Best Year Ever?

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Award shows, while certainly opportunities to celebrate their given medium, are just as often topics of jokes. The multitude of <em>Simpsons</em> jokes about the Grammys and People&rsquo;s Choice Awards alone drilled that in.</p>

The Video Game Awards tended to be in the latter unfortunately, but when long-running host Geoff Keighley relaunched The Game Awards, it actually became something I didn’t have to be entirely embarrassed by.

The nominees for this year’s Game of the Year were recently released. While always subjective, I personally looked at the list and remarked, “This may be one of the best years for gaming ever.”

Bloodborne. Fallout 4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Super Mario Maker. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Not only was each in their own right capable of being someone’s personal favourite game of the year, but this list really represented 2015 as a whole. 

It was the year of the open world, that genre of game that places a player in one large sandbox and a set of game mechanics and says “go nuts.”

The Witcher 3 really pushed what we thought story and graphics could be like in a massive world, providing one of the best stories I’ve seen in gaming supplemented with uncannily realistic characters providing the dialogue. It’s my best guess for winner of Game of the Year.

Fallout remained the king of the hoarder, collecting every in-game knick-knack to endlessly modify your weapons or make your own ramshackle settlement in the wasteland. It’s telling though, that the former king of the open world, the creators of Skyrim, may well not win Game of the Year. The Witcher 3 just blew its dialogue and graphics out of the water, with a far more stable game than Bethesda tends to provide.

I’d like to see Fallout 4 lose out, if only to tell Bethesda that the competition has caught up: they need to step it up now.

Honestly, if I gush anymore about Bloodborne, I’ll truly come off as a rabid fanboy. But it really is my personal Game of the Year, hell, potentially Game of the Decade. A sublime excursion into the most vivid representation of a nightmare brought to life. It’d get my vote, and I still hold out for it to win Game of the Year. 

While not without its flaws, MGSV: TPP was more or less the pinnacle of stealth gameplay, and the ultimate form of a series that will be cut short of Konami’s seemingly self-destructive departure from gaming. 

Super Mario Maker was not a game I managed to cover, but Andrew Silver’s review more than made up for that absence. Make your own Mario levels. An appeal as easy to see as the Lego-style appeal of Minecraft. For my part, I think Splatoon may have deserved a spot more: a fun third-person shooter that really injected some originality into that well-trodden ground.

The Indie Game of the Year is representative of just how great the small developers are becoming. Undertale is quickly becoming a cult phenomenon, and is a shoo-in to win. That of course is no disrespect to other indie hits. We’ve also got Rocket League, soccer  played by rocket-powered RC cars, and Her Story, a game where you piece together live police footage to find the truth behind a murder.

It’s becoming harder for me justify going in for the Same Old S@#t ™ that the AAA developers put out every year. For example, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate actually reviewed very well, but it was so hard to justify purchasing it over the infinitely more intricate releases on the Game of the Year list. 

Call of Duty is losing its lustre. I’m already cynical of Star Wars: Battlefront and its $70 (!) season pass. The Game of the Year nominees reveal just how great games can be when the right team and the right budget are set loose and create something truly impressive. 

In an industry of nickel-and-dime microtransactions and season passes, having a singular vision to create the best game you can counts for a lot. The Same Old S@#t ™ will sell as well as it usually does. But like the savvy film viewer can shy away from the loud and stupid movies that plague the theatres, there are games that break the mould that a savvy gamer would much rather play.

The average person only gets one game a year. Do me a favour. Choose one of this year’s Game of the Year nominees. You likely won’t regret it.