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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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!