When the end of the year rolls around it’s not uncommon to see various sites reminiscing on the past 365 days, and gaming websites are no different. But (as is so common with us) we found ourselves disagreeing with almost every other site’s or channel’s game of the year awards. Obviously this meant we would have to share our own views. What we found surprised us: only a handful of games stole all of our awards. And, less surprisingly, they weren’t AAA titles.
Best Sequel: Tomb Raider
I’ll say it right now: I’m not a fan of Tomb Raider and I never have been. When I was a child I used to spend hours exploring her mansion and locking the creepy butler in the freezer, but beyond that the game has never managed to hold my attention. While this year’s installment was also unable to keep me interested (Syndrome played while I half watched), there were certain aspects about it that I found admirable. The biggest one is, of course, their attempt at making Lara Craft more about being a person and less about having boobs.
Best Female Character: Sam
The younger sister in Gone Home, Sam, was hands down the best female character in any game I played this year. She was so…real. I can honestly say I have never encountered a more real character in a video game. It was so easy to understand her and feel for her. While you can make a pretty accurate guess early on as to what her story is going to be about, the joy of the game is understanding how she gets there. Sam is a beautiful, intimate character who exhibits fear, love, excitement, sadness, happiness–the full spectrum of human emotion. Most video game characters (particular female) get to maybe express a cardboard version of just one emotion in any given game, so this was enormous. Sam was brilliant, and her character is the reason you keep playing the game.
Best Male Character: Little Brother
Choosing a character for this category was hard because, as with most men in video games, there wasn’t much selection. While nearly all games featured male protagonists and supporting casts, the men all felt the same. Static, dull, and violent with a troubled past. /Yawn. So instead, I chose a boy.
The younger brother in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a funny, mischievous little turd and I love him for it. While the older brother approaches every situation with a sense of seriousness, the little brother approaches things more playfully. He plays pranks on villagers, pesters rabbits–even dumps water over a certain reluctant bridge guard. The little brother feels like a young boy: yes, he’s had a tough life and the effects of his mother’s death are very much apparent, but unlike most male characters in games he hasn’t let that one event consume all parts of his life. Even with his father on his deathbed, the younger brother still finds time to be a cheery prankster, something we could all learn from.
Most Disappointing Female Character: Lara Croft
We were told this year that we were going to get a real character in Lara Croft–a woman who is “strong” (whatever that means) and not just a sex object. While I appreciate their attempt, I just can’t agree that they succeeded. By trying to make her “real” and starting with her origin story, they showed a new, more vulnerable side that we perhaps haven’t seen before. But the truth is, she was so vulnerable throughout the whole game that she would have died, to put it bluntly. The entire time she was freaking out about the things going on around her–from the way she experienced the stream of blood to when she was being attacked by baddies–and frankly it would have gotten her killed.
I can understand wanting to show her frightened, and I applaud that. But at some point it should have stopped. At some point she would have needed to shut down if she was to survive, but she didn’t and that made me find her story far less believable.
Most Disappointing Male Character: Booker DeWitt
Booker was leaps and bounds ahead of most meat shield characters, but not enough. I truly thought we were going to get to see Booker act more like a human than a thug and, while he made progress throughout their journey, it just wasn’t enough to work for me. Also, I have such a hard time sympathizing with dumb characters, and he made a lot of dumb decisions.
Best Music: Bioshock Infinite
Music was a tough one, but in the end it had to go to Bioshock. Hearing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” as sung by an old timey vocalist was so hilarious and clever I laughed out loud when I heard it.
Best Art Design: Bioshock Infinite
Also a toughie, in the end it went to Bioshock because of how well they handled the transition from peaceful utopian society to completely effed up town of terror. The game starts out so beautiful but ends up dark and scary.
Best Graphics: Gone Home
The attention to detail in Gone Home is absolutely astounding. When you pick up a can of pop and see the nutritional information is actually written out you feel even more as though you are there. The lighting and general appearance of the game was absolutely stunning.
Best Story: Bioshock Infinite
The moment when you understand the pinky–yeah.
Best Gameplay: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Sure, it may have been simple once you got the hang of it, but gameplay doesn’t have to be difficult to be rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of controlling both characters independently, particularly in the epilogue. The gameplay became a storytelling device in its own right, and that was pretty lovely.
Worst Gameplay: Bioshock Infinite
Ugh. So. Freaking. Boring. As I said in my review, if I had been the one playing, I wouldn’t have made it all the way through. I got bored just watching and would periodically surf the web while waiting for Syndrome to get to more interesting plot points.
I am a bit biased in that I think all shooters are boring, but what had me most disappointed in this game was that there was nothing else for you to do. Elizabeth unlocked everything so there wasn’t even a mini-game there, and while they had created a fascinating world, you weren’t able to interact with it in any way other than shooting people. This is the very definition of boring gameplay to me.
(Syndrome completely disagrees with me here: he actually enjoyed the gameplay.)
Most Disappointing Game of the Year: Dragon’s Prophet
I’ve already written an entire post on why this game failed so hard, which you can read here. Just trust me on this–the concept was absolutely fantastic, but the execution was terrible. Months later I’m still sad.
Game of the Year: Gone Home
This was a tough decision. Initially I was all for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons as game of the year. The gameplay was fresh and fun, the story made me alternate between laughing and crying, and the world was both terrifying and beautiful.
But then I played Gone Home and knew I had been wrong. Because while Brothers is an amazing game, Gone Home is amazing in other ways. I was far more invested in the story right from the get-go. The game paints a very true to life image of a very believable American family in a way that no game I have ever played has done before. Many people will tell you that it’s just a glorified picture book, but I don’t see why that has to be a bad thing. The story was presented so well and it was so believable. What’s more the game was fun to play. I wanted to know everything I could about these people and I wanted to try to piece together on my own what had happened. If a game engaging my curiosity and therefore being played straight through is a bad thing, send all the bad games my way because apparently I will gobble them.
I hope you enjoyed our gaming awards!