Tag Archive: awards


The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences held its 21st annual D.I.C.E. Awards at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, celebrating the tremendous year in gaming that was 2017. The D.I.C.E. Awards are the only peer-voted award ceremony in video games, where developers from around the industry cast ballots on 24 different categories that recognize the best of the best in gaming.

Not surprisingly, Nintendo had a huge night, which mirrors the success they had with the launch of the Switch in 2017. With games nominated in 14 of the 24 categories, Nintendo-published games won in a whopping 10 categories (Mario+Rabbids also won an award but is technically a Ubisoft game). The bulk of Nintendo’s success was due to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s four awards, the most for any game this year, and which includes the coveted Game of the Year Award. The next most awarded game was Cuphead, winning in three categories. Horizon Zero Dawn, whose 10 nominations were the most of any game at the show, walked away with two awards.

“Every year, the D.I.C.E. Awards brings the global interactive entertainment industry under one roof to recognize and honor the very best in video games – the games that captivated and inspired us, and kept us entertained for hours on end,” said Meggan Scavio, president, Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.  “On behalf of the Academy, I am thrilled to congratulate this year’s winners of the 21st D.I.C.E. Awards.”

Considering Nintendo’s success, it was only fitting that the D.I.C.E. Awards would also recognize Genyo Takeda of Nintendo with only their seventh ever Lifetime Achievement Award. Takeda was a critical figure at Nintendo for decades. One of his first major accomplishments included creating the save-system in the original The Legend of Zelda that would revolutionize games on the NES. From there he helped design the N64’s analog stick on its controller, worked on peripherals with the Gamecube, and was a key architect of the Wii.

The winners of this year’s D.I.C.E. Awards categories are below. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order, with winners in bold.

Outstanding Achievement in Animation

  • Cuphead
  • For Honor
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction

  • Cuphead
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Little Nightmares
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Outstanding Achievement in Character

  • Bayek – Assassin’s Creed Origins
  • Senua – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Iden Versio – Star Wars Battlefront II
  • Chloe Frazer – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition

  • Call of Duty: WWII
  • Cuphead
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • RiME
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design

  • Destiny 2
  • Injustice 2
  • Star Wars Battlefront II
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Outstanding Achievement in Story

  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Night in the Woods
  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Outstanding Technical Achievement

  • Assassin’s Creed Origins
  • Hellblade: Senua’ Sacrifice
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Lone Echo
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Action Game of the Year

  • Call of Duty: WWII
  • Cuphead
  • Destiny
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Adventure Game of the Year

  • Assassin’s Creed Origins
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Family Game of the Year

  • DropMix
  • GNOG
  • Just Dance 2018
  • SingStar Celebration
  • Snipperclips

Fighting Game of the Year

  • Arms
  • Injustice 2
  • Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite
  • Nidhogg 2
  • Tekken 7

Racing Game of the Year

  • DiRT 4
  • Forza Motorsport 7
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Project CARS 2

RPG of the Year

  • Divinity: Original Sin 2
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War
  • NiER: Automata
  • Persona 5
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera

Sports Game of the Year

  • Everybody’s Golf
  • FIFA 18
  • Golf Clash
  • Madden NFL 18
  • MLB The Show 17

Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year

  • Endless Space 2
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
  • Total War: Warhammer II
  • XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Immersive Reality Technical Achievement

  • Lone Echo/Echo Arena
  • Robo Recall
  • Star Trek Bridge Crew
  • The Invisible Hours
  • Wilson’s Heart

Immersive Reality Game of the Year

  • Lone Echo/Echo Arena
  • Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin
  • Robo Recall
  • Space Pirate Trainer
  • Wilson’s Heart

D.I.C.E. Sprite Award

  • Everything
  • Gorogoa
  • Night in the Woods
  • Pyre
  • Snipperclips

Handheld Game of the Year

  • Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
  • Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth
  • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
  • Metroid: Samus Returns
  • Monster Hunter Stories

Mobile Game of the Year

  • Cat Quest
  • Fire Emblem Heroes
  • Gorogoa
  • Monument Valley 2
  • Splitter Critters

Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay

  • Call of Duty: WWII
  • Destiny 2
  • Fortnite
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Outstanding Achievement in Game Design

  • Gorogoa
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • PlayerUnknwon’s Battlegrounds
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction

  • Gorogoa
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  • What Remains of Edith Finch

Game of the Year

  • Cuphead
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
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The finalists for the 19th Annual Independent Games Festival have been announced and 30 different titles are up for awards this year.

Leading the pack is Virginia with four nominations out of the seven panel-chosen, software-related categories, including the Nuovo Award for innovation. Hot on its heels are Hyper Light Drifter, Inside, and Event[0] with three noms each. Nominations in all categories can be seen below.

Besides the seven software awards, there is also an Audience Award that is left open to the public (voting will begin by the end of January), and a new award this year called the ALT.CTRL.GDC Award. This new award is being given to the most creative and unique controllers that some developers have created to go along with their games. All awards besides the Audience Award are judged by a group of 340 judges, who looked at over 650 entries this year. After paring down the entries, expert juries comprised of members of the gaming industry are then formed specializing in distinct disciplines for each category and they choose the winners.

It was also announced that this year’s show would be hosted by Nina Freeman, level designer for Fullbright’s Tacoma, and a Nuovo-award winning creator in her own right for her game Cibele.

The IGF Awards will precede the GDC Awards on March 1, 2017, at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Here now is the list of awards and nominees at this year’s show.

BEST STUDENT GAME

  • Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
  • Lily, Colors of Santa Luz
  • Un Pas Fragile
  • FAR: Lone Sails
  • Frog Climbers
  • Bamboo Heart

EXCELLENCE IN AUDIO

  • The Flame in the Flood
  • GoNNER
  • Virginia
  • Hyper Light Drifter
  • Everything
  • Inside

EXCELLENCE IN DESIGN

  • Imbroglio
  • Ultimate Chicken Horse
  • Duskers
  • Overcooked
  • Event[0]
  • Quadrilateral Cowboy

EXCELLENCE IN NARRATIVE

  • Ladykiller in a Bind
  • 1979 Revolution: Black Friday
  • Virginia
  • Orwell
  • Event[0]
  • One Night Stand

EXCELLENCE IN VISUAL ART

  • The Flame in the Flood
  • Inside
  • Virginia
  • Old Man’s Journey
  • Hyper Light Drifter
  • She Remembered Caterpillars

NUOVO AWARD (INNOVATION)

  • Islands: Non-Places
  • Close
  • Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
  • Oἶκοςpiel, Book I
  • Everything
  • Virginia
  • Mu Cartographer
  • Lieve Oma

SEUMAS MCNALLY GRAND PRIZE

  • Inside
  • Stardew Valley
  • Quadrilateral Cowboy
  • Event[0]
  • Hyper Light Drifter
  • Overcooked

Yesterday, organizers for the 17th annual GDC Awards announced their nominations in 10 categories recognizing the top games, studios, and developers from around the industry.

Leading the way is my personal pick for Game of the Year, Playdead’s sophomore effort Inside with six noms, including GDC’s Game of the Year. Blizzard’s Overwatch and indie Campo Santo’s Firewatch (no relation) come up next with nods in five categories, also including Game of the Year. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (four nominations) and Dishonored 2 (two nominations) round out the Game of the Year field. Nominations in all categories can be seen below.

It was also announced that the legendary Tim Schafer, founder of Double Fine Productions, would be returning to host the show this year. This will be Tim’s sixth time hosting the show, continuing a pattern of him hosting every other year since 2007.

The GDC Awards are determined each year by the International Choice Awards Network, an invitation-only organization started by the folks behind GDC, and which is comprised of leading game creators from all parts of the industry. Any video game released via any medium within the calendar year of 2016 was eligible for this year’s awards. All ICAN members can nominate games, and when combined with the votes of a 22-member awards advisory board, lead to the nominations and winners in each category.

The GDC Awards will be held on March 1, 2017, at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, starting at 6:30 PM PT. Here now is the full list of nominees at this year’s show.

BEST AUDIO 

  • Battlefield 1
  • Thumper
  • DOOM
  • Inside
  • Overwatch

BEST DEBUT

  • Heart Machine (Hyper Light Drifter)
  • Campo Santo (Firewatch)
  • ConcernedApe (Stardew Valley)
  • Drool (Thumper)
  • Night School Studio (Oxenfree)

BEST DESIGN

  • Overwatch
  • Dishonored 2
  • The Witness
  • Inside
  • DOOM

BEST MOBILE/HANDHELD GAME

  • Super Mario Run
  • Clash Royale
  • Pokémon GO
  • Reigns
  • Pokémon Sun/Moon

INNOVATION AWARD

  • The Witness
  • Inside
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Firewatch
  • Pokémon GO

BEST NARRATIVE

  • The Last Guardian
  • Oxenfree
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Inside
  • Firewatch

BEST TECHNOLOGY 

  • Battlefield 1
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Overwatch
  • DOOM
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

BEST VISUAL ART

  • Firewatch
  • The Last Guardian
  • Overwatch
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Inside

BEST VR/AR GAME

  • Rez Infinite
  • Superhot VR
  • Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
  • Pokémon GO
  • Fantastic Contraption

GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Overwatch
  • Inside
  • Dishonored 2
  • Firewatch

Header-Ray

Introduction

By the numbers, 2015 was a down year for games overall. However, it finished ridiculously strong, with one of the more jam-packed holiday seasons I’ve seen in a long time—keeping all of us here on the EGM crew insanely busy. As my list hopefully proves, quantity did not necessarily affect quality, though, and there were still some great games that came this year that I felt would come to define 2015.

Ray’s Top Five Games for 2015

Assassin's creed syndicate giant clock

#05: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate didn’t exactly have a high bar to surpass considering the lackluster entry in the franchise that was Unity. Still, not only did Syndicate provide a more coherent story, but it injected much needed life and wonder back into the series. Whether it was scaling the beautifully-rendered Victorian Era London, laughing at the banter back and forth between main characters Jacob and Evie Frye, or surprises like the fully fleshed-out World War I scenario that followed Jacob’s granddaughter, Syndicate was the return to form Assassin’s Creed so desperately needed. If they had included a few more old-school puzzles or a modern day scenario that allowed us to step outside the simulation, this might have been even higher on my list.

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 (1)

#04: Tales from the Borderlands

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, OS X, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android

Ray’s Take

When you first think of Borderlands, story doesn’t exactly fall on its list of strengths. While subsequent games in the series have added a little more to the lore of Pandora, there were plenty of unexplored opportunities that were perfect for Telltale to come in and exploit. Plus, this doubled as a chance for Telltale to really stretch their comedic muscles for the first time since the days of Sam & Max (or maybe their foray into Homestar Runner). The result was what I believe to be Telltale’s best effort yet. Serving up a rollercoaster of emotions, Tales from the Borderlands gives the most life to any characters that universe offers, while also making your decisions have some real weight come the game’s finale. Now, we just need to figure out where that cliffhanger ending will lead.

Fallout 4 power armor header

#03: Fallout 4

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

At this point, it’d be more surprising if Bethesda made a bad game. Fallout 4 once again creates a beautiful, dynamic world out of the smoking crater of an apocalyptic disaster. No interaction in the world happens the same way twice, and the new gun crafting and S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills system extends an already deep pedigree of customization. Despite this, I can’t get past the sense that Fallout 4 is more like Fallout 3.5. The largest new attraction the game brings—the ability to create and link settlements—honestly bored me. Managing people and resources became a chore, and was quickly relegated to “afterthought” status even just 20 hours into my near-100 hour playthrough. Still, there are few experiences more complete, or as satisfying, as Bethesda’s latest adventure in the wasteland.

Witcher3Review_Header

#02: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

I never played the first two Witcher games, and in the end, that kept it from being my personal game of the year. You see, my number one pick last year was Dragon Age Inquisition—and I felt you could jump into that adventure not having played the previous two games and gotten the same amount of enjoyment out of it. My caring about Witcher 3’s characters and world took a hit because of my unfamiliarity. That said, CD Projekt Red crafted an absolutely spectacular adventure, and an even more epic world for it to take place in. Geralt of Rivia is one of the most perfect examples of an anti-hero I’ve ever met in games, and the people he interacts with portray an incredible amount of depth. The most telling thing about Witcher 3’s world, though, may be how much time I spent in it: 212 hours on my first playthrough.

OriBlindForest640

#01: Ori and the Blind Forest

Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Moon Studios
Platforms: Xbox One

Ray’s Take

There are no games this year that grabbed my attention from beginning to end quite like Ori and the Blind Forest. The first thing that catches your eye is the hand-painted art style, but once you begin rolling around Ori’s dying world, you soon realize how tight handling the game is. In fact, it’s easily the best playing metroidvania we’ve seen in years. The heart of the game—its story—builds on this, with a heart-wrenching tale that pulls you through the beautifully diverse world Ori must explore in order to restore the natural balance of things. Combine all this with a steadily increasing degree of difficulty all the way until the climactic finish, and I can only wish more games were as polished as Ori and the Blind Forest.

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards for 2015

The 5th Annual “The Colors, Duke! The Colors” Award for Most Colorful Game, brought to you by Popsicle (not really)
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
kirby
This has become a tradition for me during the EGM end of the year awards, and we’ve gone too long to stop now. There were some strong candidates this year, and while the aforementioned Ori and the Blind Forest could’ve easily taken it, I wanted to show some other great looking games some love—and lo and behold, Nintendo had quite a few of them. I’ve got to tip my hat to the good folks at HAL Laboratory, whose beautiful looking Claymation in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse impressed me just a slightly bit more than Good-Feel’s work with yarn in Yoshi’s Woolly World. Congrats Kirby on looking as bright and as wonderful as ever.
The “Fashionably Late” Award
Kalimba

kalimba02

I really shouldn’t be giving a game an award for 2015 when it came out in 2014, but let me explain. Although we here at EGM wait as long as possible before doing our Game of the Year voting to insure we give as many games as possible the chance the qualify, there are still occasionally titles that miss deadline. Rarely, however, are they as fun as Kalimba, which released on December 17, 2014. Available on Xbox One and later for PC, Kalimba is an addictive, fun little puzzle platformer that only gets better when playing co-op with a friend. Although we did end up reviewing it for EGM post-holiday break, it was ineligible for last year’s voting. So here is your well-deserved spot in the limelight, Kalimba.

The “Somehow Made Me Fall In Love with a Genre” Award
Super Mario Maker
supermariomaker
I hate world creation games. When I drop $60 on a game, I’m doing so for the express purpose of playing someone else’s creation—not so I can spend time making my own. Minecraft, LittleBigPlanet, Project Spark? Throw them all in the trash as far as I’m concerned. Then came Super Mario Maker. Leave it to Nintendo to turn my pre-conceived notions on their head and throw them in the trash instead. Maybe it’s the nostalgia or familiarity that Mario Maker brings to the table, but there is something about it that has me testing out other people’s levels and building my own on a far too regular basis. And, with a steady stream of updates that only expands our potential toolset, there may be no single greater reason to own a Wii U than this.

EGMNOW’s Best of 2015 Awards Schedule

http://www.egmnow.com/wp-content/themes/egmnowv3/christmas_links2015.php

Outer Wilds won the 2015 Independent Games Festival’s grand prize and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor took home Game of the Year at the 2015 GDC Awards.

Outer Wilds was also the most prolific winner of the Indie Games Festival, pulling home a second award for Excellence in Design in what was a field of wide-ranging games in all categories.

Shadow of Mordor, meanwhile, only took home one award, but it was the biggest one of the night for the GDC Awards, which immediately followed the IGF. Monument Valley actually walked away with the most trophies, though, with three. Other notables include Alien: Isolation for Best Sound and Destiny for Best Technology.

Aside from the nine awards given out in specific categories, the GDC Awards also recognized Brenda Romero with the Ambassador Award for her over 30 years of service in the games industry. David Braben was also honored with the Pioneer Award for his work in the game Elite from the early 1980s. And finally, Hironobu Sakaguchi was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award for creating the Final Fantasy series.

At the IGFs, This War of Mine received the Audience Award as voted on by the fans.

For all of the nominees in each category, you can check out the list below. Winners of the various categories in the Independent Games Festival also received cash prizes for their victories. Winners from both events have been bolded.

Independent Games Festival: 

Excellence in Audio
Ephemerid: A Musical Adventure
Phonopath
The Sailor’s Dream
Shovel Knight
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Thumper

Excellence in Design
80 Days
Framed
Invisible, Inc.
Killer Queen
Outer Wilds
The Talos Principle

Excellence in Visual Art
Donut County
else Heart.Break()
Lumino City
Memory of a Broken Dimension
Metamorphabet
Oquonie

Excellence in Narrative
80 Days
Coming Out Simulator 2014
Ice-Bound: A Novel of Reconfiguration
PRY
This War of Mine
Three Fourths Home

Nuovo Award
BECOME A GREAT ARTIST IN 10 SECONDS
Bounden
Desert Golfing
Elegy for a Dead World
how do you Do it?
Plug & Play
Rooftop Cop
Tetrageddon Games

Student Showcase
a-part-ment
Close Your
Downwell
Even the Stars
Gemini
Interloper
Rooftop Cop
Stellar Smooch

Seumas McNally Grand Prize
80 Days
Invisible, Inc.
Metamorphabet
Outer Wilds
The Talos Principle
This War of Mine

Game Developers Choice Awards:

Best Debut
The Astronauts
Respawn Entertainment
Stoic Studio
Upper One Games
Yacht Club Games

Innovation Award
Bounden
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Monument Valley
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
This War of Mine

Best Technology
Destiny
Elite: Dangerous
Far Cry 4
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Wolfenstein: The New Order

Best Audio
Alien: Isolation
Destiny
Hohokum
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Transistor

Best Visual Art
Alien: Isolation
Bayonetta 2
Child of Light
Hohokum
Monument Valley

Best Narrative
80 Days
Kentucky Route Zero: Act III
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
This War of Mine

Best Design
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shovel Knight

Best Handheld/Mobile Game
80 Days
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Monument Valley
Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Threes!

Game of the Year
Alien: Isolation
Bayonetta 2
Destiny
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Introduction

I’m a little obsessed with our Game of the Year lists. I keep track of every game that comes out in a top-secret master document and move games up and down with each new release, patiently waiting for that final day in December when me and the EGM crew finally hash things out. 2014 was a little easier on me, though, as many of my top games have been there since the first half of the year. Much like our managing editor, Andrew Fitch, big budget disappointments marred much of the second half for me, but a few—including my eventual Game of the Year—would serve as bright spots in what has been a rather bleak winter. Now, with the promise of an eventful 2015 on the horizon, I am ready to pass my final judgment on the year that was. Here are my top picks of 2014!

Ray’s Top Five Games for 2014

#05: Bayonetta 2

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms: Wii U

Ray’s Take

If you had told me back in January that Bayonetta 2 would be in my top five at the end of the year, I’d have said you were insane. Sure, I enjoyed the first game (not nearly as much as our executive editor, Eric L. Patterson), but I saw some inherent flaws that, to me, kept it from being something beyond a niche, button-mashing, hack-n-slash game. Bayonetta 2, though, successfully built on that first game’s foundation, tweaked the combat, and added the Umbran Climax, giving me a larger sense of control in battle. I went from button mashing to carefully crafting crushing combos. Throw in one of the more charming protagonists out there and a story that finds an interesting way to tie into the first game, and I can’t help but admit that Bayonetta 2 made a believer out of me.

#04: Super Time Force

Publisher: Capybara Games
Developer: Capybara Games
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

Ray’s Take

I might be hanging out with associate editor Josh Harmon too much, because looking at my Top 25 voting, I voted for more indies than ever before. One of them, though, legitimately blew me away. I love time travel, so Super Time Force’s ability to allow you to relive sections of gameplay over and over again as a near-endless army of clones of yourself teamed up to take on harder and harder threats was the kind of zany fun I’d been missing for a long time when this game came out. Admittedly, the off-the-wall humor might not be for everyone, but there was so much more strategy involved than you’d expect from an old-school side-scrolling shooter, and I loved every rewound second of it.

#03: South Park: The Stick of Truth

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment/South Park Digital Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Ray’s Take

For a time, many were worried this game would never actually get released. But after years of delays and a change in publisher, South Park: The Stick of Truth is the purest form of the TV show we can get in a videogame. Though it paid more homage to classic elements from the show than carving its own path into the South Park mythos, The Stick of Truth’s only real fault was how short it was for an RPG. The story had me laughing constantly, and the old-school turn-based RPG combat was a welcome throwback that worked perfectly for what show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker wanted to portray here: the boys of South Park playing a game that quickly spirals out of control and pulls in forces far larger than a LARPing session should ever entail.

#02: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Retro Studios
Platforms: Wii U

Ray’s Take

For much of the year, this was my game to beat—and with great reason. Not only is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a beautiful game graphically, but I’ll say it’s the best platformer Nintendo’s put out in quite some time. The level design was absolutely superb, and it mixed just enough difficulty and replayability into each area so that I never really got tired no matter how many times I tackled the game’s dozens of stages. The addition of Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong as playable characters also opened up so many exploration opportunities that led to secret levels and items—and added some pleasant variety between the Kongs. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze makes me wish Retro would take a crack at more classic Nintendo series after they first jump-started Metroid back on the GameCube, and now they’ve done the same with Donkey Kong Country.

#01: Dragon Age Inquisition

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Platforms: Ps4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

When it comes to my fantasy, I’ve always been more of a “sci-fi” and not so much as a “high” kind of guy. But ever since an old co-worker turned me onto Dragon Age back in 2009, I’ve been hooked to this series. With decisions from the first two games coming to a head here, and with a massive world to explore, I couldn’t help but get sucked into this experience and easily clocked over 100 hours on my first playthrough. Considering our jobs here at EGM, and the fact we always have to move onto the next game, the fact I stuck with Inquisition for that long shows how immersive and addictive it is—hours would fly be in the blink of an eye. And I loved every minute of it. For the first time in a long time, I was grinding not for achievements, but just to squeeze every last line of dialogue from a cast of characters that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. And in terms of gameplay, whether it was playing the political game of Orlesian high society or the huge cheer that escaped my lips when I slayed my first gorgeous new-gen dragon, I couldn’t get enough of being the Inquisitor, and I happily choose Dragon Age: Inquisition as my personal game of the year.

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards for 2014

The 4th Annual “The Colors, Duke! The Colors!” Award for Most Colorful Game
(Brought to you by Popsicle)
The Banner Saga
I played a lot of great-looking games this year, including some that I already mentioned in my list above. But just eking them all out was Stoic’s The Banner Saga. This strategy title channeled the animation style of Don Bluth, and the character design and colors were a feast for the eyes. It’s more than deserving of this fourth annual award, especially because none of the quality is lost whether you’re playing the game on a high-end PC or an iOS device like an iPad 2.
The “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” Award
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
This one goes out to a game that heavily borrows some elements from other titles—but then does them better than the series it borrowed them from. This year, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the recipient for this award, because they out–Assassin’s Creed-ed Assassin’s Creed, especially this year. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but if I’m the guys at Ubisoft, I’d be a little peeved that the folks at Monolith and Warner Bros. knocked out of the park on their first try things Ubisoft is still struggling to get right.
The “No Such Thing as a Sophomore Slump” Award
Transistor
When you consider how big a splash Supergiant Games made with their 2011 breakout indie hit, Bastion, it would’ve been understandable if the pressure of that success caused them to regress a little in their next effort. Instead, they showed that they’re a force to be reckoned with in the development community, as their second game, Transistor, was as intriguing and as moving as their first. Borrowing only a minimal amount of elements from Bastion, Transistor gave us compelling new combat and upgrade systems while telling the heart-wrenching story of protagonist Red and her lost love as it plays out in her dystopian future, and provided another immersive experience for gamers everywhere.

EGMNOW’s Best of 2014 Awards Schedule

http://www.egmnow.com/wp-content/themes/egmnowv3/christmas_links.php

VGX was supposed to be a new beginning for Viacom’s oft-mocked videogame awards, the former VGAs. It was supposed to just be about the games and gamers, moving away from the glitz and celebrity it had always tried to pair with the industry in the past.  It was supposed to be different, and it was supposed to be better. Well, it was at least different, I guess.

If you missed the constant stream of social-media vitriol toward this past weekend’s VGX, then you’re probably not concerned with videogames in the slightest. Even those with a passing interest would’ve been hard pressed to avoid seeing their Twitter feed or Facebook flooded with anger over yet another year of talking down to gamers and failing to provide us with a legitimate venue to celebrate an ever-growing pastime.

And while some of those new ideas might be the beginnings of a show turning in the right direction, just about everything else reminded me of the end chase scene in the 1980 musical comedy classic, The Blues Brothers, where more and more cop cars kept crashing into each other for no good reason. Every VGX segment was simply another one of those ill-fated cop cars.

Now, since it’s my opinion that the people who put this show on every year don’t get what we want to see, I’ve taken it upon myself to come up with 10 ways that they could improve and maybe, finally, give gamers the awards show they deserve.

1) New Hosts

Since at least 75 percent of the VGX hate on the Internet has been slung in the general direction of Joel McHale, this is the easiest—and first—fix. For three hours, it seemed like McHale’s sole purpose was to try to derail the show as much as possible while also talking down to his audience like we were a bunch of sideshow freaks who didn’t deserve him as a host. You’re right, Joel: We don’t deserve you as a host, but it’s not because we’re beneath you.

And I understand that Joel was brought in at the last minute, probably to infuse the show with a little of the celebrity of VGAs gone by in case some viewers still liked that idea. The problem is that plenty of other celebrities actually care about their audience—or are talented enough at least to hide their contempt. This is the second time I’ve seen McHale host a videogame function, and both times, he came off as a prissy little assclown who was just there to collect a paycheck.

And whether you like him or not, Geoff Keighley isn’t a bad host, but he was put into a situation where he was doomed to fail from the start. Every time McHale went off-prompter, Keighley was like a deer in headlights—McHale’s ad libbing was too much for him to keep up with. Keighley’s effort should be commended, since it’s never easy when your co-host throws you and your show under the bus every chance he gets, but it was frustrating to watch and created an awkward dynamic.

The easiest solution to this is simple. Either cut VGX down to a single host like most every other awards show, or bring in co-hosts that could actually work off each other. Plus, the hosts don’t need to be traditional “Hollywood celebrities.” There’s a wealth of videogame journalists and developers out there that have enough on-camera experience to hold their own and still provide entertaining commentary. Or, if you want to really show off some talent, how about the best of both worlds and having voice actors host? Who wouldn’t want to see Troy Baker, Jennifer Hale, and Nolan North talk about games and give out awards?

2) A Live Studio Audience

Another ridiculously awkward element of VGX was the lack of an audience beyond the production crew. The only time I actually laughed at something Joel McHale said was when he painfully mentioned, “And I’m the only one clapping…” after an award was announced.

Again, this seemed to be part of the movement away from the 300-plus-person live audience of years past, but not having anyone at all to react to what was going on left a lot of uncomfortable silence. All you need is 20 to 30 people applauding to really help transition everything smoothly, and the crew should have more important things to worry about than waiting for Joel’s cue to clap to fill what became an increasingly evident problem.

3) Rehearsal!

Back when I first started my media career, I freelanced for quite a few live and live-to-tape productions, so I know how difficult it is to pull off something like that—and most of those were only 30 or 60 minutes. So, I tip my hat to the cast and crew anytime something along the lines of three hours actually gets done. That being said, there were clear moments that made the lack of preparation evident—like when Camilla Luddington, the voice of Lara Croft, had no idea that Keighley and McHale were going to ask her to throw to a clip introducing Lara as one of the nominees for Character of the Year.

Of course, any live production is going to include elements that are simply out of a crew’s control, and no amount of pre-production can predict some untimely mishaps. That wasn’t the case here, though. Making sure all the talent is on the same page would surely be one thing the producers, a floor manager, or ANYONE on the crew (as, again, McHale pointed out live after Luddington’s face became a total blank by saying “I guess we should’ve told you we were going to do this”) could’ve done to make the overall production look a bit more professional. And, obviously, I’m not saying a somewhat off-the-cuff interview should’ve been rehearsed, but someone should’ve made Luddington aware of what was planned during her segment. A lack of organization will always find a way to make itself known, and this was only one of several instances where folks in front of the camera were in the dark about what was going on around them.

This is another easy fix. If you plan on doing something special or different with someone on-air, make sure they’re fully aware before the cameras start rolling.

4) Smarter Social-Media Interaction

Incorporating Twitter and Facebook into any live show seems to be a necessity nowadays, and VGX wanted to make sure it didn’t miss jumping on the bandwagon. The problem is—especially considering how obviously disorganized the show already was behind the scenes—utilizing something as unpredictable as social media effectively is a monumental task.

Many times, the questions tweeted in and read by Keighley and McHale were already asked by one of the hosts before the social-media segment started. Was no one screening these tweets? Of course, maybe there was so much hate directed toward VGX that the screeners just couldn’t pay attention to the live show while filtering out all the rage.

And having the order of your awards dictated by social media was repetitive, considering you already have the viewers voting on two awards as is. Nothing like coming up with scripts live while switching other segments on the fly. VGX should have simply included a scrolling ticker on the bottom of the screen, since Keighley and McHale didn’t need anymore help making this show a trainwreck.

5) No More Concerts

Game music should be celebrated any chance we get. When you look at shows like Video Games Live and other events dedicated solely to some of our favorites themes, there’s more than enough proof of why game music is an art form in and of itself. I don’t think anyone was clamoring for live performances of several songs from the hundred-song GTAV playlist, though.

I understand that part of it was because GTAV had won the Best Soundtrack Award (and deservedly so, partially due to the sheer size of the game’s playlist alone). But if you really want to celebrate the music, you should pick songs that are less likely to offend than “Hood Gone Love It.” Also, give every game’s music a little recognition. Do it like the Oscars and have bands or orchestras perform each game’s main theme over the course of the show. The concert was overkill and felt like nothing more than a desperate attempt to fill the last a half hour of airtime.

6) Don’t Give Out the Biggest Award in the Middle of the Show

This is just Awards Show 101. You’ve only got so many things people are looking forward to—especially with so many “reveals” being leaked early from various sources. By giving this award out at the halfway mark, you’re just asking for people (particularly a more casual audience) to close the video player. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be fired. Plain and simple: The biggest award is given out last.

7) Nix the Pre-Show

I didn’t even realize there was a VGX pre-show until I tuned in for the 3 p.m. Pacific start time. It was never promoted (and, if it was, no one I know saw it), so when I first came to the VGX website, there were already five or six videos that I wanted to see instead of the actual show itself. There was a world premiere and six awards given out before the show officially started. If you’re going to do a pre-show, you need to do a better job of promoting yourself—and, actually, this leads into my next point.

8) Give Out ALL the Awards During the Show

One of the longest-running complaints about the VGAs reared its head again this year: VGX still refused to give out all its awards during the show. Considering how much difficulty they had filling three hours of content—what with the clueless hosts, botched segments, and boring “comedy” sketches—there was no reason for all 21 awards to not be given out over the course of the show. Fighting Game of the Year, RPG of the Year, and more were relegated to second-rate award status, preventing these games from getting the proper recognition from the largest audience possible.  Nothing like disrespecting several gaming genres when putting on a show about gamers. This is another simple fix: Just give out the monkey trophy for every category you have.

9) Don’t Make Winning a Chore

It was an interesting idea to give the winners of this year’s awards the time to do whatever they wanted with their acceptance video. Mind you, it comes off like the devs are tired of making the trek to L.A., but without the pomp and circumstance of years past, I can’t blame them, either.

One thing could bring them back, though. Instead of boring acceptance speeches or “funny” videos, what if the developers sat down with the hosts afterward for a couple of minutes and talked about their game and how things may have changed for them since launch? Maybe a mini-postmortem. Work with the developers instead of making them do something. (They just won an award, and they’ve worked enough on their own already.) VGX would get content, viewers would get insight, and the creators could get the chance to talk meaningfully about something they put a lot of clear effort into.

Definitely don’t make them do something, though. No one needs another redubbed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag cinema scene. 

10) Better Exclusives

With most of the VGX “reveals” already leaked the week prior—and the only three legitimate surprises including two from the same company—there’s some murmuring among the gaming community that developers have finally decided to start pulling out of VGX, since its demotion from primetime TV to web streaming puts the relevance at an all-time low.

Disappointing trailer after disappointing trailer was easily the worst part of the show. We could’ve tolerated McHale’s animosity, the awful concert, and the social-media stupidity if VGX gave us something truly awesome to look forward to. And while Telltale’s new games and No Man’s Sky raised our eyebrows for brief moments, they were nowhere near enough to save this show from itself. No elaboration on Uncharted 4, no big announcement from Nintendo, and nothing to get truly excited about to carry us into 2014. Those are VGX’s greatest mistakes of all, because this year, more than any other, the show came across as a waste of time.

Back in December I had the chance to attend the 2010 SpikeTV VGAs and work the red carpet. Here I had a chance to speak with the only version of Commander Shepard for most people, Jennifer Hale, the female version of Commander Shepard for Bioware’s Mass Effect series. We chatted about how more people should look at her as the only Commander Shepard and how it is to be in such a widely popular series.

Back in December I had the chance to attend the 2010 SpikeTV VGAs and work the red carpet. It was here that I got a chance to catch up with the hosts of Spike’s Deadliest Warrior, which is about to launch its 3rd season in July. Geoff Desmoulin, Dr. Armand Dorian, and Richard “Mack” Machowicz are all great guys.