Winter is a magical time of year. The heater is “accidentally” getting left on all night, teachers are getting just as drunk as their students at 10am, and every video game outlet under the sun starts vying for those all important Game of the Year awards. I hear having any less than ten GOTY stickers on your box come 2013 is a guaranteed death sentence out in the wilds of the retail market. Then again it was the Arkham City GOTY cover guys who told me that, so a grain of salt may be required.
In deference to this time honored tradition, I’m going to throw my own nerdy-ass hat into the ring by discussing the contenders as chosen by IGN, as well as a few of the “People’s Choice” nominees on their list. Instead of going into a detailed discussion of each though, I’m going to limit my opinion to 50 words per title, be they for good or ill. I’ll be withholding my final decision until I have an opportunity to fill a few egregious holes in my 2012 gaming repertoire. Until then, let the battle begin!
Mass Effect 3
This is a great game, but the PR nightmare caused by the ending and requisite ret-conning fiasco push it out of consideration. If this supposed epic third DLC pack was out and on the level of Shadow Broker, it might be different, but as it stands NO WAY JOSE.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is an awesome game, but while I may desperately hope that it’ll be a serious game changer in the MMO scene, it inevitably won’t be. It’ll continue along as a very solid, profitable game for years, but no MMO can be GOTY until the king is dead.
The Unfinished Swan
There are much better “concept” games on this list. I appreciate the style and approach to the idea, but there just isn’t enough here to vault it over the other similarly experimental but much more developed titles on this list.
I’ll admit that I haven’t played this, but in a year full of so many interesting ideas and novel approaches to what it means to be a “video game” it’s hard to justify placing this sterling example of what a video game IS before examples of what it CAN BE.
This is the year of the indie game, and Hotline Miami is the blood-spattered dark horse of the bunch. The sum of the parts is amazing, but the fact that many of those parts were riddled with bugs and floaty gameplay makes this a hard choice to get behind.
FTL – Faster Than Light
This is also the year of Kickstarter, and FTL is a true crowdfunding success story. With gameplay balanced on a razor’s edge and wonderful emergent stories, this is the dark-as-the-void-of-space horse in the pack. I don’t think it’ll win, but I wouldn’t mind if it did.
While I applaud the ballistic armor coated balls of 343 for taking over this iconic franchise, it’s still practically the same damn game we were promised for the PC then so cruelly denied, just with new guns and multiplayer modes. Minor iterations aren’t enough to earn GOTY, sorry guys.
The Walking Dead: The Game
This is a game that redefines what it means to be a video game and pushes its players into the same uncomfortable place that great films, music, and art do. That said, it’s also a technical mess, with tacked on gameplay systems and more bugs than a bloated corpse.
Here’s the deal people. You may be wondering why I have this box of ripe, delicious, organic heirloom tomatoes with me. There’s a good reason for it, and it wasn’t because they were on sale for $15/lbs. I haven’t played Journey. You may commence with the pelting now.
Dishonored is like a friend who’s always down. “Want to do that, bro? DO IT!” But when you visit his place, there’s never any furniture and his fridge is stocked with only cheese, mayo, and beer. Lots of fun, but will it stick around like Journey or TWD? Probably not.
People’s Choice: Slender
Seriously people? Accidentally stepping on a LEGO while groggily going for a midnight piss is scarier than this glorified screamer .gif. If Amnesia wasn’t GOTY, Slender certainly isn’t.
People’s Choice: XCOM Enemy Unknown
If there was an award for the game that made me smile the most when I opened up the Amazon mailer, this would win. It’s got the emergent character of FTL and the bugs of The Walking Dead, but with the same pluck and vigor of Hotline Miami.
People’s Choice: Pokemon White v2
Just Pokemon White and not Black or even White/Black? That’s racist bro.
People’s Choice: Torchlight 2
Much like Borderlands 2, this is the purest essence of the ARPG genre, distilled into a murky red elixir that has tiny little swords floating in it. Is being the best example of something we already know enough? If it isn’t for BL2, it can’t be for Torchlight 2.
People’s Choice: Assassin’s Creed III
Another game I haven’t played yet, but I can safely say that having played every Assassin’s Creed game up until this one has prepared me to say: more is not better, especially in today’s trinket and map marker obsessed AAA market.
So that’s it folks. I’ve been told, between vicious kicks to the teeth, that my opinion is naught until I’ve played Journey, which I’m quick to concede. After I’ve had what I’ve been assured will be a transformative experience that will leave me quivering with awkward questions, I’ll come back and declare my winner.