What Makes a Game of the Year?
With the end of the year drawing ever closer, people are beginning to create their ‘Game of the Year’ lists. As always, the majority of the time, there is always a group of people who will question anyone’s choices. This is all fair and good, but everyone has their reasons for selecting a game–or games–as the best of that year. But what makes a game of the year? Is it based purely on merit or quality and technical finesse? Is it how successful the game is both commercially and critically? Or is it something more personal?
The core ideology surrounding the concept of ‘Game of the year’ is that said game is well-made and well-rounded. It should be of a high standard in each area; it should be a quality experience. Examples of games that cover this, that are often considered GotY in their respective release years, are Halo 3, Red Dead Redemption, and Uncharted 2. All of these games hold the qualities previously mentioned and have thus been awarded for them, but can we also judge games on personal merit through memories and attachments we have to them?
If a game is not made particularity well, at least compared to others, does that mean it should be discounted as a Game of the year contender? One of the miracles of any creation is we can forge connections through various means, even if the creation is bad in either technical terms or by general consensus. This is especially true with videogames. You can make what you want out of them–to a degree, anyway. A personal example of this was last year’s Zombi U, a clunky, ugly, fiddly survival horror on the Wii U. On a technical level, its controls weren’t great, its textures were kind of shoddy, yet this didn’t matter to me because of the experience.
Zombi U was the only recent title I can recall that truly made me panic when playing the game. The clunky controls and rough movement enhanced the experience so that it made it feel more real and more intense. Playing the game in the dark while my father simultaneously chirped in with random comments, with occasional minor bouts of screaming due to zombies, made the game feel wholeheartedly more fun. Zombi U did not do too well in terms of commercial or critical success, yet I put it high up my game of the year list and championed the game nevertheless. Technical ability perhaps doesn’t play as big as factor as many may think.
There’s nothing wrong with selecting games based on their technical accomplishments or popularity, within limit of course. After all, it’s an opinion at the end of the day. The whole notion of Game of the Year is utterly arbitrary after all. But they do allow us to champion our favorite games, and that’s brilliant. Selecting a GotY is often a great way to see how ranged the tastes of people are, and how much the videogame industry has to offer in terms of creativity and games. Everyone judges based on their own criteria, their own experiences, so let’s sit back and discuss people’s selections, not belittle them.