Like everyone’s favourite Michael Fassbender meme, you’ve probably been reading our Game of the Year 2019 awards wondering when we’d get to the real awards. Sure, we’ve wittered on about Best Narrative and Best Gameplay, but everyone knows it’s really about politics in video games and how sexy fictional characters look when getting into a bathtub.
So, without further ado, let’s start with something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue:
Best Movie Sonic the Hedgehog
The two nominees in this category are Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog:
And the winner is… Sonic the Hedgehog!
Most Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Sim
You might love Kentucky Fried Chicken, but can you love the man who created it? I Love You, Colonel Sanders asks if you’ve got what it takes to win the heart of a de-aged anime Colonel Sanders in this brilliantly weird dating sim.
Nobody likes a buggy game, but sometimes you get a game so buggy, so downright awful that you think you might actually enjoy playing it. This year’s videogaming equivalent to the Cats movie is WWE 2K20!
— Undead Upchausen (@ZombieVomit619) October 22, 2019
— 𝓛𝓮𝓮 ❄️ (@leeeexox) October 23, 2019
— Dead Memories (@Jackswstdlife00) October 23, 2019
Best Loot Box Rebranding
The loot box fiasco stepped up a gear in 2019 with many games removing them completely or reworking them. The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee called a number of companies in to explain how loot boxes worked and EA sent their VP of legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins who revealed the publishers refers to them as “surprise mechanics” and compared them to Kinder Eggs. “People like surprises,” she added, “We do think the way we’ve implemented these kinds of mechanics is quite ethical and quite fun,”
In July a parent was indeed surprised when they found out their darling children had spent £550 on FIFA surprise mechanics. “You pay £40 for the game, which is a lot of money in itself, but then the only way to get a great team is essentially by gambling,” explained out of pocket parent Mr. Carter, “They spent £550 and they still never got their favourite player, Lionel Messi.”
Hottest Geralt in a Bathtub
Moments such as this from the Netflix Witcher adaptation have seen The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt jump up the sales charts over Christmas, and for good reason. Just know that for every game sold, actor Henry Cavill had to dehydrate himself in order to look so ripped.
The was a closely fought category with GTA Online’s new Diamond Casino & Resort an earlier front runner but really their could be only one winner, NBA 2K20. At the same time the industry was being closely scrutinised to see if video games were encouraging gambling, 2K put a slot machine and roulette wheel in a basketball game. The My Team trailer looked more like an advert for a Las Vegas casino that a sports game with cutaway windows showing gamers jumping for joy when they won the slot machine and the backlash was almost instant.
2K quickly removed the video, which had more gambling and loot boxes than sport, but the mechanics remain the game. Were 2K trying to deliberately annoy people and give the ongoing investigations a big middle finger, or are they just utterly stupid? We will never know.
Best Moneygrab DLC
“Oh, you’re doing in-game casinos and rebranding loot boxes?” said Bethesda. “Hold my beer.”
Having the released the torrid Fallout 76 in late 2018, Bethesda looked to be hard at work fixing and adding to the game through 2019. They released a bunch of patches, they added new game mechanics like Brewing and Distilling, they added raids, announced Fallout 76 Wastelanders, a huge overhaul for the game to add in human NPC characters for the first time. And then the was Fallout 1st.
Best Video Game Merchandise
Video game merch comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be a big statue for your shelves, a controller holder in the shape of your favourite character, or just some pins and stickers. But 2019 has shown that nobody has mastery over video game merch quite like Hideo Kojima.
Not a week went by without the reveal of Death Stranding socks, umbrellas, clothes, watches, lattes, chocolates, and on and on. But how are you going to get all of these lovely things delivered to you? In a plain old box? Really?
Kojima was clearly thinking just a little bit outside the box when he came up with his game merch masterpiece: Death Stranding packing tape:
Most Awkward Randy Pitchford Moment
Let’s face it, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford is a very unusual fellow, and you have to dig pretty deep to find his most awkward moment from 2019. Would it be that time that he squabbled with the original voice actor for Claptrap on Twitter? The time he said the fan reaction to Borderlands 3’s Epic Game Store exclusivity made him “happy”? Or how about the way he keeps forcing people to watch magic tricks when they just want him to get to the freaking game reveals?
No, his most awkward moment surely has to be the continuing lawsuits and countersuits between him, Gearbox and former Gearbox lawyer Wade Callender. It’s a tale of years of secret million dollar bonuses and USB sticks with allegedly underaged pornography on them.
Yeah. Pretty awkward…
Most Successful Video Game Boycott
With the number of video games that get boycotted by angry fans, it’s surprising that the games industry hasn’t slumped into another gaming dark age. Epic Games has drawn the ire of PC gamers repeatedly through 2019, grabbing the exclusive rights to games like Control, Borderlands 3, and plenty more besides, but the biggest boycott of the year has to be for Pokémon Sword & Shield.
The first mainline Pokémon game on Nintendo Switch, there was a lot of excitement for the game. Then came the first game reveals, the disappointing graphics and animations, the recycled “Pokémon but bigger” battle mechanic, and worst of all, the lack of a National Dex in the game. Hastag Dexit, indeed.
So how did the boycott go? Well, it sold 6 million copies in its first week to become the fastest selling Nintendo Switch game yet.
Hottest New Game Streaming Service
Voidpoint and publisher 3D Realms share this award for their shooter Ion Fury which was found to include a number of homophobic slurs. They quickly apologised.
We recognize these statements are insensitive, unacceptable, and counterproductive to causes of equality. We unequivocally apologize both for these comments and language as well as for any pain they have caused the gaming community, particularly women and members of the LGBTQ community. We take full responsibility for any damage that has been done to the relationships we’ve worked so hard to build.
The apology lasted around twenty four hours before a new statement was issued after the company were pressured by right wing gamers on the internet.
We’ve caused a recent controversy suggesting Ion Fury game content was to be censored. We will absolutely NOT be censoring Ion Fury or any of our other games, now or in the future, including but not limited to by removing gags such as gaming’s most controversial facial wash. We do not support censorship of creative works of any kind and regret our initial decision to alter a sprite in the game instead of trusting our instincts. 3D Realms and Voidpoint stand together on this matter.
Voidpoint staff were also found to have posted sexist and transphobic comments online, the developer defended them saying Photoshop had been used.
Most Political Video Game
It’s not often that a video game can actually take down a head of state, but just half a year after this political hit by Crackdown 3 and Theresa May was no longer the UK’s Prime Minister:
Video game publishers really don’t like it when politics get into their games, do they? But while you can always say that your modern day FPS set in the Middle East is pure fantasy and couldn’t possibly have a political message, just imaging the pain and anguish that corporate execs go through when politics happen at their games?
That’s what Blizzard faced when pro Hearthstone player and streamer Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai made a pro-democracy statement on air, and Blizzard were not happy about this at all, handing him a long ban and withholding his winnings. One big old fuss later, and they had to do something to stop protests dominating the headlines at the annual BlizzCon.
So, apology time for Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack, who opened the show and said:
Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone esports moment about a month ago, and we did not. We moved too quickly with our decision making, and then to make matters worse we were too slow to talk with all of you.
When I think about what I was most unhappy about, it’s really two things. The first one is we didn’t live up to the high standards we set for ourselves, and the second is that we failed in our purpose, and for that I am sorry and accept accountability.
So what has changed to make sure the world is brought together in a similar situation? Well… you’ll still get a 6 month ban for making political statements, but you might get to keep your winnings.
Least Political Video Game
Picture an overweight megalomaniac reality TV tycoon with bouffant blond hair who’s in the pocket of a foreign power.
Best Data Leak
That time the organisers of E3, the ESA leaked the personal details of over 2000 video games journalists.
Best Use of Poop
Death Stranding is full of mind bending ideas and concepts the pinnacle of which is that the hero’s poop can be used as a weapon. When Sam (Norman Reedus) goes to the toilet it creates a grenade which can be tossed at a BT to damage it. Have enough if them and you can kill an oil covered tentacle whale with just your refined excrement, surely the most inventive use of poo since Mark Watney was stranded on Mars and used his bodily waste to grow potatoes.
Lifetime Achievement Award
With so many awards for games out in 2019, we should also reflect on the games from years past that are reaching the end of their lifespans. While classics like Super Mario World can endure for decades, the increasing number of games reliant on online servers means they have to shine brighter and do so for far less time.
So here’s to Battleborn; hardly anyone played you.