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Hit Points is a free newsletter from former Edge editor Nathan Brown, delivering insight and commentary on the games industry.
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I decided against pulling an all-nighter to watch Geoff Keighley and friends dropping the curtain on 2022 this week, because I am a) ancient and b) not insane.
Having spent the morning catching up on it all, I am confident I made the right decision. Not because it was a bad show — it really wasn’t! — but because I’d have 100% passed out during Christopher Judge’s eight-minute acceptance speech, and woken up at 5am in an armchair before spending the next fortnight nursing a sore back. So, yep, bullet dodged.
On the whole, I thought it was a great show, which rather surprised me. It is in my nature to be a little cynical about these things! Perhaps my gathering sense of Christmas cheer made me look favourably upon the show; perhaps the fact I’ve been writing about miserable acquisition-related bullshit for the last 11 months lowered my standards. But hey, a win’s a win, and whatever the cause I will take it.
While the usual caveats apply — this is still a marketing event first and an awards show a distant second, and the balance was as off at times last night as it has been in previous years — I ended the stream archive this morning with a smile firmly fixed on my face. I may even have got a bit emotional at times. Video games! They’re good.
This leads me to an uncomfortable conclusion. It appears I may have misjudged awards shows. Perhaps, since I apparently love these things now, I should do one of my own. Allow me, then, to introduce the inaugural The Hit Points The Game Awards Awards. Just trips off the tongue, doesn’t it. If anyone fancies helping with a logo, drop me a line. Perhaps we’ll get some t-shirts done for next year.
It feels appropriate to open with this, since I spent almost the entirety of Hit Points’ Summer Game Fest write-up complaining about fashion. I have very few notes about last night’s clothing, and the few I have are small, fussy little nothings, matters of preference and little more. Geoff’s trousers would’ve fit better with low-tops, stuff like that. Troy Baker’s hat was a bit daft, now I think of it, but he’s had enough dunkings this year already so we’ll let it slide. But look, on the whole, well done everyone.
Honourable mentions go to Ben Brode, whose colour-blocked multi-tartan sport coat is the type of thing I could never get away with but will happily respect from afar, and co-host Sydnee Goodman’s extravagantly fluffy dress, which I think she borrowed off one of the evening’s furrier special guests. But the runaway winner was Final Fantasy XIV talisman Naoki Yoshida, who has been immaculately turned out every time I’ve seen him and raised the bar even further last night. In a perfect riposte to Kotaku’s sneering takedown of the gamedev uniform earlier in the week, he paired his perfectly oversized blazer with combat boots, a big scarf, a simply enormous pair of trousers and an entire jewellery store. Effortlessly cool. I hear he makes good games also.
A busy field, this. Idris Elba turned heads by popping up to promote his role in the Cyberpunk 2077 expansion Phantom Liberty. (Hit Points looks forward to him getting stuck in some scenery while T-posing when the expansion, which is due next year, arrives in late 2024.) There was of course the bonkers young stoner who somehow snuck on stage for the final award of the night and, when the winners had finished speaking, stepped up to the mic and dedicated it to “my reformed orthodox rabbi Bill Clinton”. And of course there was Animal, bantering with Geoff Keighley about Elden Ring and Hideo Kojima after briefly borrowing his fur back from Sydnee.
But the Game Award Award goes to… the flute guy. He played his instrument, and a variety of others I can not name, in the Game Awards orchestra with such vim, vigour and enthusiasm that he pretty much stole the whole show. What an absolute superstar that guy was. The camera operator couldn’t take their eyes off him, which was good because neither could I. Flute guy’s exuberance made me feel a little guilty about the lack of energy I put into my own work, so I have writen the edn of this sentnece whle dncaing.
Supergiant has never been one for sequels. I assumed the team’s next game would be yet another hard right-turn in genre, regardless of how warmly received Hades was, and how much Greek mythology it left unexplored. More irresistible, exquisitely written Roguelite dungeon crawling, with a female lead and a Titan antagonist? Actual goosebumps when this showed up, which hasn’t happened in ages. Lovely.
MOST WELCOME RELIEF
There was only one anti-vaping advert; the Bill Clinton kid was just a weirdo, rather than a mass shooter; Christopher Judge eventually got off stage, and his opening one-man show ensured the winners that followed in his considerable wake kept their acceptance speeches short and to the point. Worthy contenders all. But my most grateful exhale of the evening came when Elden Ring won Game Of The Year.
There’d been so many wins for Ragnarok, you see, a game Hit Points has already thought and written far too much about and is yet to be particularly impressed by. There is much to admire about Kratos’ latest, certainly. It cleaned up in the less prestigious categories, each victory reminding me that I really must return to it over the holidays. But it is not Elden Ring, that rare game that takes over your life completely — when you’re not playing it you’re reading, talking, or just thinking about it — and that I may have shed a single tear at the end of, sad as I was to know it would never be new to me again. Ragnarok is very good, but Elden Ring? An instant, all-time classic. Justice was served, then. Thank fuck for that.
BIGGEST FORMATTING ERROR
Many of the old crimes were committed again. Yes, we expect the awards to play second fiddle to the announcements and other associated marketing beats; they are the reason the show happens at all and, if we are to be honest with ourselves, the reason we all tune in.
Sure, it is still irksome to see Keighley and Goodman rattle through half a dozen awards in the space of a minute to ensure there’s enough time for another GrubHub or Samsung ad. (Or Game Pass. There were a few of those, weren’t there? Almost as if things aren’t going that well? Hmm.) But these things are part of the furniture now. Clearly our complaints fall on deaf ears. I suppose we can consider them eternal.
That said, the one area in which The Game Awards falls short is its attitude to indie games. Having a specific category for Best Independent Game should not, in theory, gatekeep indies from the bigger awards. But it doesn’t half feel that way sometimes.
The night’s most prominent indies, Stray and A Plague Tale: Requiem — though the latter didn’t even make the cut for Best Independent, for reasons I don’t quite understand — felt like they earnt their nominations on the strength of their production values. If you take a few steps back and squint a bit, they each do a passable impression of a triple-A game.
Indies are the great drivers of innovation in the game industry as we know it, and this is not some new development. It has been like this for a decade or more. The Game Awards, along with every other Keighley and platform-holder showcase of the last half-decade, leans heavily upon them.
Indies are essential to these things, not only on their individual merits but in how they provide variety, texture and charm amid the risk-averse homogeneity of the triple-A set. This is not just true for awards shows and not-E3 showcases; it applies to our gaming lives as well.
But when it comes to awards shows, indies are either ghettoised into their own categories, or used to make up the numbers in the more prestigious shortlists. Last night the sole dedicated indie award was consigned to one of the frequent round-up blitzes, sandwiched in between Best Role-Playing Game and Best Action-Adventure as if ‘indie’ were just another genre. I do not think this fair; it is neither reflective of the reality of the industry, nor most of its audience’s gaming habits.
I would like The Game Awards, agent for positive game-industry change as it purports to be, to take the lead on correcting this. In 2023 the Best Independent Game category should be retired, and the other category shortlists — particularly Game Of The Year — greatly expanded to properly reflect the quality, creativity and outright beauty of the indie scene. And yes, you might have to give the odd award to a game made by five people, and let the team of 500 go home disappointed, but it’ll be a better show for it, guaranteed.
A free bit of consultancy for you there, Geoff. Maybe send me an invite for next year’s show, eh? I rather enjoyed last night.