The arrival of December can only mean one thing—the battle for game of the year is at hand. Spike’s Video Game Awards initially began ten years ago as an awkward, me-too kind of affair—a flailing attempt by a desperate TV station to cash in on the rise of video game popularity, no doubt perceived as a passing fad at the time. However, in the decade since the debut of the VGAs, something unexpected happened—they gained credibility, after a fashion, becoming home to game premieres, trailer launches, and developer presence. This year’s VGAs air tonight, so we ask, which game will emerge at the forefront of the industry this year?
There are five games on this year’s shortlist: Assassin’s Creed III, Journey, Dishonored, Mass Effect 3, and The Walking Dead: The Game. Worthy choices all, but a couple of the most realistic possibilities stand out.
Dishonored is an excellent game—probably our favorite on the list in terms of story, creativity, and depth—and proved to be a smashing success for Bethesda, who are currently making plans to turn their new IP into a franchise. However, there is some concern that the IP may be too new to qualify as a VGA winner—politics, as always, factor into any award show.
Journey falls victim to the same issue, in addition to facing the additional problem of being a game that does not squarely target the dominant teenage boy demographic that both the video game world and Spike so often pander to. The very unique beauty, elegance, and depth that differentiate Journey from the pack and make it a game of the year contender are, sadly, the same traits that will ultimately prevent it from winning.
The Walking Dead: The Game is an interesting story of redemption for publisher Telltale Games, as they recovered in spectacular fashion from the failure of Jurassic Park. The Walking Dead games have featured exemplary storytelling, character development, and (of course) gore, but cutscene-style gaming is still relatively new to the mainstream market, and Telltale hasn’t previously been a big player in the AAA game category. While the Walking Dead IP is familiar enough to grant the game a real shot, ultimately, the genre and developer will likely fall victim to their fledgeling status.
That finally leads us to Assassin’s Creed III and Mass Effect 3, the two games most likely (in our eyes) to take home the prize. Both come from established gaming bloodlines, and both franchises have knocked on the door of GOTY awards in years past. The question, though, remains: were either of these games better than the competition above? Both have their flaws. The most common criticism of Assassin’s Creed III is its lack of depth and repetitiveness, and we all know about the furor caused by Mass Effect 3’s ending. Furthermore, franchises tend to stick with what works, and offer less in terms of innovation than the entries above. However, ultimately, the franchise names carry weight, and the associated hype with these releases make them the most likely candidates to take home the VGA’s GOTY award.
An omission of note—no Halo 4 in the GOTY category, which we found to be quite interesting.
We won’t make our own call yet—we’ll see how the results go tonight, and debate ad naseum next week. But now we turn it over to you, dear reader. What games were most worthy of your time and money this year? Let us know below.
In other gaming news this week, Hitman: Absolution suffers another marketing mishap, Dishonored becomes a franchise, Bioshock Infinite settles on a boring, generic cover, and the Mortal Kombat web series returns. Read on!
- The success of Dishonored has forced Bethesda’s hand. The developer now has a new franchise going forward.
- What? You mean people don’t like being cyberstalked and virtually assassinated for the “crime” of having small breasts? Or being falsely accused of cheating on their spouses? Square Enix learned that messing with people’s Facebook pages pisses off more people than shooting up a pack of lingerie-clad nuns. It’s just the latest marketing misstep in a pretty classless and misogynistic overall campaign for Hitman: Absolution.
- What kind of people play sports video games? MIT decided to find out.
- BioShock Infinite’s cover art came out this week, and its reception was less than stellar, the most common criticism being it looks like every other video game cover ever made. What are your thoughts?
- According to Bloomberg, Microsoft will launch its next-gen console, the Xbox 720, prior to Thanksgiving 2013 to maximize holiday profits. If you need a refresher on what Microsoft’s latest and greatest will bring, read up.
- A new season of Mortal Kombat: Legacy is nearing, and some casting news is cropping up. Starship Troopers fans will be pleased to hear that Casper Van Dien will play Johnny Cage, while Cary Kagawa reprises his role as Shang Tsung from the first movie. If you’re a Mortal Kombat fan but have never heard of the web series… well, start here.
- Could The Last of Us be on track for a spring release? Walmart thought so, until they were smacked down by Sony.
- Pour a little out, Killer Instinct fans. Microsoft’s attempt to revive the trademark of the classic 90s fighter was quashed after six months of dispute.
- Finally, BioWare continues to try and recover from the failure of Star Wars: The Old Republic. The much-maligned MMORPG went free-to-play recently, and the developers are still in the process of working out the balance kinks between the F2P version and the version available to preferred customers or existing subscribers.