It seems that The Game Awards becomes more legitimate and important every year. Just like last year, 2016 was filled with incredible games from a wide range of genres. I once again struggled with time management and “too many games to play” — not exactly the worst thing in the world. The Game Awards are an end-of-the-year reflection on the industry and community that I am so grateful to be a part of.
Though the awards themselves may not hold much meaning for many gamers, it is always interesting to see which games make the top five cut. Overwatch winning ‘Game of the Year’ is certainly up for debate, but there’s no denying the impact that the game has had on the industry. It’s been an amazing year for first-person shooters alone and Overwatch has helped to make the competitive genre more inclusive for all player types. It has great character design, a lighthearted approach, and most importantly it is an absolute blast. Jumping in for a few casual matches is easy enough, but it also has the depth to appeal to hardcore players. Admittedly, I was surprised by the game winning this award because it seemed like an unlikely candidate. A multiplayer-only game does not usually do well against blockbuster hits like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and indie darlings like Inside.
Along with Overwatch, 2016 has been an incredible year for first-person shooters such as DOOM, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Titanfall 2, and Battlefield 1. As we know from previous years in the games industry, the Call of Duty series has been under fire for being too iterative and frequent with its annual release structure. However, I truly believe that Infinite Warfare should have broken that mentality (at least for this year) and been given more praise. Hating on the series has become somewhat of a fashion statement, and it seems that the lack of Infinite Warfare in any of the nominees is a reflection of that.
It is never easy to narrow down the dozens of great games to just five nominees for each category, but the specific categories attempt to make up for that. Art direction and narrative have their own place in the awards. It’s important to give these categories their own spotlight since they help to demonstrate the artistic value and importance of video games as a legitimate entertainment medium. Whether or not the Game Awards themselves hold much value for the gaming community, they add merit to the way that mainstream media and society views the hobby as a whole.
Hideo Kojima won the award for Industry Icon and showcased Death Stranding for the second time this year in the form of an in-engine CG trailer featuring Guillermo Del Toro and Mads Mikkelsen. While I think it’s absurd to be showing a game that is clearly many years away from being anything at all, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this trailer. The concept is wholly intriguing, with the right amount of suspense and proper pacing. Part of me wishes Kojima would go away for a few years until the game is close to being ready while the other part of me just wants to see more.
If there was ever a flaw with award ceremonies in general, it would be the lack of time. Since these awards took place at the beginning of December, they had no choice but to exclude large holiday titles like Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian. It’s a shame to see these games excluded from the running, especially due to their infamous decade-long development cycles, but that is to be expected from an event as involved and pre-organized as The Game Awards.
One of the most exciting things about The Game Awards is actually the new game announcements. At this point, I am looking forward to this show every year because I know there will be at least two or three great reveals. Telltale Games usually have a reveal and this year was no different. The long-awaited The Walking Dead: Season 3 had a nice teaser trailer showing a new character named Javier and the return of fan-favorite Clementine. Even more exciting was the official reveal of the unannounced Marvel game from Telltale: Guardians of the Galaxy. People have been speculating on this mysterious game from the hugely popular comic book franchise for years.
Perhaps the most tender moment of the awards was That Dragon, Cancer being recognized as the most significant among the “Games For Impact”. Certainly an important moment in gaming, it proves that games truly have something very important to say. Designed largely as a coping mechanism for a mother and father grieving for their terminally ill infant son, one can’t help but reflect on where the games industry is today and how it has impact on personal lives. For all those who think that games are a waste of time and mindless violence, That Dragon, Cancer disproves that perception. It is a stellar emotional game with a message of hope and sorrow.
Overall, The Game Awards are not without some criticism, but are a great event overall. It isn’t quite the Oscars, but it’s a significant step towards the recognition and legitimization of the hobby we love. At its very worst, it’s an important dedication to the slew of great games throughout the year of 2016.