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The Game Awards 2018 Thoughts — December 7, 2018

The Game Awards 2018 Thoughts

Another year, another great demonstration of why gaming remains my favourite medium. For all the big-budget, special effects-driven spit-and-polish of Hollywood, gaming remains the one true medium that provides delicious narrative with interactive mechanics that not only feed your eyes, but your mind, your hands and – in many respects – your soul.

Geoff Keighley has built an almost snowball-style of momentum with The Game Awards, making it bigger and better every year since splitting with Spike TV. From the slapped together remnants in 2014, to this year where Phil Spencer, Shawn Layden and Reggie Fils-Aimé shared the stage together … it truly has come a long, long way. And – I’ll be honest – that just makes me excited for what’s to come next year!

I wanted to share some thoughts about the winners from today’s awards. I think the internet has already provided a hot bed of assessment from people happy, angry or indifferent about the individual winners, though all of those thoughts are little more than 280-character bursts of emotion. Time, objectivity and room for more mature thought, methinks. Let’s begin where all good debriefings begin … and the very end!

God of War

  • Game of the Year
  • Best Game Direction
  • Best Action-Adventure Game

I’m going to be honest – I think God of War is an absolutely perfect choice for Game of the Year. Perfect. Yes, yes, I know that most of the internet is in a meltdown because RDR2 didn’t get the award, but let’s look at this objectively for a second: God of War offers a rich, highly detailed world, perfect role-playing elements that are easily accessible, a narrative that is worthy of an entry alongside anything from Tolkien or Sanderson.

Red Dead, while awesome (I’ll get to that in a second) is more about scale and scope … it’s a big, bold game with lots to do, and a rich story and a beautiful world, but its pacing is objectively a little slower than the game should be, and there is elements to the player build (eating and clothing, in particular, comes to mind) that probably add a RPG-lite element to the game, but all-in-all just add another ‘thing’ that needs to be managed in an already huge game.

So, those deficiencies aside, I’m left pondering what gaps I had in God of War. And do you know what? In retrospect, the things that bothered me are more my own inabilities, and even they were overcome with good pacing and the upgrade path of the characters. By the end of the game, my Kratos and Atreus were a fine fighting combination, and the latter – who I had become agitated with in the early game – was now essential to defeating the Queen Harpy and some of the other more complicated battles.

God of War is not just a good choice, it was the right choice. And this is coming from a guy who is typically on Team Xbox.

Red Dead Redemption 2

  • Best Narrative
  • Best Performance – Roger Clark as Arthur Morgan
  • Best Score/Music
  • Best Audio

This is the game that everyone expected to clean up, and – do you know what? I think four awards are actually a pretty good haul. Two of the awards for audio are absolutely well-deserved. The delightful soundtrack that plays behind Arthur as he does his final ride into his last main story mission is – on its own – a perfect example of this, but even the subtle twang of a banjo can be enough to bring about enough atmosphere to invoke some emotion or give a sense of theatre.

And Roger Clark – well, I think Arthur Morgan is quite possibly one of the narratively rich characters I’ve played in video games for a long time, and in Rockstar’s world, probably second only to Trevor from GTA5. Even Christopher Judge, who was great as Kratos, essentially delivered the same performance to a few narrative beats throughout the story – it was the world and the other characters that played off against the stoic Kratos backdrop – whereas Morgan is a man with complexity … and Clark absolutely nailed it.

Return of the Obra Dinn

  • Best Art Direction

I remember seeing a little bit of stuff about this game, but in all honesty, I haven’t played it so I don’t want to go too deep down this rabbit hole, but I do think the black and white art style is certainly something worthy of an artistic award. I’ve added it to my Steam wishlist ready to tackle sometime in 2019.

Fortnite

  • Best Multiplayer Game
  • Best Ongoing Game

Fortnite‘s award also came with an announcement about some kind of creator’s space, where a large slab of the map has been dedicated to community creations. I don’t really understand the appeal of this, but I suppose it’s good that Epic are working on keeping things upbeat and fresh.

Nonetheless, this has been a year of Ninja and Fortnite, and its meteoric rise past PUBG as the go-to Battle Royale game, so it’s no surprise that it picked up these two awards in particular.

Celeste

  • Best Independent Game
  • Games for Impact Award

I feel like I played Celeste on PlayStation 4 or Vita at some point, but the recent rise of that 16-bit style of gaming might have contributed to that. Even if I have played it, I’ll be honest, it hasn’t resonated with me – so I’ll assume that I haven’t played it, and I’ll wait and see whether this one stumbles across my path in 2019.

Dead Cells

  • Best Action Game

I haven’t played Dead Cells, but everyone who has played it loves it. I regularly hear Sid Shuman of the PlayStation Blogcast talk about how he’s still playing it, and I know Mark Serrels of CNET is also a big fan.

I’ll get around to eventually, I guess. Too many games, not enough time.

Monster Hunter: World

  • Best Role-Playing Game

I feel like I might have missed the window to properly play Monster Hunter: World. Most people have moved on with their lives now, but having never played any of the others, and knowing that it is an enormous game, I just haven’t wanted to dedicate the time to it … and that’s a deficiency on my part. I do want to play it though, so I suspect that this will be a late 2019 or 2020 title that I’ll pick up when it inevitably drops below the $10 price point.

Forza Horizon 4

  • Best Sports or Racing Game

Yes. Yes. Yes. I wasn’t really in a position to yell at the screen when this award was being announced, but against everything it was up against – how could it not win. I’ve become an exceptionally vocal advocate for the Forza series … and while I don’t consider myself a hardcore racing fan, I am super pleased that Forza has become the go-to racing game over Gran Turismo. It is also clearly more accessible than the other ‘mainstream’ sports on offer (eg. FIFA), and I can’t help but think the passive ‘push’ offered by Microsoft’s Game Pass has helped get it into the hands of more consumers during the awards season.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

  • Best Fighting Game

Look, I’m still slowly working my way through the first Injustice on backwards compatibility, so Dragon Ball FighterZ might be still a way off. I did have a little go of it at the Esports Open, and I liked what I saw, but not enough to warrant a purchase.

I could have my arm twisted for Mortal Kombat 11 which was announced today though.

Overcooked 2

  • Best Family Game

I played the first Overcooked, and while it was a bit too frantic for me, I can see that the sequel is very much more-of-the-same. I have played this game with the kids, and I think they like the visuals more than the gameplay itself, but family gaming is family gaming, and I don’t think the games I play with my kids – most of them 5+ years old – were up for an award this year.

Into the Breach

  • Best Strategy Game

I wasn’t really a huge fan of FTL, so I haven’t stumbled across Into the Breach during my normal gaming life. The game looks ‘OK’, but there’s not enough here to grab me. Give me a good ol’ fashioned StarCraft II or Company of Heroes any day.

Florence

  • Best Mobile Game

I’ve never heard of this but I am so excited that it comes from an Australian developer! I have a pretty long-standing policy on not purchasing Mobile games, which I know probably robs me of some great experiences, but the mobile services (think Game Centre vs. Xbox Live) just aren’t established enough to get me to do more than use Mobile Gaming as a place-of-last resort. Perhaps Google can improve things in 2019 between Game Streaming, Google Play/Android and a network that supports all the juicy things I like about out-of-the-box gaming.

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

  • Best VR Game

Look, I haven’t played this but I can’t, for the life of me, understand why Beat Sabre didn’t win. I’ve had non-gamers come up to me and get excited about the concept of Beat Sabre, so how was it overlooked for this title? If anything, that is probably a pretty good testament to how good Astro Bot is – if-and-when I finally get around to building a VR rig, it sounds like this might have to be a purchase … right after Beat Sabre of course.

The Messenger

  • Best Debut Indie Game

Another 16-bit-esque title that I haven’t played, so I’ll get over it. It’s not a particularly complex game from what I can tell, but I did spy that it comes with 40 Steam Achievements, which is particularly appealing for a guy like me. I’ve quietly added this to the Steam Wishlist.

Industry Icon – Greg Thomas (Visual Concepts)

Content Creator of the Year – Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins

I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Ninja, but I would think it hypocritical to give this award to anyone other than him. He has been a ‘pretty’ good advocate for gaming in the shadow of his Fortnite session with Drake, and so his competition is quite a way behind him in terms of the visibility stakes.

Esports Player of the Year – Sonic Fox

“I’m gay, black, a furry, pretty much everything a Republican hates!”

If this doesn’t go down in the history books as one of my favourite award acceptance quotes of all time I’ll eat a sock. He also upset a lot of conservatives on the internet today … which seems to be the day for it.

I’ve enjoyed watching SonicFox play and I think, yes, he’s cocky, but he’s a damn good player. Name me a sport where the best of the best don’t have a bit of ego thrown in for good measure.

Cloud9

  • Best Esports Team
  • Best Esports Moment – C9 comeback win in triple OT vs Faze

No surprises here. Cloud9 remain at the top of their game, and even Geoff didn’t seem that phased in giving them the award. They’ve had a great year and deserve the award though, no sour grapes from me on that one.

Best Esports Game – Overwatch

Now this was a surprise, because I thought that something like Fortnite would get it, but I suppose, objectively speaking, that it tends to be more exhibitions and community tournaments, rather than something with the maturity and pulling-power of Overwatch League (and I love OWL). This actually pleased me a bit as I thought Overwatch was winding down a little bit, so I hope that this gives Blizzard a little kick in the pants to keep Overwatch going strong.

Best Esports Event – League of Legends World Championship

I still don’t really watch enough LoL, but I know that I did put the World Championship on Twitch for a few hours when it was on, moreso for the atmosphere than the game itself. This still seems to be a very Asian-market centric game, so while it’s big, and beautiful, I think my tastes remain far too ‘western’ to dive completely in (though, that being said, I haven’t really played much DOTA2 either, so maybe this is just a time/inclination gap).

Best Esports Host – Shockz

Best Esports Coach – Reapered

I have no idea who either of these people are, so I’ll assume that they’re good and worthy of the award.

Best Student Game – Combat 2018

I love that there’s a student game category in The Game Awards, and the two lads that collected the award were visibly cuffed at the win. I haven’t played Combat, but the boys did say that a rebranding and proper launch was coming soon. Any time there’s a good news story in the game development world, I give a fairy a pat on the bum.

And so, thus brings us to the end of The Game Awards 2018. There was a lot of good decisions in giving out this year’s awards, some minor results to raise an eyebrow, but nothing that – if there was a bit of discourse around the winners and how they were decided – wouldn’t be overcome.

For now, I think the titles that did win provide a fairly good case that the system is working.

Once again, well done to Geoff and his team. Another amazing job for an amazing industry. Here’s to a bigger, bolder, brighter 2019!

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Beginner Winner! — December 3, 2018

Beginner Winner!

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Quick Tic-Tac-Toe • Completed 10 games

I can’t begin to tell you how frustrated I am that I am so close to finishing the ‘main’ part of RDR2 that I couldn’t land it before midnight, and so while in the middle of the last mission I had to pause it and grab a quick-and-easy achievement on iOS. I am quietly optimistic that there’ll be an RDR2 achievement tomorrow though, so that’s something.

Let’s not get too carried away. This is a fairly basic achievement for a fairly basic level of effort. After already having a few games up my sleeve, it really was a case of smashing out five or six games quickly – Win, Lose or Draw.

And I did a little from all three.

Did I mention tomorrow is a Red Dead achievement? Mega-hype!

4 Move Win! — December 2, 2018

4 Move Win!

Quick Tic-Tac-Toe • Won a game in 4 moves

There’s something quite cathartic about noughts and crosses … but there’s also a sense of relief that comes with being able to earn an achievement while your internet is out for three days (technician scheduled for Tuesday).

This one was fairly simple, and it goes to my default noughts and crosses tactic of the ‘L’ shaped manoeuvre. I’m not going to beat around the bush … it’s an unstoppable tactic, and when even the computer AI struggles, you get a great sense of accomplishment.

Without the internet, I haven’t played a heap of my consoles today, so it’s another win for iOS.

Golly Gosh! — November 9, 2018

Golly Gosh!

Rick and Morty: Jerry’s Game • Popped 500 Balloons in a single game • 10 points

I love Rick and Morty. For a long time, I actually only knew about them as a vague pop culture phenomenon in the same style as South Park or Family Guy, but when I dedicated a bit of time to watching it, I really loved it and now I’m no longer left in the nerd wilderness when it comes to certain Rick and Morty memes or phrases.

This game, however, eludes me.

I’m not sure if there was an episode I missed where Jerry was playing this game, or if he designed this game, and it’s quite possible that in watching the entire series thus far back-to-back that I have glossed over some of the smaller details seeded in the episodes, but I’m really not sure how this fits into the overall universe. It’s possible it doesn’t, and this is just a random play on the character of Jerry, which actually makes a lot of sense, but I just wasn’t sure where this landed in terms of context.

Not that it really matters I suppose, because, at the end of the day, this is a game where you pop balloons … and not much more. I can see where the appeal lies in this game because it has some stretch goal achievements built into it, but I figured 500 balloons is probably enough for one lunch break.

Tonight is likely to be more Red Dead, but I’m starting to see some movement in the Hitman space as well, so if that’s dropped, then I’m going to sink some time into that as well this weekend … in among a whole heap of other ‘flurry’ that’s happening. Least of which is a Christmas parade which my family is looking forward to, whereas I could see myself using that time more effectively in smashing through the RDR2 campaign … all part of the journey of life, I guess.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

500 Taps — September 19, 2018

500 Taps

The Ultimate No Life Test • You tapped 500 times. Nice!

Sometimes, it’s not the achievements themselves that make the story, but the pursuit of them. If I told you I was frantically tapping my phone at 11.59pm to get to the magical 500 taps, would you judge me? Would your opinion change if I told you I was in a McDonalds drive through after a 5 hour flight home where I threw up in the plane no less than three times?

Yeah. It’s been one of those days.

My belated post is as a result of driving. I was keen to get the achievement, but I am able to make a concession on the blog post (as I’ve done before). The thing is, I can’t begin to explain how my Bali belly and that God-awful flight home nearly derailed this challenge all together. My flight out of Indonesia was around 3pm, already then I had spent some time in the bathrooms trying to vomit up whatever was causing my stomach so much angst. Then, it was mostly fine until meals began to get served on the plane, and the waft of that salt-based chicken seasoning that you have in two minute noodles? Yep, wasn’t the right day for that.

I also had a strange old woman linger near my seat with the stereotypical old woman perfume assaulting my senses.

Blergh.

Anyway, it’s done for the day. Perhaps I’ll share more about the flight from hell with you another time.

Or I’ll repress it …

… either option works for.

20 Locks — September 18, 2018

20 Locks

Pop the Lock • Unlocked 20 locks

Sometimes, the path of least resistance is the right choice. Yes, I absolutely copped out today, but it’s not for a lack of effort! If anything, this next set of 10 locks required a level of concentration and effort that I’m not entirely sure my bedraggled mind and body was ready for.

Today is my penultimate day in Bali, so I’m looking forward to some recalibration time back home, surrounded by my technology and game library. There’s still, of course, the long journey home so I might be able to get some Vita time in on the plane, but right now, I’d be happy with five and a half hours sleep in the air.

10 Locks — September 17, 2018

10 Locks

Pop the Lock • Unlocked 10 locks

I’m not sure what’s happened while I’m on holiday, but my phone has started screaming bloody murder to me about storage space. Sure, I’m giving photo storage a run for its money, but even offloading them each night onto Google Photos still seems to leave me with a razor thin margin for photos.

It was with the view to salvaging some storage space that I decided to see what games I could offload this morning. Pop the Lock was a game that I hadn’t played yet, but it had held a ‘ghost’ icon on my phone screen for the last few days, and I figured it’d be more trouble than it’s worth to keep it. Funnily enough, when I went to have a look at it today, the ghost icon had gone, so I figured I’d give it a quick look before I scorched earth it.

As it turns out, it’s not a bad little puzzle game!

It essentially involves timing a tap in-line with a moving pin that overlays against an icon and then you repeat as many times as necessary, against a target that moves and varying spacers as speed. There is an annoying beat on some of the later levels that requires you to shift fingers to click-away an attempt to make you watch an advertisement for ‘one more chance’, but really it would be just as quick if they let you start again. It’s a small quibble on an otherwise solid little game.

I’m getting onto the home straight of this holiday, so we’ve nearly limited the extent of iOS gaming, but it hasn’t been an altogether ‘bad’ experience. I’ve probably spent some time playing games I otherwise wouldn’t have played, and for that reason I think a week of gaming away from the AAAs is actually a good thing.

Doesn’t mean Spider-Man won’t be the first thing I buy when I get back to my local EB!