I love awards season. Film, television, music, literature; I enjoy the celebration of all creative endeavours, not just in the singling out an eventual winner, but in bringing together the best an industry has to offer and opening everything up to debate.
But was 2012 a vintage year for gaming? It’s a tough question to answer and opinion is certainly polarised. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch the 2013 British Academy Game Awards on 5 March.
Now in its tenth year and hosted for the fifth time by comedian and industry advocate Dara O’Briain, I’ve tuned in to past events to put faces to names and ensure nothing has slipped under my radar.
One thing is certain: gaming is continuing to establish itself as a mainstream medium in entertainment; an industry that deserves to be taken as seriously as its more passive counterparts, which is why it stills grates on me that the only way to watch the ceremony is online.
This year, the diversity of the nominations was staggering. New IPs from small indie developers were going head-to-head with AAA franchise releases. And it really did turn out to be a case of David vs. Goliath on the night, time after time.
The clear winner was Journey, with thatgamecompany’s experiential masterpiece taking home five of the eight awards it was nominated for. Accolades included Artistic and Audio Achievement (not surprising considering the cinematic visuals and Grammy nominated score from Austin Wintory) but perhaps more surprising was the recognition it garnered for Game Design and Online Multiplayer.
In some ways, Journey could almost be classed an ‘anti-game’ in that it strips away the puzzle solving and conflict that modern gamers expect from the likes of Black Ops II and Halo 4. Many fans of these series could argue that they were more deserving of recognition in such categories.
Hot on Journey’s heels was The Unfinished Swan (my personal GOTY and definitely worth the wait), which picked up the award for Innovation. It also bagged Best Debut for Giant Sparrow but I was happy to see nods to Proteus, Fez and Dear Esther in the nominations.
Elsewhere, New Star Soccer (from one-man outfit New Star Games) snatched the award for Sports/Fitness, trouncing the likes of F1 2012, Forza Horizon and FIFA 13.
The overarching theme of the evening seemed to be ‘less is more,’ with some of the biggest names in the industry walking away empty handed.
Of course it’s important to remember that, as with all awards ceremonies, the nominations and eventual winners are selected by a panel of industry experts and not public votes. The results are always subjective and not necessarily reflective of sales figures or peer reviews.
There were certainly some strange nominations in the mix (Dark Souls: Prepare To Die up for Best Strategy?) and a fair few near misses (Dave Fennoy deserved Best Performer for his portrayal of the tragic Lee Everett in The Walking Dead) but overall, I agreed with most of the selections.
A few commentators have argued that 2012 was the year that gaming came of age. I would argue that happened quite some time ago, but 2012 has certainly signalled a maturity of the industry, with emphasis on creating small, immersive experiences to fit neatly alongside the annual big franchise outings. Sure, the latest iterations of Halo, Call of Duty, Far Cry and Borderlands didn’t disappoint, but for me the real magic lay in following the development and release of original titles from the independent studios.
Dishonored deserved Best Game and The Walking Dead was a worthy winner of Best Story. Although I can’t comment on Best Browser Game (I don’t play them) I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on One To Watch winner Starcrossed.
iPad physics puzzler The Room received the inaugural Best British Game award and Far Cry 3 was deservedly crowned as Best Action.
If you have a couple of hours to spare, I highly recommend watching the awards at the following link:
Or if you’re in a rush, you can check out all 53 nominees across their respective categories here:
So, what was your GOTY for 2012?