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Game of the Year follies Gamespot edition

Posted by nfinit on December 26, 2009

The end of the year is upon us and with that comes the intoxicating mix of easy content and page view-generation that are the Game of the Year awards. Every site/magazine/newspaper-with-a-gaming-column gets in on the action, which is why you wind up with GOTY packaging on seventeen different boxes come January. Gaming is weird like that– aside from the hilariously inept Spike Videogame Awards, we don’t really have a consensus year’s best panel/award thing in the same way as there’s the Oscars or the Grammys or the Nebula Awards– pretty much any jack-leg outfit with access to an HTML editor and webspace is allowed go get away with this foolis—

— as I was saying. Admittedly most major publications at least will make some attempt at making their awards meaningful in a grander games-are-important sort of way– then you have some publications that are rather obviously just selling those same awards to the highest bidder. Some will even attempt to give these awards to the games which are actually the best in their respective category for that particular year, but this practice is frowned upon.

Then you have Gamespot.  Their GOTY for 2009 was Demon’s Souls.

Demon’s Souls. You remember Demon’s Souls, Japanese dungeon crawler, about as approachable as James Joyce’s Ulysses, no actual pause function? Yeah, that.

Demon’s Souls: GOTY 2009, Gamespot.

Admittedly, I’ve not played Demon’s Souls. Maybe it really is Game of the Year. Maybe it really is a better role playing game than Dragon Age, maybe it really is overall a better fundamental game than Arkham Asylum, maybe we really will remember it as more of a cultural touch-point of the console gaming community than Modern Warfare 2. But the selection begs credulity. After all, Gamespot’s own review described the game as “unforgiving”, “stubbornly difficult”, “unusual and unforgiving” and “You are meant to die, and you are meant to die often. ”

Judging from Gamespot’s own review, Demon’s Souls isn’t exactly a game that was meant to be enjoyed as much as it is endured.

I dunno. But if I look at a game and the general consensus for that game is that that it’s a dense, frustrating, inaccessible experience, I’m not sure if that makes for a very good videogame, despite how many times you throw around the terms “innovative” and “visionary” in your review.

And sure, you can’t criticize an opinion for being wrong. I mean, I’ve sat here and tried to explain to you people why Magician Lord is one of the best games of all time based on its sprite art. But when you’re in a position of authority such as Gamespot (or, alternately, if you squint until something resembling a “position of authority” comes into focus), where you’re actually being paid for your opinion, that opinion should carries with it some weight of credibility. It’s sort of like if ESPN were to announce that the Cincinnati Bengals were the best team in the AFC. I mean, maybe they are, if you play around with the definition of the term “best team in the AFC” actually meant “best offensive line in the state of Ohio”, but the Indianapolis Colts are sitting at 14-0 right now.

The Indianapolis Colts of the videogame world as of 2009? As much as I hate to admit it, it’s probably Modern Warfare 2. MW2 is as very dudebro as a dudebro game can be, but it also sold six million units and the PS3 version is sitting at a 94% at Metacritic, vs an 89% for Demon’s Souls. If we’re looking at something that ranks high purely on the basis of being a very good game and not cultural relevancy, then there’s been a whole lot of stuff that’s come out this year that have worked well as exceptional gaming experiences. Again, the overriding theme of Demon’s Souls reviews was how inaccessible the game ultimately proved to be– should that really be the defining characteristic of your Game of the Year?

Let’s dig a little further. Was Demon’s Souls Gamespot’s highest-rated PS3 game of the year? No, that honor is shared by Braid and Uncharted 2, each with a 9.5. Perhaps Demon’s Souls is Gamespot’s highest rated RPG? Well, no. That’s reserved for the PC release of Dragon Age: Origins, again with a 9.5. The highest rated game of the year as awarded by Gamespot? Well, no 10s were handed out all year, but the aforementioned Braid, Dragon Age Origins PC all received the next highest score, as did, Ballad of Gay Tony, Forza Motorsport 3, Chinatown Wars, Uncharted 2, Rolando 2, Rea Racing and F.A.S.T.

Wait, F.A.S.T?

Seriously? This is more a credible GOTY by Gamespot’s own standards? Moving on.

So what happened here? Did Demon’s Souls receive GOTY honors for being the best “hardcore” game? For being the best Japanese game? Is this some sort of twisted attempt by Gamespot to maintain some semblance of hardcore gamer street cred? In that case, didn’t all of my fellow espresso-sipping, beret-wielding console gamer intelligentsia agree we all had a heck of a lot of fun playing through Batman: Arkham Asylum? If the award just had to go to a Japanese game to maintain their hardcore gamer cred, isn’t Retro Gaming Challenge a far more interesting choice?

Of course, the easy answer is to say that Gamespot is doing this for the page hits, and it’s probably true, and is also why I’m not linking to them for the purposes of this update. However I get the feeling the real answer is not nearly as sinister. They’re probably just being the gaming equivalent of pretentious hipster twats.


One Response to “Game of the Year follies Gamespot edition”

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