A Recap of the 2012 Video Game Awards

Last year I watched the Video Game Awards for the first time ever and reacted pretty harshly to the show. To summarize the article, I found the 2011 VGA’s to be immature and pandering. Some of the most memorable moments of the awards perpetuated the worst stereotypes of an industry that is still plagued by issues of sexism and sexuality. And even disregarding that, recognizing the work of the medium’s most talented artists and writers took a back seat to celebrity shills cavorting about on stage.

I don’t think I have lofty expectations for these awards. I said in last year’s recap:

[box_light]”I understand that the show is a vehicle for game trailers and commercials. I don’t expect or want the grandeur and extravagance of the Oscars. All I want is for the producers to treat the fans, and more importantly the game creators, with respect and at least pretend to care about our medium.” [/box_light]

And this year the Video Game Awards did exactly that. The turnaround that Spike TV made between 2011 and 2012 is admirable. This year’s awards excised a lot of the superfluous nonsense, like the augmented reality stuff (Which I genuinely enjoyed, but admit in hindsight was a waste of use) and the weird Nickelodeon game show-style contests going on in the periphery. The 2012 VGA’s focused instead on the games, and while some of the sketches and performances fell flat, the entire night was without question a show for gamers, about games.

The awards opened with Eric Cartman beating Bilbo Baggins to death with a cane. Of course, this was a shameless tease for South Park: The Stick of Truth, but it was an entertaining introduction to the show (It’s also one of the more anticipated games of 2013) and succinctly opened the night. Samuel L. Jackson took the role of host this year and did a pretty good job with what he had. I’ve gained a lot of respect for award show hosts since hearing Louis CK explain how much of a nightmare these things can be, so I can’t even fault Jackson or his writers for the lackluster jokes. The running gag throughout the show was ‘Sam Jackson Mode’, a gameplay tweak that added Jackson into all types of games and had him use his iconic badassery and curse words to get results. It heralds back to those old MTV awards skits that superimposed celebrities into movies.

I thought this was pretty clever. Far more entertaining than any of the gimmicks from last year’s show, at least. These moments also served to highlight the different games nominated this year, which fall all over the spectrum in terms of genre, scope and play-style. Regardless of what can be said for the VGA’s in years past, they seem to always do a stellar job nominating games that deserve to be recognized. This year took that concept even further, almost to the realm of controversy, by including smaller, independent games in the Game of the Year category. It’s sparked a lot of debate over what constitutes a “Game of the Year” or even a video game for that matter, A challenging discussion, and one that merits a lot of thought. I’m at odds with myself on the matter. I think Journey is easily one of the most worthwhile experiences in gaming this year, but to compare it to something like Assassin’s Creed III, which nearly takes up all of Journey’s playtime before even introducing the protagonist. It’s hard to put them on equal footing. As I did last year, I’ll list the nominees, the winners and my picks below.

Before I do that though, let’s talk reveals. There were some startling trailers last night that caught a lot of people by surprise, and some that were expected but nonetheless welcomed with excitement. The VGA’s premiered new trailers for Tomb Raider,  The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite, which the community already knew about, but continue to look impressive. We were also treated to announcements for Dark Souls IICastlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and, the steal of the show, a mysterious game called The Phantom Pain.

This trailer was announced with very little explanation, and it credits only a previously unknown team, Moby Dick Studio, for development. Now, there are pages and pages of speculation, theorizing and educated guesses pointing to the idea that this is either a new teaser for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, Metal Gear Solid 5, or a similar Hideo Kojima game. I will err on the side of caution and say that this looks like a very interesting new IP, I look forward to hearing more about it, and that you should immediately go and read this NeoGAF page on the subject.

Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance were both noticeably absent from the awards, as was The Last Guardian once again, to my chagrin. GTA V was nowhere to be seen either, but I expected this with their newest trailer released so recently. Rockstar marches to the beat of its own drum, Video Game Awards be damned.

Alright, now for the nominees and winners. Like last year, winners will be in bold and I’ll mark my picks with an arrow (<).

[box_light]

Game of the Year:

The Walking Dead: The Game
Assassin’s Creed III (<) (Review)
Dishonored (Review)
Journey
Mass Effect 3 (Review)

Studio of the Year:

Telltale Games
343 Industries
Arkane Studios
Gearbox Software (<)

Best Xbox 360 Game:

Halo 4 (Review)
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Borderlands 2
Dishonored

Best PS3 Game:

Journey
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Borderlands 2
Dishonored

Best Wii/Wii-U Game:

New Super Mario Bros. U (<)
The Last Story
Xenoblade Chronicles
Zombiu

Best PC Game:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (<)
Diablo III
Guild Wars 2
Torchlight II

Best Shooter:

Borderlands 2 (<)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Halo 4
Max Payne 3

Best Action Adventure Game:

Dishonored
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Darksiders II
Sleeping Dogs

Best RPG:

Mass Effect 3 (<)
Diablo III
Torchlight II
Xenoblade Chronicles

Best Multiplayer Game:

Borderlands 2 (<)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Guild Wars 2
Halo 4

Best Individual Sports Game:

Hot Shots Golf World Invitational
SSX (<)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
WWE ’13

Best Team Sports Game:

FIFA Soccer 13
Madden NFL 13
NBA 2K13 (<)
NHL 13

Best Driving Game:

Need For Speed: Most Wanted (<)
Dirt: Showdown
F1 2012
Forza Horizon

Best Song in a Game:

“Cities” by Beck – From Sound Shapes
“Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park – From Medal of Honor: Warfighter
“I Was Born For This” By Austin Wintory – From Journey (<)
“Tears” by Health – From Max Payne 3

Best Original Score:

 Journey (<)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Halo 4
Max Payne 3

Best Graphics:

 Halo 4
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Dishonored
Journey 

Best Independent Game:

Journey (<)
Dust: An Elysian Tale
Fez
Mark of the Ninja

Best Fighting Game:

Persona 4 Arena (<)
Dead or Alive 5
Street Fighter x Tekken
Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Best Handheld/Mobile Game:

Sound Shapes (<)
Gravity Rush
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
New Super Mario Bros. 2

Best Performance by a Human Female:

Melissa Hutchison as Clementine – The Walking Dead: The Game
Emma Stone as Amanda Cartwright – Sleeping Dogs
Jen Taylor as Cortana – Halo 4
Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 3 (<)

Best Performance by a Human Male:

Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack – Borderlands 2 (<)
Dave Fennoy as Lee Everret – The Walking Dead: The Game
James McCaffrey as Max Payne – Max Payne 3
Nolan North as Captain Martin Walker – Spec Ops: The Line

Best Adapted Video Game:

The Walking Dead: The Game (<)
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Transfomers: Fall of Cybertron

Best DLC:

Dawnguard – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (<)
Leviathan – Mass Effect 3
Mechromancer Pack – Borderlands 2
Perpetual Testing Initiative – Portal 2

Best Downloadable Game:

The Walking Dead: The Game
Fez
Journey (<)
Sound Shapes

Best Social Game:

You Don’t Know Jack
Draw Something (<)
Marvel: Avengers Alliance
Simcity Social[/box_light]

And that was the 2012 Video Game Awards. If you missed the show or want to see it all again, the entire thing is available on Game Trailers. I was so happily surprised with the show this year, and I’m glad I decided at the last second to watch. Here’s to a great 2013, whose first quarter looks to be a massive wallet drain!

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