When the 2021 Hugo Awards are handed out next year, they’ll come with a special new category: Best Video Game. DisCon III (by way of File 770) announced the special category, saying that the works “Draw from the same creative well that has fed science fiction and fantasy writing and art for so many years.”
Since the 1950s, the Hugo Awards have honored the best written works within the genre in certain categories: Novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, magazines, artists, and more. Those categories have changed over time—the original ceremony honored the best Novel, Professional Magazine, Cover Artist, Interior Illustrator, Excellent in Fact Articles, Best New SF Author or Artist, and #1 Fan Personality.
Presently, the award categories have expanded to honor a variety of written works, as well as editors, artists, fans, and dramatic productions such as movies or TV shows. However, individual World Science Fiction committees can stand up their own special award, which will only be present for that one con, which are sometimes treated as a trial run for future, permanent categories.
Some of those special Hugos have included “Best Feature Writer” (1956), “Best Book Reviewer” (1956), “Best All-Time Series” (1966), “Best Website” (2002 and 2005), “Best Series” (2017 — converted into permanent category), and “Best Art Book” (2019).
In 2021, there's going to be a Hugo Award For Best Video Game.
The DisCon III committee has chosen to create this special category for 2021 only, as provided for by the rules of the World Science Fiction Society.#HugoAwards
— DisCon III – The 79th Worldcon (@worldcon2021) November 23, 2020
In its press release, DisCon III, co-chair Colette Fozard notes the events of 2020 have pushed more people to gaming than ever, and that “This award will offer fans an opportunity to celebrate the games that have been meaningful, joyful, and exceptional over this past year.” Eligible games will be “a game or substantial modification of a game first released to the public on a major gaming platform in the previous calendar year in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects.”
In recent years, there’s been more of a push for the awards to honor the best in video games. Fozard points out that a “Best Interactive Video Game Hugo Award” was attempted for L.A. con IV in 2006. There was also a petition in for a video game award for MidAmeriCon II in 2015. Both don’t appear to have gone anywhere, but there has been a steady drumbeat of support for the medium. According to the release, the Hugo Study Committee “is also considering Best Game or Interactive Experience as a potential permanent category.”
Games do present a tricky set of considerations for an award. Critics have pointed out that a game can present on any number of gaming systems, the fact that they can be tweaked and modified after they’re released through patches or DLC add-ons, and even the huge range of gaming types that are out there, from mobile to console, to board, card, and other styles. Still, other awards have figured out how to handle the category.
This year has already brought a number of new projects to fans: Animal Crossing, The Last of Us Part II, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Star Wars: Squadrons, and Cyberpunk 2077 all seem ripe for placement on the ballot next year.