Reviews Video Games

The Game Awards 2016

There was so much to last night’s show, as The Game Awards crowned the top games from 2016 and revealed a number of world premieres as well. We saw updates from Nintendo, Bioware, and Sony; were shown new trailers and gameplay footage, and found out who walked away with The Game of the Year award. We’ve got the highlights for you right here.

What We Loved
There was a lot of content this year. Game previews, gameplay, film updates, awards–you name it, they gave it. Here’s what we were excited about.

Breath of the Wild
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Nintendo kicked us off in the pre-awards show with a new trailer for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and followed it up with a gameplay trailer during the ceremony itself. Both featured new footage from the game, along with a glimpse of the new weapons and abilities Link has in his arsenal.

The gameplay trailer featured a shrine mission, where Nintendo showcased some different ranged and hand-to-hand combat styles available to players. There was also an emphasis on exploration and strategy in this trailer, as players will have to find landmarks, and approach objectives with caution if they want to achieve their goals.

It was a brief glimpse of what’s to come for Breath of the Wild, but it holds a lot of promise for those excited to explore the wider world of Hyrule.

Industry Icon Award
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After the tumultuous last year Hideo Kojima had, it was only fitting that he walk away with the Industry Icon Award last night. His parting with Konami was the subject of much speculation this time last year, and it’s only recently that he’s been able to get his feet under him again and get back to creating content that he loves, shaped without interference from others. Kojima also debuted the next trailer for his game, Death Stranding, which features a rather creepy Mads Mikkelsen and raises more questions about the new title.

Games for Impact
For us, the Games for Impact Award was one of the more emotional points of the evening. hospital_timeThere were many powerful titles up for the award, including Orwell and 1979 Revolution, but That Dragon, Cancer was given the honor. That Dragon, Cancer was a game developed by Ryan Green as he and his wife faced the unbearable battle that their young son, Joel, was having with cancer. The game features the low and high points of that journey in a point-and-click style experience, using the medium’s interactivity and immersion to tell the story of their son, who ultimately succumbed to the cancer in 2014.

Green was there to accept the award and gave a tearful speech about the game, it’s development, and the story they were able to tell about his son. You can go watch the speech here, and learn more about the game through Radiolab’s story on it here. It is not a game to be missed, and we’re so glad that That Dragon, Cancer received the Games for Impact award.

Nolan North
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Honored with the Best Performance Award for his voice acting as Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Nolan North graced the stage with his humor and charisma. He also had a powerful speech that highlighted the efforts of the designers and developers at Naughty Dog, and appeared to admonish the SAG-AFTRA voice acting community as he commented on “Performance Matters” (a trending hashtag as the union has fought with major game developers to negotiate a better deal for actors). He stated, “The performance of every designer, every programmer, of every hard working and talented person who works at that office [at Naughty Dog] That performance is so important. … And their performance matters more than mine. And that’s important in this day and age, with all this talk going back and forth. Because without their performance, my performance wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t even exist” [Nolan North, The Game Awards 2016]. How his comments will be received is up in the air, but many appreciated the nod he gave the developers and designers, and only time will tell how the rest of the voice acting community will react.

Halo Wars 2
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We’ve of mixed feelings regarding the new Halo Wars and it’s upcoming release. The first Halo Wars had received mixed reviews, and many hadn’t expected a second game. 343 Studios stepped up tonight with a new cinematic trailer showcasing Atriox, the main villain in Halo Wars 2, and his story as the player goes head to head with the Brute leader. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the trailer, and found ourselves wanting to learn more about Atriox, his story, and how it will shape the plot of Halo Wars 2.

Mass Effect: Andromeda
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Bioware dropped their first major gameplay trailer for Mass Effect:Andromeda, with the footage clocking in at about four minutes in length. The new content depicted the galaxy map, a few action shots of the Tempest and Nomad, introduced two new squadmates, showcased some new enemies and scanning capabilities, and provided some combat gameplay as well. They really emphasized the fight for survival in this trailer, as it sounds like resource collection and crafting will play a key role in the player’s well being.

Twitter has exploded with questions regarding the Turian and Krogan we see in the cinematic footage (Vetra and Drack, respectively), exclamations of excitement over Female Ryder, and general praise directed at the development team. With a Spring 2017 release, fans are excited for the next installment in the Mass Effect Universe, and can’t wait to see more of what Andromeda has to offer.

Game of the Year
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What would this recap be, if we didn’t address the winner of Game of the Year? The competition was stiff this year, featuring Overwatch, Uncharted 4, Titanfall 2, Doom, and Inside. Both Doom and Inside walked away with awards earlier in the evening (Best Action Game and Best Music were awarded to Doom, and Inside won Best Art Direction), as did Overwatch and Uncharted. When the time came, however, Overwatch stood above them all, and won the title of Game of the Year, as well as taking Best Multiplayer Game, Best ESports Game, and winning Blizzard Best Game Direction.

There was so much we enjoyed this year, but these were our highlights from a stellar show overall.

What We Disliked
Though The Game Awards ran smoothly, had some brilliant highs, and had us eagerly sitting on the edge of our seats at times, it also had some unfortunate lows. From a very white, very male line up on most fronts, to some shoddy sound management and awkward ad campaigns, we’ve provided our lows below.

Schick Hydro
The Schick Hydro is a razor line that’s known for it’s hydrating strip that is meant to reduce skin irritation. Our best guess as to their inclusion in the proceedings of the ceremony is that they were a sponsor, and they needed to be worked in somehow. Why that ad work in involved a razor-headed robot and some truly unfortunate jokes is something that left us cringing and scratching our heads.

2016-12-02The robot suit itself was, while strange, well done, though they lost us when they cut to an old, 8-bit fighting game of the Hydro blade beating another competitor, unfortunately labeled, ‘Lube.’ If that wasn’t enough, there was some back-stage interactions with the robot that featured some poorly delivered lines about ‘Hydro’ showing a gamer how it was done in fighting skin irritation. Definitely not a favorite part of the night.

Sound
For most of the night, the sound was on point. The mics worked well, were on when they needed to be, and the transition music and trailers played without a hitch. However, when it came to the Run the Jewels and Rae Sremmurd performances, the quality sound work suddenly vanished and left the audience with some poorly balanced vocals and back-beats. The vocals on both acts seemed quiet and favored one rapper over the other, and the music mixed in the background was either overbearing, or barely present. It was highly noticeable during the Rae Sremmurd number, when we had to struggle to hear the vocalists over the sound of the drummer. I’m not sure what happened, as the Doom musical performance managed without much of a problem, but the sound quality really took away from the other two performances.

How Male and How White Can We Get?
There’s been a lot of discussion of the ‘Boy’s Club’ mentality in the gaming industry, and how it has and hasn’t been addressed. Tonight demonstrated just how much of a boys club it still is, and how the industry is lacking diversity amidst its leading developers and organizations.

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The stage was lacking in diversity amongst its announcers and development leaders, showcasing all of three women and no people of color, save Killer Mike and Rae Sremmurd during their performances. The games themselves provided a wider spread, as there was an uptick in female characters showcased in many trailers (see ME:Andromeda’s Female Ryder spotlight), but they were still outnumbered my their male counterparts, and were also predominantly white. While many are glad to see more female characters, others are still disappointed regarding the lack of women on stage given that somewhere between 48-53% of gamers identify as female.

The awards where the lack of diversity was most noticeable, beyond the show stage itself, were the Trending Gamer and Best ESports Player awards. Both featured only male players screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-34-33-amand gamers, and many appeared to be white. The Best ESports Player carried the most diversity, featuring players from Korea and Brazil, but made no mention of players like Geguri–the 17 year-old gamer from Korea who has been crushing it in Overwatch–or her like. There’s been a lot of discussion of the targeted advertising in ESports and the widening gender disparity, but lack of recognition at major platforms like The Game Awards perpetuates the male gamer stereotype, and fails to highlight talent beyond the expected, stereotypical pool.

Overall, it was one hell of a night and has given us much to look forward to in 2017, while honoring those who broke ground and pushed us forward in 2016. Our hat is off to the developers, designers, artists, and writers who make these games a possibility, and we look forward to what 2017 has in store for us.

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