So, Destiny won “Best Game” at the 2015 BAFTAs. Yes, Destiny. Beating out
Monument Valley, Mario Kart 8, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Alien: Isolation, the game that “tell[s] the same pedestrian stories time and time again,” won the award for the pinnacle of achievement in video games.
If you’re surprised by this decision, you’re not alone – apparently, the announcement was met with “awkward silence” from the audience. Part of the shock may have come from Destiny‘s track record that evening, since the 2014 “Best Game,” The Last of Us, won five of its ten nominations, while Destiny lost out in its other three categories (Game Design, Multiplayer, and Persistent Game, a new category that recognizes games that continue when you’re not playing them). The fact that a game with a lackluster plot that needs explaining outside of the game and missions that seem to drag on and rehash the same scenarios beat out Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game with an immense, tightly-knit story, fantastic character development, and interesting mechanics that won Game of the Year at SXSW’s Gaming Awards, is hard to believe.
But Destiny‘s win wasn’t the only surprise of the night. Dark Souls II, the satisfying sequel to Dark Souls, praised for its rewarding difficulty, its expansiveness, and its plot, wasn’t nominated in a single category. Yet, Alien: Isolation, a game that received mixed reviews from critics (and featured an amazingly frustrating save system), was nominated for six.
The “Mobile and Handheld” category again ignored the 3DS, even though games like Bravely Default, Super Smash Bros. 4, and Pokémon: Omega Ruby and Alpha Sappire were all critical and commercial successes. In fact, Mario Kart 8 was the only Nintendo title nominated this year, despite the amazing success of Super Smash Bros. 4 and Bayonetta 2. Mario Kart 8, though nominated for four categories, won none of them.
But not all of the unexpected wins were bad ones. Monument Valley, an extremely fun and intriguing mobile game developed by UsTwo Games, was the only game to walk away with two awards (British Game and Mobile & Handheld); Lumino City, a beautiful and truly enchanting indie game constructed out of cut paper, was nominated for both Game Innovation and Artistic Achievement and won the latter, beating out more recognizable franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry; Never Alone, a game that seeks to educate as well as entertain, won for Debut Game; and Olli Olli, a surprinsgly difficult 2D skateboarding game, triumphed over big names like FIFA, Forza Horizon, and Madden to take home the Sport award. Indie games like these, with their ability to take risks and try new methods of gameplay and design, are helping to drive innovation within the industry, and it’s great that they’re being awarded for their efforts. AAA titles may be fun and easily recognized, but they’re not always meaningful.
Ashley Johnson won the Performer award for the second year in a row, playing Ellie in the DLC The Last of Us: Left Behind (which also took home the Story award), but she wasn’t the only woman honored at the event. Many of the nominees this year featured female characters: in Monument Valley, you play as Princess Ida; in Lumino City, you play as young Lumi; in Never Alone, you control Nuna; in Alien: Isolation, you play as Amanda Ripley; and both Destiny and Dragon Age: Inquisition have customizable characters that allow you to choose a female protagonist. It’s encouraging to see so many female-led games being recognized for their achievements, and it’s hopefully a sign that the winds are finally changing.
You can see the full list of nominees and winners here.
Were you surprised at any of the winners? Were there games you loved this year that were left out? Let us know in the comments!