If I never win an award for my writing I should at least win something for my titles right? Look at that. Look at it. The entire content of this 800 word post is boiled down into a single, ham-fisted, utterly guileless phrase ensuring you don’t even need to read this bit. And let’s face it you probably aren’t.
Anyway, I tuned into the Game BAFTAs this year because why not, and to my shock and bewilderment it was really bloody good.
Not that I despise the BAFTAs on some sort of singular, personal level – or at all really; most awards ceremonies are wall to wall corporate pandering, complete with tuxedo-laden tiddlywinks scuttling about the place and looking all bashful and teary and pleased with themselves. Winning things is totally overrated. They should try not winning things, like me.
But I also find any celebration of games to usually be worth checking out, and boy oh boy did this year’s show do some good.
The BAFTAs love themselves a good indie. Last year’s darling was the undeniably fucking fantastic Inside, and this year there was an interestingly wide array of different games, not only nominated, but actually picking up the awards as well.
Hellblade Cleans Up
Slap bang in the centre of the proceedings this year was Ninja Theory’s astonishing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice; a game that directly tackles the disorienting and life-altering effects of mental illness and psychosis. Infuriatingly, I’ve not got round to playing this yet, though I have been banging on about doing so for ages.
In spite of that, I was overjoyed to see the game so fervently celebrated throughout the night, because it stands for something else. An involved narrative and an underlying message – having something to say and portraying some specific feeling through a metaphorical world. Hellblade is steeped in meaning, and we (I) want that in my games.
Of course, these awards shows rarely reflect the feelings of the ‘gamers’ en masse, (you’ve seen the gamers) but any momentary glance at a Twitch stream comments section will prove to you that we don’t want it to reflect the feelings of ‘gamers en masse’, because ‘gamers en masse’ is a terrible thing.
The show felt like it had been intentionally hinged on the potential good in this industry. With heartfelt commitments and acceptance speeches on stage, from those who worked on Hellblade particularly, to the emotional peak that was the Fellowship Award, duly dished out to industry legend Tim Schafer; this year in part felt much like a salute to a capacity for openness and inclusivity that the industry so often so sorely lacks.
Cuphead, Night in the Woods and Horizon Awards
Cuphead picked up the award for soundtrack, and to my mind this had no real competitors, because no other game offers a relentless onslaught of excellent jazz music, which I’m all for.
Night in the Woods, another game I’m yet to play (and its recent Switch release also means I’ve run out of excuses), won the narrative award, so I definitely will be playing it; and the majesty and soaring achievement that is Horizon: Zero Dawn won Original Property. All in all, a deserved and comparatively diverse crowd of trophy nabbers.
Best Game Winner:
Most surprising of all perhaps was the Best Game Award which went to none other than What Remains of Edith Finch. That an explorative, narrative-driven game that directly confronts the turbulent emotions that are born of loss and isolation, could take home this prize is actually a bit of a testament to the prize itself, this year. The team previously made Unfinished Swan, another BAFTA winning, experimental release, and to see recognition for a team that are genuinely innovating is glorious.
Awards shows mean little in the bigger, sprawling, impossible to manage picture, but perhaps we can all take some solace in the fact that this year’s BAFTAs felt, to me at least, like a strong-footed step forward.