“Game of the Year” Too Complex to Define?

Game of the Year should be simple. But you know, it really isn't.

The nature of the “Game of the Year” award seems to be, at least on the surface, relatively simple.

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Sure, it’s easy: The best game of the year.  Straightforward, right?

But man, that coveted title is just riddled with potential pitfalls, which generates lots of questions from the gaming populace.  Let’s list those pitfalls.

1. What is “best,” anyway?

The problem is that obviously, “best” is awfully subjective.  Quality is not dependent upon personal opinion and reviews consist of both objective and subjective elements.  For instance, it would be erroneous to say that the graphics in The Last Of Us are inferior to the graphics in Call of Duty: Ghosts.  Of course, it’s a sliding scale, but you get my meaning.

The point is that although there are indeed qualitative aspects to every game, those subjective elements are guaranteed to get in the way.  On top of which, how do you weigh the decided-upon quality?  Some sources put a heavier emphasis on innovation and originality, for instance, while others are more interested in overall polish.

2. When the game is released really does matter

It’s a common theory in the movie industry that if you’re going to produce a legitimate Best Picture contender, it’s best to release it as close to the Oscars as possible.  The fresher it is in the voter’s minds, the better.  Well, we’re not necessarily seeing that practice in the gaming industry; for the most part, the reason why big games come out at the end of the year involves potential sales.  Has nothing to do with awards…at least, not yet.

Furthermore, we’re comparing review scores for such awards, right?  Most people assume this.  Well, how relevant are the review scores for a game like Bioshock Infinite, which came out before the heaviest competition?  Critics couldn’t compare that game to Grand Theft Auto V, The Last Of Us, and the like.  That doesn’t make Infinite a lesser game; it just means reviewers didn’t have such stiff competition for comparison purposes.

3. OMG, too many platforms!

This one should be obvious.  If a source covers all platforms that handle games, that should include everything from the DS to the PC (and all platforms in between), right?  If that’s the case, is it really fair to compare the smaller, bite-size downloadable titles to the big-budget blockbusters?  Last year’s Journey presented critics and decision-makers for GotY with a similar problem.  The games with smaller budgets and less crazy ambition may not have as many flaws, simply because there isn’t anywhere near as much content.

And what about this year and the advent of the new generation?  Is it fair to compare PS4 games to PS3 games?  Okay, the PS4 didn’t have the greatest launch lineup ever (and neither did the Xbox One), but you understand the point.

4. Mainstream vs. “hardcore”

Many avid gamers believe that some of the more visible GotY awards (such as the recent VGX Awards on Spike TV) are geared a bit more toward the mainstream/casual crowd.  The hardcore claim other titles deserve more respect but because they’re not considered popular, they’re not getting enough recognition.  That’s part of the reason why you see different winners for the Spike awards as opposed to, say, the BAFTA Awards.  To top it all off, you’ve got the complex issue of “casual vs. hardcore,” which is extraordinarily subjective.

Where does it all end?

Oh, it’s hard to say.  It’s just too thorny to come to any conclusive decision, wouldn’t you say?


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Fathoms_4209
A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.