So, What's up with this year's Game Awards? - A Pre-Show Discussion
I am not the only one who is raising an eyebrow at this year’s iteration of the biggest gaming awards ceremony in the industry. The “Oscar’s for games”, The Game Awards, hosted by Geoff Keighley is something I look forward to every year. I take off work and write a recap for the event, and this year I’m having friends over to watch it.
I am very much excited for it because each year I have Game Infinite prepare our own end of the year lists and articles celebrating that year in gaming, and this year we are doing the biggest end of year yet!
However, this year is very different. In years past there are several games that are obvious contenders for stand out nominations. 2017-2018 gave us massive critical, financial, and popular hits like the behemoths Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War and more games that became instant classic, must plays, and timeless pieces. When I think about naming Game Infinite’s own GAME OF THE YEAR, there’s this abstract idea of what game first comes to mind when I think about that year: something truly special, something legendary. More than just being the “best or favorite” game of the year, but a game that truly stands out as the GAME OF THE YEAR.
The last few years, the top 5 games from Game Infinite, many larger gaming outlets, and The Game Awards have had a lot of overlap. While many argued whether God of War or Red Dead Redemption 2 should be GOTY, no one argued they both should be nominees. Both these games were massively popular, wide audience, and critically praised across the board. I don’t have much negative to say about either of these titles.
This year is very, very, strangely different. My gamer friends, my connections in the gaming industry, and some major outlets like Kotaku are puzzled by the strange lineup for GOTY 2019. What I mean, my early prep for Game Infinite’s end of year top games article, and our upcoming celebrations, has our top 5 COMPLETELY different currently slotted from what is nominated for GOTY at the Game Awards. I don’t think that has ever happened before. I wasn’t even expecting it either. Compare this to last year.
Game Infinite 2018 Top 5:
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Red Dead Redemption 2
Detroit Become Human
Winner: God of War
Game Awards 2018 GOTY Nominations:
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Red Dead Redemption 2
Monster Hunter: World
Winner: God of War
As far as AAA goes, we were 4/5 on in line with the Game Awards, and I don’t recall many major gaming outlets being much different. 2019 is shaping up to be a much more divisive and controversial year. We are preparing to do our biggest Game Infinite end of year yet with multiple articles and callouts, and I have already drafted 10 of the best games of the year. If it were solely me, I would just chalk it up to different preferences, but the games on our list are all extremely praised or critical successes; as well, I am not the only one curious about this year. This year FEELS different.
This years Game Award’s GOTY nominations include some oddities.
Game Awards 2019 GOTY Nominations:
Resident Evil 2 Remake
Super Smash Bros Ultimate
The Outer Worlds
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Game Infinite 2019 GOTY Pending Top 5 Nominations:
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order
When I look at these two lists, I am shocked that for the first ever there is zero overlap. Now, if I felt I was looking at 10 absolutely amazing games all worthy of GOTY and this is just different opinion, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this article. However, there are games on their list that I felt weren’t even that good, let alone GOTY. Also, some games that many gamers feel should have been a obvious shoe-in for GOTY, aren’t even being nominated for ANYTHING.
The biggest curiosity is Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order. This game is a critical and financial success, beloved by Star Wars fans. It contains in my opinion the best narrative story of the year. It has the best ending so far this year, and some of the most challenging combat I have played in a long time. Jedi Fallen Order is an amazing game with a new and fresh story and it could very well end of up being Game Infinite’s GOTY 2019, but not only is it not nominated for GOTY at the Game Awards, it has zero nominations entirely. This is puzzling to many gamers in my circles and others. It has received zero noms in any category accept the option for “players voice”. As it stands Jedi Fallen Order destroyed IGN’s “who should win GOTY” polls, and JFO also made it into the final round of Players Voice for the Game Awards. It clearly is a fan favorite, and I strongly defend that it is receiving the popular vote because it is simply THAT good not just “because star wars”.
The second biggest oddity are games like Control and Death Stranding. When Control released, I remember mediocre-average reviews coming out, citing poor performance and bland average story. Even IGN only gave it a 8.8 and somehow is their GOTY? I didn’t think Control was very good let alone anyone’s GOTY? It has a very bland story with awful shallow acting. The combat feels cheap and gets extremely repetitive after only a few hours.
I have been doing this awhile, and I know what “real critics” look for to objectively measure games. I understand when a game is objectively bad or good even if it differs from my enjoyment. A perfect example is Red Dead Redemption 2 is objectively a 10/10 game, even though I enjoyed some other games last year more personally. That is why I am completely puzzled by the sudden position by gaming outlets on Control’s greatness. Control is a much worse game than Quantum Break, (Developer Remedy’s last game) and that game received poor critical reception.
Other games seem weird to include such as Super Smash Bros. I have a problem with it being included because of a technicality. I don’t care when the Game Awards are, they should only include games of that year, especially for the year’s highest honor, GOTY. GOTY 2019 going to a game that released in 2018 would just be weird. The rules for the Game Awards need to be changed.
Another major snub is Apex Legends. Apex Legends is more than just some free battle royale game. It is also one of the biggest games of 2019. There is precedent for GOTY going to massively popular multiplayer only games like Overwatch back in 2016. Apex Legends broke records and even dethroned Fortnite on Twitch. It broke launch week concurrent player records and has been massively popular this year. The games sheer size, popularity, and esports presence should have made it a contender. Respawn Entertainment also has been continuously supporting the game since it’s surprise massive debut early in the year. Respawn gave us two of the best games of the year, and neither are nominated for GOTY.
While Apex deserves attentions for it’s size and popularity let’s also talk about the small side as well. Where are the indie games? Why does the entire list of GOTY only have AAA titles? The first 10/10 Game Infinite gave out this year was for Outer Wilds. That game was just purely incredible. While it is nominated for Best Indie Game (something that will be a sin for it to not win) it also deserves GOTY nominations. I wrote our full review for that game; I recommend everyone must play it. It’s art style, story, premise, and everything about it should make it an easy obvious GOTY contender.
The most controversial pick is the growing divide between critics and players that is none other than of course Death Stranding. This game is incredibly difficult to describe, because it plays more like a weird dream than a game. Every minute I play, I am left with more questions than answers. What felt like clever marketing turned out to be a lie, something that would have been praised if it turned out true. No one knew what was happening in the many many trailers; however, when you play the game it has so little exposition you still go hours in without understanding. All those weird moments in the trailers leave you wondering what is happening, when those same weird moments happen in the game without explanation. I’ve complained how complex and weird the story was for Kingdom Hearts 3 was, however at least I could go back and play the originals. Death Stranding feels like starting on season 7 of a really weird sci-fi show. The game doesn’t expect you to care about what the hell is going on when the marketing for the game spent years making you curious what was going on. Confusing convoluted stories and worlds I can forgive if the gameplay is amazing. That is what we come for after all. However, I have spent countless hours on Death Stranding and do you know what I’ve done so far? Walk and deliver packages. The best I can describe Death Stranding is if the Twilight Zone and UPS had a baby and made a walking simulator. You spend hours walking across a lifeless empty world with the sole job of delivering packages from A to B and sometimes B to A again. The best word I can use to describe Death Stranding is tedious. It is the definition of tedious un-fun gameplay, it is a lifeless tedious game that just happens to look very pretty.
It is just weird, and when/if I ever finish the game, I might write a full in depth review. However, to say its mixed reviews don’t make it question why it deserves GOTY over better games is puzzling to me.
Hideo Kojima is a developer beloved by fans, so the fact that Metacritic had to remove 6000 negative reviews for what is nominated to be GOTY seems incredible forced. Shouldn’t GOTY go to a game that most players enjoyed? Metacritic uses the term “review bombing” as an excuse when they want to wipe massive amounts of reviews to alter a score. It would be one thing if the review bombs were some type of protest, but in this case many people just truly don’t like the game. Even Kotaku wrote an article questioning the fact that Death Stranding is getting so many nominations. It is a divisive mixed game made by someone who is publicly best friends with the Game Awards creator and host. It just smells…
We have games nominated for GOTY 2019 at the Game Awards that many feels don’t deserve praise let alone the highest award offered, and we have many games that deserve it which are being completely snubbed this year. Is this a sign that the Game Awards is loosing touch with fans much like the Oscar’s has in the film world? Does there need to be more visibility to the selection process or explanation given to nominees? There never has been a year where the nominations seem so wrong.
I strongly believe, Apex Legends, Borderlands 3, Jedi Fallen Order, and Outer Wilds are all objectively better games than TGA’s list; enough to question the system in place that determined their list. This criticism aside, I will still be watching the awards and reporting on the winners with a full recap afterwards. You can expect tweets, posts, and a post-show article for recap!
For more Game Awards news and discussion, stay tuned on Game Infinite.