As this celebratory holiday season comes to a close, I want to be sure to acknowledge the celebration of gaming achievement that was The Game Awards. Approximately a month ago media outlets and other industry influencers decided which of the nominated games would win the 22 general awards and which of the nominated players and teams would win the 8 Esports related awards (a full list of the winners will be linked below in case you missed it). It was a glorious occasion, full of awesome applause, trailer reveals, and celebrations— and single-player story-driven games came out on top with the most accolades.
To be totally fair, the ceremony is meant to resemble the Academy Awards, thereby possessing an inherent favor towards storytelling in many of the categories. Furthermore, this is not to diminish the facts that games like PUBG and Fortnight have redefined the gaming landscape and as I’ve recently moved away from most of the Dat Click Doe squad I’m more appreciative of gaming’s social capacity than ever before. But while attention spans are decreasing and players’ need for instant gratification is increasing, it’s really extraordinary to see some extensive, tedious (in the best possible way), narratively profound single player experiences put on pedestals and applauded.
The tours de force God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 lead with the most nominations (each had twice as many as any other game save Marvel’s Spider-Man which was a single nomination behind them), Red Dead Redemption 2 won the most awards, and most significantly to my point— God of War won game of the year. Seeing Insomniac’s Spider-Man in contention with these titles would've been impactful enough for me. I watched a good friend of mine 100% it on stream and Insomniac Games avoided playing it safe with the crowd pleasing web-slinger; the end of that game made me tear up something fierce. Also, seeing an indie platformer, Celeste, nominated for the third most awards, including Game of the Year, was pretty neat. Seeing Read Dead take home so many awards was wonderful as Rockstar gave us a meticulously crafted, hyper-immersive world with a narrative unafraid to gut-punch the audience with helplessness and hardship. God of War's voice actors had the best award presentation of the night. And yet, even with so many great things, ultimately God of War winning game of the year was the pinnacle of the show for me.
I don’t mean to take away from Read Dead’s incredible detail and brilliant narrative (for which it won awards) and I’m not even entirely sure it shouldn’t have won Game of the Year, but as a writer and storyteller, it was galvanizing to see the most story-driven game of list win the highest accolade. Now, to clear up any confusion, I understand Read Dead Redemption 2 won best narrative and that it has an outstanding through-line story that can drive the entire experience. But the role-playing and open world aspects of Read Dead Redemption 2 are so extraordinary and emphasized that the story, for many players, can become a secondary or even tertiary priority. Marvel’s Spider-Man can be seen in the same light. Hell, you could spend an entire story’s length of time simply swinging around New York, disregarding the golden path, because it’s such an awesome part of that gaming experience. There’s nothing inherently bad about those things, both are phenomenal games, but God of War's narrative and open(ish) world was the most invested in telling a linear story and they told one deserving of praise.
The night before the awards I told my girlfriend, “You know, it’s a shame for the game developers behind God of War that it had to be this year. Almost any other year and it would’ve won for sure, but this year there’s Read Dead 2. God of War just... they accomplished something so profound and human with that game— but, Rockstar did so much. They keep innovating and breaking the open world genre. I’m just sad for the God of War team because I think Read Dead just has to win at this point...”
I'm either less optimistic than I should be, or I’m a fool. Not sure which one. But either way, I’m insanely pleased I was wrong.
Click here for The Game Awards official website and a full breakdown of nominations and winners.
If you watched the awards or just have thoughts you want to share regarding TGAs, let us know below!