Predicting Tonight’s Game Awards

Tonight are the Game Awards, a show that I will not watch nor livetweet nor pay attention to in any way beyond reading tomorrow’s recaps.  But as I start to examine 2016 and put my own list together, I thought it might be useful – for myself, at any rate – to examine what the category leaders are as decided by whomever Geoff Keighley’s judges are.   The categories/nominees below are cut/pasted from Polygon, so all links below are theirs.  You will notice that I elected not to include or discuss the “Trending Gamer”, “Fan Creation”, or eSports categories here, and that’s simply because I don’t give a shit.

GAME OF THE YEAR

“For a game that delivers the absolute best experience across all creative and technical fields.”

I actually played all of these games.  I must confess – and I’ll get to this later, in my own year-end wrap-up – that Overwatch does nothing for me.  This should not come as a surprise, given that I don’t really go for multiplayer shooters; that said, I suspect that Overwatch will more than likely be tonight’s big winner.  My personal choice out of these nominees is probably Uncharted 4, though I’d find no real fault with any of them as the winner (except for INSIDE, which, while having a number of wonderful qualities, I wouldn’t put anywhere near a top 5 list, especially in light of Firewatch.)

BEST GAME DIRECTION

“Recognizing a game studio for outstanding creative vision, game direction and design.”

  • Blizzard Entertainment (for Overwatch)
  • EA DICE (for Battlefield 1)
  • id Software (for Doom)
  • Naughty Dog (for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End)
  • Respawn Entertainment (for Titanfall 2)

 Again, hard to see how Blizzard doesn’t win this one – though every studio in this category is certainly deserving.  I am a bit surprised that Dishonored 2 isn’t on this list

BEST NARRATIVE

“For outstanding storytelling and narrative development in a game.”

  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Mafia 3 (Hangar 13/2K Games)
  • Oxenfree (Night School Studio)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

 I did not play Oxenfree, which I’d like to correct at some point; I played the first 30 minutes of Mafia 3 and found it super-janky and buggy.  For me, then, I’d be choosing between Firewatch and Uncharted 4, and while I’d love to see Firewatch win this, I’d expect U4 to take the prize.

BEST ART DIRECTION

“For outstanding creative and technical achievement in artistic design and animation.”

  • Abzu (Giant Squid/505 Games)
  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

I’d love to see Firewatch win this – my interest was first piqued in this game specifically because Olly Moss was doing the art direction – but it’s hard to see how Uncharted 4 doesn’t win this (unless Overwatch is going for a sweep).  Say what you will about U4, but it’s a staggering technological achievement and I’ve never seen anything else like it.

BEST MUSIC/SOUND DESIGN

“For outstanding audio, inclusive of score, original song, licensed soundtrack and sound design.”

  • Battlefield 1 (EA DICE/Electronic Arts)
  • Doom (id Software/Bethesda Softworks)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)
  • Thumper (Drool)

I didn’t play Rez Infinite or Thumper – I don’t yet have a PSVR, which is a topic for another post – but it wouldn’t surprise me to see either of these win, considering some of the hyperbole used to describe playing them.

BEST PERFORMANCE

“Awarded to an individual for voice-over acting, motion and/or performance capture.”

  • Alex Hernandez as Lincoln Clay, Mafia 3
  • Cissy Jones as Delilah, Firewatch
  • Emily Rose as Elena, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Nolan North as Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Rich Sommer as Henry, Firewatch
  • Troy Baker as Sam Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Boy oh boy, how to choose.  The three leads in Uncharted 4, or the two unseen voices of Firewatch?  I might give this to Cissy Jones; of all the nominees here, she had the highest degree of difficulty given that she’s purely a disembodied voice that we, as the player, are meant to empathize with and perhaps even develop a bit of a hopeless crush on.

GAMES FOR IMPACT

“Honoring exemplary games that take on real-world issues and advocate for social change.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see That Dragon, Cancer pick this one up.  I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t played any of the games in this category, though I know an awful lot about TDC.  I also have a 3 1/2-year-old son, and I don’t see how I’d be physically able to play through TDC, given the subject matter.

BEST INDEPENDENT GAME

“For outstanding achievement in a game made outside the traditional publisher system.”

Obviously I’d love to see Firewatch pick this up, but I suspect this might go to Stardew Valley.  I’ve not yet played it, though I’ve already pre-ordered it for its console debut.

BEST MOBILE/HANDHELD

“For the best game playable on mobile phones and dedicated gaming handhelds.”

No idea how this is going to go.  My personal choice for handheld game of the year is probably Swapperoo for the iPhone.  EDIT:  no, I’m an idiot, the winner here is Picross 3D Round 2 for the 3DS.  That game is MAGIC and it’s in my top 5 for the year, no questions asked.  Can’t believe I forgot about this.

BEST VR GAME

“For the best game experience playable in virtual reality.”

  • Batman: Arkham VR (Rocksteady Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)
  • Eve: Valkyrie (CCP Games)
  • Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs)
  • Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)
  • Thumper (Drool)

Again – totally unqualified to pass judgment on this, but the way I hear people talk about Area X in Rez Infinite makes me think it’s the one.

BEST ACTION GAME

“For the best game experience focused around first or third person combat.”

  • Battlefield 1 (EA DICE/Electronic Arts)
  • Doom (id Software/Bethesda Softworks)
  • Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn Entertainment/Electronic Arts)

For me, this is a toss-up between Doom and Titanfall 2.  I suspect Overwatch wins.

BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE GAME

“For the best game experience that combines combat with traversal and puzzle solving.”

  • Dishonored 2 (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)
  • Hitman (IO Interactive/Square Enix)
  • Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)
  • Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

just got to the Clockwork Tower in Dishonored 2, which might as well be called “Level Of the Year” for all I’ve heard/read about it.  Still, I think Uncharted 4 wins this one

BEST RPG

“The best game designed for rich player character customization and progression, both offline and online, including massively multiplayer.”

Would they really give this to Blood and Wine, a DLC pack for Witcher 3?  I don’t know.  I might see this going to Dark Souls 3.  I would not give it to Deus Ex.

BEST FIGHTING GAME

“For a game designed primarily around head-to-head combat.”

No idea.  I played none of these; I’m not even gonna pretend to guess.

BEST STRATEGY GAME

“Best game focused on real time or turn-based strategy.”

My PC basically shit the bed earlier this year and so I have been unable to play Civ 6, which I suspect might win this.  I’ve played the first few levels of XCOM 2 on console and it’s great, and also still really intimidating, which is why I haven’t played more of it.

BEST FAMILY GAME

“Best game for family play, including toys-to-life, rhythm/music/dance, and other genres.”

I found Lego Star Wars: TFA to be dreadful.  Also found Ratchet & Clank to be forgettable and tedious (even if it’s charming and beautiful in certain spots).  I downloaded and played Pokemon Go for about 5 minutes just to see what the fuss was about; it did nothing for me beyond drain my phone’s battery.  I like what I’ve played of Dragon Quest Builders, though I haven’t played very much of it.

BEST SPORTS/RACING

“For traditional and non-traditional sports and racing games.”

  • FIFA 17 (EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts)
  • Forza Horizon 3 (Playground Games/Microsoft Studios)
  • MLB The Show 16 (SIE San Diego Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • NBA 2K17 (Visual Concepts/2K Sports)
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (PES Productions/Konami)

Even if it’s weird to me that these two genres would get combined like this, the clear winner is Forza Horizon 3, arguably my favorite driving game of all time.  (Sorry, Burnout.  I love you, but you disappeared.)

BEST MULTIPLAYER

“For outstanding online multiplayer gameplay and design, including co-op and massively multiplayer experiences.”

  • Battlefield 1 (EA DICE/Electronic Arts)
  • Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)
  • Overcooked (Ghost Town Games/Team17)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn Entertainment/Electronic Arts)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

If Overwatch doesn’t win, I’ll be very surprised.

MOST ANTICIPATED GAME

“An upcoming game that has shown significant ambition and promise in moving the gaming medium forward.”

This is a meaningless and stupid and pointless category, based solely on preview information and manufactured hype.  But obviously this goes to Red Dead Redemption 2, with Mass Effect: Andromeda a close second.  I don’t really give a shit about Zelda just yet.  Fight me.

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