What game will journalists not shut up about this year? The problem with The Game Awards.
I’m not looking forward to The Game Awards 2021. The last couple of years have shown that it’s a showcase for someone’s dime-a-dozen indie game world premiere which we may never even see ever again. Then you’ll have an award presentation where one game will sweep half of the awards. Which game is that? Well, you tell me.
If these games come to mind immediately, it’s because it’s part of the problem of the macrocosm of gaming journalism. It’s too easy for websites to whore out a single game and build hype over the rest of their competitors throughout the year. Square-Enix tried it and they failed massively.
It further highlights the problem with how presentations like The Game Awards shoehorn one game to win them all. We know it’s coming and it happens anyway. By some miracle, RDR2 didn’t win GotY 2018 yet managed to sweep everything else. Admittedly, it shared the wealth with both God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man. It wasn’t as bad as it would get for the next two years.
With that being said, make no mistake. God of War very much deserved Game of the Year 2018. Sekiro had some serious competition in 2019, however, but pulled through against both Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry 5 which were fantastic contenders in their own right. I want to get back to the point of Japanese developed games in The Game Awards later so take a memo.
But that didn’t come without Death Stranding sweeping up every other award The Game Awards could throw at it in 2019. Check the link and you’ll see it won 10 nominations, 2 ahead of Control, and twice as much as any game after it. Why? Because Kojima Productions is a veritable studio that made some of the most memorable game of all time: the Metal Gear Solid series.
So what about Metal Gear Solid V? AKA the game that everyone has told me was unfinished. Why does an unfinished game get to receive the same prestige as titles such as Overwatch, Undertale, and Bloodborne? Because the developer’s name on the title means more than the quality of the game itself.
And that is precisely what I dislike about The Game Awards and other publications following suit to build hype over a single game. I would love to go one day without seeing Cyberpunk 2077 or The Last of Us 2 on my feed. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like that will happen. Even after Cyberpunk’s massive flop of a release, though, it would not surprise me that TGA and other publications will want to give it Game of the Year 2021 Award.
As CD Projekt Rekt decides to patch the game over the course of the year, it would not surprise me if certain publications were salivating over fulfilling their notion of giving it the award that fits their narrative. It has the most hype building over it for the last few years so clearly it must deserve Game of the Year, right?
Looking back, it makes me wonder what 2017 would have looked like without Breath of the Wild. Arguably the single best show for The Game Awards featured awards going out to a multitude of quality games. Yet I wonder if Breath of the Wild had not released that year, would TGA shoehorn all their awards to Horizon: Zero Dawn?
After all, it was the massive hype machine for the PS4 in 2017. That’s not to say games like Persona 5, NieR: Automata, Yakuza 0, and Nioh weren’t worthy. But if you know Horizon was the focal point of hype, then once again, you’ve identified the problem.
Regarding Japanese developed games
It’s obvious they don’t get enough exposure at The Game Awards. 2017 broke the mold by giving Persona 5 RPG of the Year. Coupled with Joker’s reveal in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, they literally turned Persona mainstream overnight. Fans were hyping over Persona’s win on social media while potential new fans wanted to know more about this mysterious Phantom Thief that had entered their favorite fighting game.
Meanwhile, Sekiro winning GotY 2019 ahead of RE2 and DMC5 says something about TGA’s perception of Japanese-developed games. Franchises like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, both of which are developed by Capcom, are popular enough in the west due to their art style and history. Sekiro, which has its realistic visuals, also comes from From Software’s prestigious Soulsborne series.
The importance of the Player’s Voice award.
Yet, despite the obvious choices winning awards, The Game Awards unveiled a new option in 2019: Player’s Voice. Allowing fans to vote for their favorite game in a 3-round bracket, fans voted for their favorite game.
In a shocking twist, Nintendo’s anime Strategy/RPG beat Death Stranding and the other popular western choices. They were probably scratching their heads wondering why Americans would vote for this anime title over some prestigious, multimillion-dollar experience.
On the flipside, TGA’s RPG of 2017 winner, Persona 5 Royal would never get the exposure of America’s classic pastime RPG, Final Fantasy VII, right? Or at least that’s the appearance it gives because we all grew up with Final Fantasy while Persona is just some “weeb” nonsense that came out in the mid-2010s.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is a great game in its own right. To see it overhyped leaps and bounds ahead of Persona 5 Royal is disappointing. But to see it lose to The Last of Us 2 is shocking.
I don’t ever expect the likes of Ys, Tales, Dragon Quest, and other quality RPG series to hit mainstream in the west. Fire Emblem gets its boost from both Nintendo and its inclusion in Smash Bros. while Persona 5 managed to defy expectations heavily if not thanks to Sega’s genius marketing and publishing. If it’s brightly colored, pretty, appeals to kids, and isn’t named Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, or Animal Crossing, it’s probably not going to win awards at TGA. If it’s anime, like Xenoblade, Bravely Default, and not named Final Fantasy, don’t expect much from it. If it’s 60 hours long, looks realistic, has a telling narrative, and is hyped to high heaven throughout the year, look closely. It’s probably the Game of the Year. If it has guns, then you can better believe it’s an automatic contender.
And then, even amongst the solitary game’s competition, such as NieR: Automata, Sekiro, Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and so forth, the awards it could win outside of GotY usually end up getting snubbed. There’s no 2017 where the wealth is shared among a healthy variety of amazing games. Why focus on several wonderful games when we can just shoehorn them into one game? Call it The Game Award, pick one game, and tell everyone it’s the best one there is.
For the record, let me sum up and emphasize the problem with each year.
2015 glorified an unfinished game, Metal Gear Solid V, that divided fans.
In 2019, Death Stranding monopolized the nominations (10) over the rest. By the way, what are Control and Disco Elysium??? I’ve never seen anyone talk about them.
In 2020, The Last of Us 2 dominated both nominations and awards. It won 7 awards with any other game receiving 2 at most.
This is just one of the biggest glaring flaws with The Game Awards and how they monopolize awards to a single game or to those which aren’t finished but glorified due to their prestigious developer. It’s worse when it becomes obvious and you’re just waiting with bated breath expecting them to do the same to Cyberpunk 2077 for TGA 2021.