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Interview with Tom Felber, Outgoing Chairman of the Spiel des Jahres Jury

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
As of the end of September 2018, Tom Felber is stepping down from his role as chairman of the Spiel des Jahres jury, a position he's held since 2011. A press release on the SdJ website notes that during Felber's time as chairman, the jury introduced a third award (Kennerspiel des Jahres, or "Connoisseur's Game of the Year"), set up an annual sponsorship program that would support game-related activities and projects of individuals and institutions, and helped the jury establish the "Spiel des Jahres" brand beyond German-speaking countries. To quote from the press release, with any translation errors being my own:

The internationalization of the "Spiel des Jahres" brand was Tom Felber's hobby. He made numerous contacts around the world, initiated communication and co-operation with foreign-language players and groups, and became the face of the critics' panel internationally. Tom Felber was present at various fairs and other events worldwide for Spiel des Jahres. As a speaker and representative, he always sought direct contact.

Many projects would not have been possible — or at least not to the same extent — without the highly personal commitment of Tom Felber. Every year at the "Suisse Toy" event in Bern, he organized a huge game-of-the-year playing area for visitors, tirelessly explaining games one after another from morning to night. As co-initiator of the project "Spielend gesund werden" ["Health Through Play"], he visited hospitals and played with sick children. As part of a project with the Bundeswehr [Germany's unified armed forces], he took part in many playful foreign assignments.

Like no one else, Tom Felber has dedicated his life to promoting games, and like no one else, he has put himself in the service of the jury. Spiel des Jahres loses not only a big role model in terms of work ethic, but also a role model as a game critic. The name "Tom Felber" stands for critical, honest, unbiased game criticism. Felber's code of honor and his practiced morality guarantee that his texts are always concerned with the thing and criticism of it, not with the care of personal vanities. That's why even for criticized authors and editors, Felber remains a highly prestigious and respected authority. Despite his prominent position with the Spiel des Jahres, he always remained at eye level with everyone.

Tom Felber leaves the club at his own request because after years of responsibility and the limelight, he has the need to be responsible only for himself and to represent only himself — and because he wants time to play Gloomhaven.
We had received advance word of Felber's impending retirement from the Spiel des Jahres jury at Gen Con 2018, so once we ended our livestream game coverage at the event on Sunday, we convinced him to take a few questions in the BGG booth about his time with the jury, his view of what he had achieved, and what he plans to do next. I wish that I had had more advance notice so that I could have better prepared questions, but sometimes you get what you get, so here we go:

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