It seems now there’s some controversy over The Walking Dead taking the Game of the Year award at the Spike Television Video Game Awards. The argument, as I’ve come to understand it, is over the fact that several games this year have come out that, in the minds of some gamers at least, should have beaten it. The other contenders were Dishonored a game I personally love, Journey which is hailed as one of the finest artistic games of the generation, Assassins Creed III and Mass Effect 3 both endings to an epic saga.
Then again I’m more upset Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles lost to that New Super Mario Bros. U title. Yes I know it’s Mario but are we really seeing anything new here? Then again Carl on Duty: Black Cops II didn’t win a single award and I couldn’t be more pleased.
If you want my perspective on this whole situation in a nutshell it can be summed up with this factoid: In 2003 the game of the year according to the VGAs was Madden NFL 2004 beating out such titles as Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I think that should give you the best impression of the kind of rampant pandering to publishers (that probably paid for their awards) and exactly who the audience is that Spike TV expects to have watching their show.
That is effectively what the VGAs are now well known for despite the panel of judges supposedly being reviewers from across the industry. Though, knowing what I do now about most video game reviewers, that isn’t saying much. To emphasize my point former games like Okami and Shadow of the Colossus haven’t even earned a nomination in their respective years. But then what do you expect from an award show that once consistently held a category called “Best Cyber Vixen of the Year” and last year spontaneously gave out an award called “Gamer God” to Blizzard in 2011. This was a year when they didn’t release anything and one year after the whole Starcraft II always online debacle.
I know this is me showing my bias guys but Valve is sitting right there. You know, Valve? The guys who made DRM as painless as possible and helped revive PC gaming with Steam and giving indie games a location to sell? And this was before Steam Greenlight? Remember those guys?
So to get back to the point, you’re probably asking if I think The Walking Dead deserved to win. I honestly have no answer for that. I haven’t played it and I don’t really know anyone who has, or if I do they haven’t really spoken in great detail of it. I’m told there’s great characterization and a couple of the episodes are outright amazing but everything beyond that is theory for me. I mean, the idea is that you have a branching story based on which of your fellow survivors you save. Therefore you have reason to replay the game. Which is nice but a story alone doesn’t make a game. A good game is meant to be played and experienced and I still maintain that no matter how much I love Adventure Games I will give it up always to games with more features that give players more control. But then is that just my perception? Because my perception can be wrong. You still move in adventure games and your actions have real consequences, even more real by the fact that it resonates within a story. That’s a hard line to draw.
So if that’s the case then we have to assess if The Walking Dead is better at achieving its goals in gaming as opposed to other games it was up against. That is even more subjective because it’s based on relative enjoyment so where is the measure.
Now we can argue those semantics back and forth and gain nothing and I mean nothing from the discourse because of the fact that we are using our own subjective opinions. Even if some of my readers out there have backgrounds in game design I still think there will be schisms. Hell I’m not even counting the school of thought that thinks the game just won because zombies are cool. Because I’ve heard that side continue to argue their point. It gets nutty.
But there is one thing we must realize: the question is not simply one of if The Walking Dead deserved to win the Spike VGAs or not. The question is this: what happens now in gaming?
Let’s assume a variety of casual gamers watch the VGA awards. They see a game like The Walking Dead and see it win game of the year. So they want to play it. Lo and behold the game has just come out only a few days after the award show happens. Suddenly there is an interest in a pure Adventure game. Suddenly that is a viable market as copies are purchased.
I think somebody got really clever at the Judge’s table this year.
If the VGAs were the same testosterone laden reject farm it’s been known for, such a title might have earned a win in its own category in the past. It got game of the year though.
It certainly shows some balls to put such a game forward over other, more traditionally favoured games. Like I said: Balls of Fury: Crap Shots 2 didn’t take a single award this year. Hell it didn’t even get considered for the top spot. Is this an attempt for the Spike VGAs to be viable? Or is it an attempt to prove that an adventure game, beloved lost child of the industry, is commercially viable?
To say the least, if the Spike VGAs have any influence at all on the current gaming market then in the ensuing years we may see an influx of games reviving old genres and combining existing ones.
And perhaps, perhaps we’ll have a great beautiful future ahead of us in gaming.
So too does this work exist.