Something quite amazing has happened in the world of video games. A video game award show, that has the public opinion of being a glorified trailer exhibit, has done the unthinkable. I’m talking about the VGAs game of the year nominations.
Before I get down to the main topic of this article, lets first look at what has not been nominated for goty. There is no Halo 4, which judging by the comments on said site is a tad frustrating for some people. Neither is there Black Ops 2, Diablo 3, Fifa 13, Borderlands 2 or X-Com. The two big omissions are obviously Black Ops 2 and Halo 4. While I don’t have a problem with these two games being missed out, it shows a maturity which has never really been seem before with the VGAs. This maturity stems into the games that made the cut to be goty, with one in particular, showing the whole gaming landscape might be in for a changing.
The nominations for VGAs goty are, Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, Dishonoured, The Walking Dead The Game and Journey. While the first three are all worthy contenders, with Mass Effect 3 having quite a lasting effect on me because of a certain mission on Tuchanka, the most significant entries on this list are The Walking Dead The Game and Journey. The significance of these games being nominated is only really seen when looking at the previous nominations and winners of this award;
2011 - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (winner), Batman: Arkham City, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Portal 2, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
2010 – Red Dead Redemption (winner), God of War III, Mass Effect 2, Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops.
2009 - Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (winner), Assassin's Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2.
There has never been a game that wasn’t a million dollar AAA blockbuster nominated never mind a downloadable game. This is from a time which has brought us Bastion, Limbo, Braid and Plants vs Zombies. Before this year the VGAs never had the foresight to include these small downloadable games in the same league as a franchise such as Call of Duty. But this year that changes.
I would like to admit I have never play The Walking Dead game, judging by the reviews and my experiences with Telltales other games; it looks like a fine contender. It’s inclusion on the list, is by no means, as groundbreaking as Journey’s. I downloaded Journey on day one it came to PSN. I’d seen the trailers and read a lot about it. What I knew about it was that it was a gorgeous game which offered something different, a trait of ThatGameCompany. What I didn’t expect was just how gorgeous the game actually was. There is a bit in Journey where you are sliding down a bed of sand, which has all the properties of liquid gold. The sun is beating off this gold while, what can only be described as carpet dragons, are flying around you. When you get to the bottom of this slide you go into a temple and the camera turns sideways. What follows is an image so beautiful I could actually feel my pupils widening to see more of it. This is an extreme example of Journey’s graphics. The whole game is beautiful from start to finish. While its graphics is one of the factors that sets it apart from the norm, it is only one aspect of why this game is amazing.
In Journey you meet other players along the way. At any time you can have one travelling companion, who is always another person playing the game. They, or you, can choose to travel with this person or walk away, it is up to you. Where it differs from other co-op games is in the information it tells you about said other player. The only thing you know about him is that he is going the same way you are. Communication is dealt with by pressing O and having a chime come out. They enter your game, by what seems like stumbling into your game space and you only find out their name at the end of the game. All these gameplay techniques are used in the game to such a degree you need to huddle together in some levels to keep your energy up. What this achieves is one of the most intimate and emotional video game experiences I have ever had.
I could go on about Journey till I am blue in the face. Describing when I played the game through and stuck with the same person for the entire journey, a difficult feat to do without getting lost from each other, and he actually waited about 3 minutes for me in the final level because we got separated and I’d been running around trying to find him. Or when one of my friends played through the game and a more experience player guided him through the game. The point I am trying to make here, but got sidetracked by excessive ThatGameCompany ass kissing, is that I’d already decided that Journey was my goty, with the only game being able to beat it being Assassin’s Creed 3 and if it wasn’t for the bugs it might have. The reason why Journey is my goty is because it does, in less than two hours, what other AAA games can’t manage to do in 30. It bonds me to the characters, world and story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to dilute any other game by comparing it to Journey in this fashion. Games such as Skyrim and Uncharted 2 are some of my favourite games of all time. The fact is there though; a two hour game with no dialogue is my goty and could be the VGAs first ever downloadable title that wins goty. If it does then this industry could be in for a shake up. A lot of people have said that the age of AAA blockbuster games is coming to a close. This could be the tipping point. Although, if Journey is an example of the way gaming is going, then I’ve already got my ticket for the front seat.