions of larger companies with the corporate finances to solidify their position. 

My fear is that awards can be cheapened over time, and that their funding models diminish their status. At the same time, it is incredibly difficult to build prestige among a community. It’s a question of time and persistence – as well as avoiding bad awards which mean nothing.