So the industry’s great and good – and Boris Becker – gathered last night to celebrate the best games of 2013. Or, to be more exact, Journey.
Journey stole the show winning five awards. Trophies for Audio Achievement and Original Score were well deserved, Artistic Achievement a fine choice, but the most pleasing for me was their Best Online Multiplayer achievement. In a category that featured more than enough gunplay to satisfy any clichéd teenager, it was refreshing that a special blend of coop, sentiment and adventuring saw them all off.
I can get tea-bagged quite readily in pretty much every other online game and yet That Game Company made me want to go and play with strangers. It was a feature that defined and Journey. Seamlessly dropping others into your sandy world and communicating only through hooting and scarf twizzling, without it there would not have been the emotional bond that brought together sound and vision.
Its PlayStation stablemate Unfinished Swan deservedly walked off with Debut Game and, slightly more surprisingly, Game Innovation. Though I enjoyed it thoroughly, and very much appreciated the visual style, this category was the most contentious of the night as it saw off the likes of Sesame Street TV, Book of Spells and Fez. “Contentious” maybe cruel as this was possibly the most tightly fought category and I might be stuck far too much on the technical wonder of some of the other nominees.
The Walking Dead justifiably took Best Story (seeing as it had no mention of Prometheans), Lego Batman won the Family category and iPad games The Room and New Star Soccer went on stage to collect Mobile & Handheld and Sports respectively.
Elsewhere the big guns that were FIFA 13, Mass Effect 3, Far Cry 3, Assassin’s Creed 3 were heavily nominated, but failed to make an impact. Only Dishonoured, taking Best Game, and XCOM, Best Strategy, flew the flag for triple-A gaming.
Although there was much to be celebrated, the disappointing aspect for me of the evening was when it came to those announcing the nominees and the winners. Whilst Dara O’Briain does a sterling job, brimming with enthusiasm, and can’t be faulted when presenting the show, the cavalcade of minor celebrities was a little disheartening. There were a handful of well-known game playing personalities, but for everyone one of those there was another stumbling their way along the auto-cue.
Those who I wanted to see up there were the figureheads for our industry, and whilst Randy Pitchford and David Braben were amongst them, they were the minority by quite some distance. Was this on telly somewhere? I was watching through BAFTA’s site, but were the celebrities bussed in for ratings? It’s hard to say, yet for my tuppence I think receiving such a hallowed object such as a BAFTA award would mean far more coming from your peers than a bird from Hollyoaks.
No matter who you were rooting for, however, what the show once again proved was the diversity and quality on offer in our hobby. Mainstream press may often paint a picture of our world being solely inhabited by gun-toting maniacs polluting the minds of our youth, but we saw the educational Sesame Street, the wondrous Journey, and the adorable Little Big Planet, to name but a few. And for us who know more than to rise to the bait of the Daily Mail, Dear Esther, Fez and Thomas Was Alone speak highly for the creativity around today.