Why Andaville kicked HADD’s backside

Without a doubt, “Andaville” (or “Hirstopia” as it is sometimes known) is the pre-eminent Hirst Arts “event” of 2009.  The story behind Andaville is the “Andadas” from the Hirst Arts forum essentially had an open call for terrain for his 12′ by 8′ gaming table, dubbed “Andaville”.  He had a map and an outline of all the buildings, commplete with dimensions, styles, etc.  People could volunteer to take on one or more buildings.  In return Anda would give that person lottery tickets (e.g. the ranch house got me five tickets).  The prizes ranged from new molds to gift certificates at hardware stores.  The thread for Andaville has over ten thousand hits and ninteen pages of posts.

Let’s contrast that with the Hirst Arts Design Derby, or HADD, which is hosted over at Voidgamers by a guy named Scott Spieker.  There’s little point hiding the fact that the HADD has been surrounded with a little nerdrage controversy over the past few years which tends to settle around several issues:

  1. The methodology for voting on winners
  2. The quality of the entries
  3. The lack of communication regarding things like the Special Category

In fact there are have been several unsuccessful attempts at creating a new HADD which would be sponsored by another website. I do want to say at this point that I don’t know Spieker personally and he could be working single-handedly on a cure for cancer for all I know and is probably a great guy in person.  But the HADD suffers from neglect, and since Spieker hasn’t delegated any of that authority, it falls to him.

What remains is that Andaville has totally overshadowed the HADD to the point that I wonder how many entries it will get, no doubt compounding some of the complaints about individuals swamping the categories with substandard entries.  But enough about the HADD, my point is why did Andaville succeed like wildfire?  There’s several reasons, and the community should pay attention:

  1. Clarity it terms of what the project required My ranch house had to be one story, fieldstone bricks, 6″ by 8″ with the door on the 8″ side.  Anda even specified the roof.  While some might chafe at those restrictions, the real design challenge is how to make something that stands out within those guidelines.  That, and give it some sort of character that says “ranch house,” which I’m still not sure I managed.  Short version: you had to think about what you were building.
  2. The person behind the project Spieker is notoriously uncommunicative, probably because he is looking for a cure for cancer.  Andadas is on the boards daily, answering questions, giving feedback, and generally being a cheerleader.  He was the persona behind the competition in a way that American Idol is all about Cowell and Abdul while So You Think You Can Dance just has those raving nutjobs who were probably picked up at a bus station in St. Louis.  Andaville was Andadas’ pet project as much as it was ours.
  3. Prizes, without being competitive Or more correctly, without being competitive against each other.  Every participant could gain or lose tickets based on the quality (and timeliness) of their work. But each person was basically out there to do the best they could do because it was their name, their reputation, on the line.  You half-ass this job, and people will know.  It’s about integrity and commitment as incentive, not “can I do something better than Builder X.”  There have times when that competition turned personal and nasty, and Andaville managed to avoid that.  Plus the prizes rock.

Now the downside is that Andaville is a once-in-a-lifetime event.  Andadas put up literally thousands of dollars to make this work, and few people could do that, especially year after year.  But I think Andaville created the kind of situation that is good for the hobby community, and as long as we still have ideas about annual events like the HADD, people should pay attention.

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