|If this belongs to someone, I'm sorry.|
I know it is early to do a rant about video game awards and Game of the Years but this has been on my mind since the release of a particular game. Well, actually two particular games, which I hope will help illustrate my issue with the current state of video game journalism. And it all starts with my favorite game of this year: Fire Emblem: Awakening.
|Are you sick of me talking about this game? Well, too bad.|
For a fan of a series, having the latest game in the series be declared a "Game of the Year" is huge. It's almost a validation of your personal tastes, which is probably why such awards spark such personal heated debates. And for a series that has for a long time been ignored or neglected first by the company that made it and then by the people who asked for it, to be in a position where it is almost universally recognized as one of the greatest games ever made, sounds like the plot to any underdog feel good movie. And that maybe, just maybe, by having a Game of the Year where the player can become personally involved with the lives of the characters, we can paint video games as more than just a bunch of guys with guns shooting everything in sight to create a body count so high that John McClane look like a pacifist. But then the OTHER game was released... and that game was Bioshock: Infinite.
|Oh look, a guy with a gun.|
And this pretty much cuts to the heart of my problem with Game of the Year and any kind of Video Game Awards we've had: at the end of the day all of this Game of the Year, Top 10 Games, or whatever, is nothing more than a popularity contest. This is because even before a "Game of the Year" award ceremony is started, most people already has their own ideas on what is the "Game of the Year." To me, it is Fire Emblem: Awakening, but to others it is Bioshock: Infinite, and to even more people it could be a number of games. But this is just human nature, and there is nothing right or wrong about it. The problem comes in when a "Game of the Year" is announced because, as I said, having a game you like be not only recognized as a great game, but also given a lofty title such as "Game of the Year", creates a sort of vindication for your tastes in gaming. BUT, when you don't get such vindication, and instead a different game is given the accolade of GOTY, and you have the benefit of anonymity, you will either A) argue your point of view calmly or B) insist that anyone who doesn't agree with you is stupid and that your game should be GOTY. Unfortunately, the people who response like B out number the people who response like A on the internet.
Now, this will happen regardless of what game gets the GOTY title, but the number of negative responses you will get is depended on the game's popularity. For the sake of demonstration, let's say that the only two choices for GOTY is Fire Emblem: Awakening and Bioshock: Infinite, and, again for the sake of demonstration, let's say that every single person who bought a copy of each game think that THAT game should be GOTY. Knowing that you will get angry comments either way, will you choose Bioshock: Infinite and suffer 240,000 angry comments, or choose Fire Emblem: Awakening and suffer 878,000 comments? Sure you can go with whatever YOU think is GOTY material, but remember that if your livelihood depends on your publication, upsetting a large number of people might not be the best idea.
This is what I mean by Video Game Awards have become a popularity contest, because even if it is an editor's choice award, the potential public backlash largely determines what is going to be given awards. I doubt any video game publication is going to have the courage to give any game other than Bioshock: Infinite the auspicious GOTY title. If they did, the resulting flame storm form the less desirable fans would likely destroy their credibility, unless the game they chose happen to be even more popular.
As I said, I'm not saying that Bioshock: Infinite is a bad game. It's probably a great game, and if Metacritic is in any way a reliable metric it is as great as Fire Emblem: Awakening. But Fire Emblem isn't anywhere near as popular as Bioshock, which is why Awakening is unlikely to win GOTY. It would still probably win 3DS game of the year no doubt, and will likely still be nominated for the lofty GOTY. But with our gaming culture as it is, no one remembers the runners up in any kind of award ceremony. Just like the perception of AAA games, if you are not the best, you don't count.
Sources for this rant are:
Nintendo's Fire Emblem: Awakening Accolades Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0b6NyrRWkE
Wikipedia's page on Fire Emblem: Awakening: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_Emblem_Awakening
And Wikipedia's page on Bioshock: Infinite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioshock_Infinite
Until next time.