End of the year awards 2011: Runners up + Extras

This year was pretty awesome. Like, we got a few stinkers but nothing that made me crown another horrible game, Kane and Lynch 2, the game of the year. Nothing was ever that bad. I’ve done my awards for this year, all of them, and I think they were all well justified. Portal 2 was a big winner, for sure, but Minecraft just had to take the coveted ‘Game of the Year’ award home. I wrote a goddamn book around it, generally, and it deserves it. There aren’t many games which can call themselves at the ‘peak of non-linearity’. So let’s run through some of the awards, the nominees, and the runners-up.

This was quite a toughie. Dead Space 2 was, at one point, the surefire winner after I replayed it. It’s honestly the Uncharted 2 of survival-horror, one of my favourite games of the year, but it’s not… horror per-say. It’s no Amnesia. The Binding of Isaac was going to clock this one at another point to, a fantasy trip inside the mind of Edmund (from Team Meat). Deus Ex Human Revolution and its Blade Runner ambiances should have won but I left it up in the air with Bastion. Bastion didn’t win a single award, which is a shame, because it’s one of my favourite games of the year too. But Portal 2 had to win, it just had to. No game this year truly paced itself so well and blended all elements seamlessly together to give Valve’s best game yet.
A bit of a surprise, but at one-time it was a game of the year nominee. What Give Up, Robot 2 was to 2010, PixelJunk Shooter 2 is to 2011. Sidescroller was also given a nod, along with Bastion. Renegade Ops was given a little pointing too, though I’ll admit it’s only because I haven’t played Trenched yet… or whatever it’s called now. Speaking of Double Fine; Stacking too was a game of the year nominee at one point for me, a great year for downloadable games. But Shooter 2 had to take the cake, it had everything I ever wanted in a twin-stick shooter and more to boot.
Blade Runner are the first two words to come to mind when Human Revolution does. I don’t think any other game was designed so beautifully and so densely rich with detail. It’s a true renaissance minutia type of thing, perfectly embodying the old world/new world and transhuman thematics that the game carries through. The closest anybody came was probably Stacking with its giddy visuals, but Deus Ex took the crown because it was so deep and rooted inside its own golden visuals.
Generally no competition. Dragon Age 2 was one of the worst games I’ve ever played, but otherwise, this was one of the most disgusting experiences I’ve ever had with a video-game. Absolutely horrible.
Isaac took this home for its emergent level design and permadeath rouge-like gameplay that gave me so much glee so much! Minecraft would go on to win game of the year, Frozen Synapse is still the best multiplayer I have ever played, Bastion is Bastion but without a doubt (what I feel) was robbed by… me… was The Stanley Parable. Go. Google it, download it. It’s probably the greatest meta-commentary on game design, linear game design, Orwellian thematics and is full of humour, poignancy and melancholy blends. Isaac took the crown but Stanley is… just wow.
The toughest thing to do  with video-games is make them funny. Humour requires timing, delivery and that can’t be done so well when video-games are all about freedom and all that. So along comes Valve who not only make the funniest game of the year but one of the most heartbreaking, intriguing and downright brutally emotional narratives. Not many games can call a “drastic flippancy of tone” a positive but Portal 2 demonstrates this. Greek tragedy subtexts, links to Valve’s ironic non-interactivity and probably some of the cleverest villain work in any medium. Nothing compares. Not even close.
Probably the toughest award to dish out. Isaac had the utterly sexilicious finger-lickin’ good DannyB on board, Frozen Synapse was so techno-BladeRunnery it almost hurt after all the eargasms, Bastion‘s was just beautiful, Skyrim was another Oblivion to me but Portal 2 took the award because I’ve listened to it more than any other. It’s served me well through those heavy writing times, all three FREE volumes have been played over and over. Not many game soundtracks can be enjoyed outside of the video-game itself, but Portal 2 relishes in it.
And so came the genuinely best game of the year. The one that I enjoyed more than any other, and for a while it was something else, the game that was flawless in its enjoyment. Rayman Origins (upon reflection) deserves even higher recognition, my E3 game of the year last year I think. Deus Ex Human Revolution kind of belittled the whole ‘choice’ thing (I’ll talk in depth about it in next month’s ‘Workshop’), Arkham City was just Rocksteady’s finest hour and that’s saying something after Asylum. But, the most unparalleled experience I had this year was Portal 2. A true trip into my heart. Stephen Merchant, witty writing, Greek tragedy, zany music and incredible storytelling rich with ironic non-interactivity.
But then Skyrim happened. A game I’m playing to this day, have logged over forty hours on, and yet have not hated or even disliked any second of it. A brutally flawless game. I see no end in sight and I’ve caught the Oblivion bug again.
It was always going to be Minecraft. Even before its official release this year I was kind of letting it out of 2010. Rayman Origins deserves this title but Minecraft just needs it. After all I’ve said and written about the game, it has to be my game of the year. A tour de force of non-linear video-game design and probably home to some of the most emotional experiences of my life. Not surrogate experiences, not ‘interactive experiences’… experiences full stop. No other game really compares to it. I hope it changes game design. Forever.
  • Biggest Disappointment – Uncharted 3 by Naughty Dog
  • Best Storytelling – Portal 2 by Valve Software
  • Most Underrated – Bastion by SuperGiant Games
  • Most Overrated – Uncharted 3 by Naughty Dog
  • The game of the year in the making – Gunpoint by Tom Francis
  • Most anticipated release of 2011 – The Last Guardian by Team ICO
  • DLC of the year – New Vegas: Old World Blues by Obsidian Entertainment
  • Best voice acting – Portal 2 by Valve Software (specifically Stephen Merchant)

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