I fondly remember watching The Game Awards back in 2016 and being extremely disappointed at the fact that Overwatch took the Game of the Year award over strong contenders such as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Doom, and Dark Souls III. Not to discredit Blizzard’s winning formula of a competitive shooter, but when stacked against these other titans that garnered equal critical acclaim and had a more profound impact on the gaming industry, it didn’t sit well with me at the time.
Then the other awards began to roll out, and it seems many other media outlets were in agreement with The Game Awards’ choice for what they defined as a Game of the Year. Let’s discuss the few problems that occur around this festive awards time, and what the title of "Game of the Year" actually means.
Of course, I have to put out a disclaimer that anyone’s pick for what their personal Game of the Year happens to be is purely subjective. Me being disappointed with Overwatch is also a subjective viewpoint, though I understand the appeal behind the game and why it resonated so well with other gamers. I eventually realized the issue wasn’t with what was snubbed for the title, but rather how much weight that title holds for the gaming community. When people look back at certain years in gaming, everyone will seemingly have a different opinion on what defined that year for them. For me, 2017 was defined by Persona 5, though many would lean towards other titles like Horizon Zero Dawn or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and they aren’t wrong because those are fantastic games in their own right, but when a label like “Game of the Year” is unanimously slapped on a game, it never ceases to stir a myriad of mixed feelings.
Subjectivity is what really makes gaming flourish. Everyone can have their own distinctive tastes in something and as a result, find others to recommend it to, or join like-minded communities that share that same passion. The problem comes when something challenges that passion. I remember the Bloodborne community being up in arms over The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt taking home almost every single Game of the Year award a few years ago, creating more animosity where there didn’t need to be any. The same thing happened with Overwatch in 2016, and Breath of the Wild in 2017.
With awards shows slowly on the rise in the gaming world (let’s be honest, it was almost unheard of to have a major ceremony celebrating the achievements of the gaming industry several years ago), it’s now commonplace to instantly criticize what doesn’t meet your criteria. This is, unfortunately, unfair on the actual game’s part as they’re forever pinned with a title that many gamers in the future will look back on and have preconceived expectations of a groundbreaking experience when all it really was, was a fun game.
This isn’t true for every Game of the Year pick as a few previous games that were given this title have been phenomenal, era-defining experiences in their own right – for example, Half-Life 2 and The Last of Us – but what I’ve quickly come to notice is the disparity in the games that were groundbreaking versus the games that captured a generation at the time, and both aren’t at fault for being picked accordingly as Games of the Year. After all, like the subjectivity of the fans that prefer their own products to be Game of the Year, so do the critics and media outlets who select their preferences for the best game of that year according to what it meant to them.
I’ve grown to quietly appreciate the games that are picked for Game of the Year by each and every outlet because it has provided me an entry point for getting into other games I may have missed that year; games such as Inside, Undertale and Ori and the Blind Forest wouldn't have even crossed my mind until the praises fell on them, and I began paying attention. Last year alone, despite Breath of the Wild sweeping a handful of the prestigious awards, it was refreshing to see how many actually preferred other titles.
However, I fear that with The Game Awards, DICE Awards, and Golden Joystick Awards, among others, becoming more and more prevalent in the mainstream, it’s beginning to create a bit of animosity in the community. All we need is a handful of critically acclaimed games with large followings to be pitted against each other for this to really explode, and like 2015 which saw the release of Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Fallout 4, it will come again soon.
2018 is shaping up to be a stacked year for potentially some of the best games of this generation yet, from Monster Hunter: World, Kingdom Hearts 3, God of War, and Detroit: Become Human to Red Dead Redemption 2 and the rumours of The Last of Us: Part II and Ghost of Tsushima releasing this year (not to mention the games that Nintendo has up their sleeve).
It should set the stage for another heated debate when the game awards roll around at the end of the year, so now would be a good time to ask, what’s your opinion on the state of gaming awards and the Game of the Year label?
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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