The Game Awards GOTY Nominees
Contributed by DJMMT
I have written more about The Game Awards and their nonsensical GOTY nominations more times than I ever would have wanted to. It’s basically a practical joke at this point. The annual awards show has continually and intentionally spent the last few years actively trying to be contrarian and go against not just the will of the consumers but the basic logic of having a categorized awards show about video games.
I could go into yet another long rant about how the fact that they have an Indie Game of the Year category should discount indies from GOTY category consideration, but there’s no need to have that discussion again. So instead let’s discuss why this year’s nominees are just wrong based simply on what was actually released this year.
The six GOTY nominees for this year are Deathloop, It Takes Two, Metroid Dread, Psychonauts 2, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Resident Evil Village. Personally, I find this list both insulting and predictable for The Game Awards. Three of these choices are acceptable and/or correct, two of these choices are predictably out of place, and one is typical The Game Awards justifiable but ultimately cliché and irritating trash. Let’s go through each nominee and discuss why they should or should not have been included in this year’s list of GOTY nominees. I will not be discussing the other categories.
I have not played Deathloop and I have little interest in playing it, because I did not like Dishonored, I actively ignored Dishonored 2, and don’t really like the type of games Arcane Studios makes. But I absolutely agree with the decision to include it in this year’s list. Not because I necessarily think it was one of the best games of the year but because I believe it was a AAA quality title that was highly praised, widely discussed, and looked mechanically impressive and innovative. Would I vote for it? No. Do I believe there is any valid reason outside of the existence of other AAA titles I think would have been better choices not to include it? Also no. The standard of quality to be a valid GOTY nominee is literally that low and The Game Awards still manages to screw up the list every year.
It Takes Two
This is the first of the two out of place choices. I have no beef with It Takes Two. I have only heard good things about the game. I support Hazelight Studios and praise them for the multiple games they have created. But let’s be clear in saying that this game is not GOTY material. Not because it’s not a great game, but because it’s not comparatively one of the best overall games to release this year. The story may be great. I haven’t played it yet so I couldn’t say. The gameplay may be excellent, which from what I’ve heard it is. But given the scope, size, and overall quality of the game when including graphics, audio, and replay value as part of the discussion, it’s just not one of the top six games of the year. That’s not a slight against the game or indies in general. It’s just a quantifiable truth of comparison. There are several games that would be more appropriate choices for a GOTY nominee than It Takes Two. Some examples include The Medium, Biomutant, and Guardians of the Galaxy. And let me be clear in saying that I don’t think any of those three games are serious GOTY contenders with the possible exception of Guardians of the Galaxy. What I’m saying is that each of those three are more valid nominees than It Takes Two given what each of those projects actually is. And I didn’t even mention the more obvious choice of Returnal. It Takes Two should be one of the nominees for Best Indie. I will at least respect The Game Awards for not doing what they did with Hades last year and including it in both categories. At least they learned something. But ultimately I’d say that decision hurt It Takes Two. Rather than let Devolver Digital have three of the five nominees for Best Indie, they should have knocked off probably Loop Hero and put It Takes Two there.
I have only just started playing Metroid Dread recently. As I write this, I have only played it for a total of two hours. I have to say that it is immediately excellent and while I won’t say it’s my choice for GOTY (yet), I absolutely understand why many people have said it is their choice. Every year Nintendo gets at least one GOTY nomination, as they should, and Dread is an excellent and appropriate choice for this year. I seriously doubt it wins, but it’s the first nomination on this list that gives me no hesitation about its inclusion.
This is a really odd situation in my opinion. On one hand, this is XBOX’s nomination for the year. As with Nintendo, in an ideal situation, they would get at least one exclusive nomination every year. But that’s based on the assumption that they delivered a solid exclusive AAA title. Looking back at 2021, assuming we consider Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite as having released after the cutoff for consideration, the only example I can think of worth talking about is The Medium. And that was released on PS5 later in the year, so it’s barely an XBOX exclusive, even though it was originally billed as one. It’s also not published by XBOX Studios. So while I honestly don’t think Psychonauts 2 is any more appropriate than It Takes Two being on this list, it’s fairly obvious why it is. It’s just the most popular XBOX Studios produced exclusive released this year before the cutoff. Sadly, that’s the exception that you don’t want to see happen. Because there are games that deserve a spot over this game. Games like Scarlet Nexus, Hitman 3, Tales of Arise, and others. I want to see XBOX represented in this list. But I don’t want to see them handed a nomination just because. That cheapens XBOX as a brand, their inclusion, and The Game Awards as a whole, if such a thing is even possible at this point.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Of the nominees listed, this is my choice for GOTY. Not because I think it’s the best game of 2021 but because of the games nominated I think it’s the one that best encapsulates what the GOTY should be. In my opinion, Rift Apart is the first true next gen game. My reason for this opinion is that it’s the first game I’ve seen that literally would not work on last gen consoles. The major claim to fame of Rift Apart is the ability to use the PS5’s SSD to instant warp between fully rendered worlds with 0 loading time. That was not possible on the PS4 or XB1, and certainly not the Nintendo Switch. I’m not saying the winner of GOTY has to be a next gen game. Not at all actually. But for this particular year, coming off of the release of next gen consoles, I think it’s rather important. Clearly this game was nominated as PlayStation’s annual exclusive, and I think it’s a solid enough choice.
Resident Evil Village
I am so tired of Capcom getting shoehorned in nominations every time they release a Resident Evil game. It can be a new game. It can be a remake. Doesn’t matter. They always get nominated. I’d love to see Capcom get nominated for literally any other IP just to see that it was possible. The franchise is played out, nominating these games is cliché, and there are other better games that deserved the nomination more. People need to get over the Resident Evil franchise and The Game Awards need to stop favoring it simply because of name recognition. And note that the Resident Evil nominee never wins. It just gets included every time for some reason.
I’m not happy with the total list of nominees this year. While I didn’t agree with the winner of last year’s awards, the list of nominees, with two exceptions, was much better in the fact that almost all the games deserved inclusion. Even if you didn’t personally like them, it was objectively acceptable to include every nominee. And reception wise, even the two I disagreed with being included were much more successful than either It Takes Two or Psychonauts 2. And the thing that makes me the angriest is that I’m fairly certain they will pick It Takes Two as the winner for this year just to be more contrarian.