Independent title - yet to be released - wins GameCity Prize

  • @davidcrookes

An independent game which has yet to even be officially released has scooped the top award at gaming's equivalent of the Man Booker Prize.

Minecraft is still in a testing - or beta - phase despite being made available in 2009. Since then, however, it has attracted 15 million registered users and attained cult status.

The online game is so well regarded that it has won the GameCity Prize, beating six other notable gaming releases at the inaugural awards in Nottingham.

The GameCity Prize is judged by a host of non-gamers including Labour backbencher Tom Watson, Blur drummer Dave Rowntree and actor Frances Barber who has starred in Doctor Who, Midsomer Murders, Casualty, Hustle, IT Crowd and My Family.

Other judges included the artistic director of the Southbank Centre, Jude Kelly, actor, writer, singer, comedian and novellist Charlie Higson, composer Nitin Sawhney, the Financial Times' comment editor James Crabtree and television presenter Ed Hall.

It is an attempt by the organisers to showcase the artistic value of gaming and it marked the end of the GameCity festival which ran throughout much of the week,Minecraft allows gamers to build their own 3D words out of textured cubes. It comes in two flavours - a Classic free version and the Beta which is working towards a full release.

It was one of seven games in a shortlist which included Ilomilo, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Pokémon Black, Portal 2, Child of Eden and Limbo. They are a mixture of well-known titles and lesser known indie creations.

Minecraft's Swedish creator Markus "Notch" Persson said: "We're very excited to have won the first GameCity Prize, especially since the nominees contain some of our favourite games recently. It's a great honour to be compared to those games. Winning this award helps motivate us to try to make Minecraft the best game it can be."

GameCity organiser Iain Simons said the idea was to spark discussion. "For us, it's the equivalent of the Man Booker Prize," he said. "I'd like to think that the core value of our project is getting people talking about and understanding videogames better. As an industry, videogames have their defensive strategies pretty much sorted, but they're not quite so hot on cultural participation. We are dragging the debate about games past 'are they art?' or not and on to how and why they're interesting."