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Is 'Game of the Year' losing all meaning?

The weirdest examples

Please be aware that I'm not criticising any of these games for being obscure, quirky or niche. If you know my writings, you'll know that's exactly what I'm into. But somehow, 'Game of the Year', just doesn't sit quite right with them. Regardless, GotY editions they got, and here's a bit of context to explain just why that was so strange, all things considered.

The game: A high-fantasy RTS that eliminated micromanagement by concentrating on lower numbers of controllable on-screen units. Great game with great ideas, but it also...

Came out the same year as: 

Silent Hill 2
Ico
Devil May Cry
GTA III
Golden Sun
Project Gotham Racing
Metal Gear Solid 2
Halo
Super Smash Bros Melee
Conker's Bad Fur Day
Black & White
Final Fantasy X
Max Payne

The game: A pioneering PC adventure game that used all kinds of augmented reality gubbins, including real-world websites, real-world websites created specifically for the game, and simulated e-mail from the game's characters. Good game, but a bit hit-and-miss.

Came out in the same year as: 

Beyond Good & Evil
Max Payne 2
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
SSX3
Call of Duty
Soul Calibur II
F-Zero GX
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The game: A fantastic, personality-packed tower defence game, blending ultra-accessible ease of use with satisfying depth. A perfect little portable title and pretty much universally loved. But it had a fair bit of competition for GotY.

Came out the same year as:

Flower
Street Fighter IV
Warhammer 40, 000: Dawn of War II
Resident Evil 5
GTA: Chinatown Wars
Braid
BlazBlue
Tales of Monkey Island
Battlefield 1943
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Borderlands
Demon's Souls
Uncharted 2
Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time
Bayonetta
GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Dragon Age: Origins
Modern Warfare 2
Left 4 Dead 2
Assassin's Creed 2
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

The big question

It’s definitely a positive thing that less obvious, less mainstream games now get the accolades they deserve in the press. And God only knows how hard it is for anything less than an ultra-top-scoring, triple-A release to get any attention at the moment. But all of this does raise the issue that the GotY title is becoming a little meaningless. Shouldn’t the accolade be treated like the fabled 10/10 review score, reserved for revolutionary, medium-defining games so accomplished they hold value for everyone, no matter what their normal personal tastes?

But at the same time there’s the argument that given the healthy versatility of games as a medium, and the huge variety of tastes they attract, virtually anything can be someone’s game of the year. Games offer all kinds of different experiences and all kinds of different kinds of value now, from the once-through spectacle of a 15 hour FPS to the five-minutes at a time fun of the casual games you play like a crack habit. What quantifies as ‘best’ is actually getting harder and harder to define in gaming, as games and their players become more and more eclectic.

Perhaps the best thing to do as a gamer is simply to keep an eye on as broad a spectrum of games as you can across the whole year. After all, if any game can technically tell you that it’s the Game of the Year now, you need to know where it fits into the great scheme of things and exactly what kind of a Game of the Year it really is. And if more of us are paying attention to more games, perhaps eventually there will be less need for this kind of flagrant attention-seeking anyway. And that can only be a positive thing for everyone.

What do you think? Are you ever swayed by these lofty game box proclamations? Or does their current frequency make you too cynical to care? Let me know in the comments.

46 comments

  • Sabtos - July 17, 2010 3:53 p.m.

    I do think that only the top two or three recipients of the highest aggregate reviews and the most awards for game of the year, such as Batman AA and Uncharted 2 sharing those accolades. I am against a laundry list of titles naming themselves GOTY. It makes saying "LBP GOTY edition is the definitive title, you should get it it has all the DLC and it says it all--it's the game of the year" seem totally worthless. recaptcha: Habib worship . . . wtf
  • kibbles0515 - July 16, 2010 5:45 a.m.

    Wow, I suck...Why did I type one word? I prefer to look at lists of contestants for GOTY. Then I make my purchase. I know that GOTY is just one person's opinion, so I prefer to look at all the games that are in the running to get a good idea about exceptional games.
  • kibbles0515 - July 16, 2010 5:44 a.m.

    in
  • Lurkero - July 13, 2010 10:28 p.m.

    They could just call it "enhanced" or some other variation like other games do. Game of the Year is completely unnecessary
  • babyhenchy1 - July 13, 2010 1:10 p.m.

    Game of the Year never had much meaning. It depends on different individuals. Sure, I see what different publications and sites call their GOTY but, it doesn't affect my opinion of the GOTY.
  • philipshaw - July 13, 2010 10:03 a.m.

    I see your point, it stuck me as strangw when I was reading that there was going to a Borderlands GOTY edition. Don't get me wrong it's a great game but GOTY in the year Uncharted 2 came out
  • reaperman22 - July 13, 2010 9:23 a.m.

    maybe we just need a better classification for game of the years that must be displayed on the box, for example GOTY- best wii puzzle game or GOTY- best ps3 action game and make the way GOTY awards more regulated in how they are given out by for example making an actual official GOTY awards thing that you must receive before putting it on your box instead of just being able to call it game of the year because one random website decided they liked it, at least with that official award idea the opinions would have to be pretty unanimous as they could use a combination of votes from the public and opinions from all over the net before coming up with winners. This is the only way i can think of that would stop GOTY from losing its meaning
  • ballplayer27 - July 13, 2010 8:32 a.m.

    I don't know... There are certain GotY games that give the title a good name. Morrowind, oblivion, and fallout 3 come to mind, recently. Yeah I am a Bethesda whore, get over it. I personally traded fallout 3 for like 10 dollars to purchase the GotY edition for full retail price. Maybe that is weird but with five DLCs with over 20 hours of gsmeplay if you just complete the additional primary quests, just the dlc compares favorably to many retail games, IMO. I guess the point would be that a game that good deserves the title and the fact that some other more niche games are trying to claim it as well doesn't really bother me. If you follow games and want the full experience of a remastered and expanded game, GotY editions can give great value, even if you already played or even own the original version.
  • ZenPhoenix - July 13, 2010 5:10 a.m.

    I don't really care. I'm buying the game for what gameplay it holds, storyline, etc. I don't base my purchases on big lettering telling me it's supposedly the best. That's my determination to make. Even critics can't find common ground on GOTY most times.
  • RebornKusabi - July 13, 2010 12:10 a.m.

    I honestly only buy a "Game of the Year" edition if, and only if, they actually include **** not found in the original retail release. Case in point, The Elder Scrolls series or anything that starts with the letter "Fallout 3". reCAPTCHA: store deject (hehe reCAPTCHA humor.)
  • kneehighsocks - July 12, 2010 10:27 p.m.

    I dont pay attention to a box that says Game of the Year (unless they are including downloadable content). I like to research games before I buy them.
  • JayBeat - July 12, 2010 10:27 p.m.

    I would love seeing 2 games released around the same time sitting next to each other both claiming to be the game of the year.
  • FunkSoulBrother - July 12, 2010 10:17 p.m.

    I thought this article was going to be different. Ah well it was good.
  • Rocker95 - July 12, 2010 10:04 p.m.

    I think that games need a definative group that decides the game of the year. Just like movies have the oscars, tv has the emmys, and books have the pulitzer. Gaming needs a group that everyone will accept to decide as game of the year.
  • D0CCON - July 12, 2010 10:02 p.m.

    GOTY stopped having meaning once hundreds of them started to be handed out. Even if there was only one of them, opinions differ so greatly that a GOTY for somebody would be hated by others. Although it is interesting looking at mediocre games with the goty symbol on them (or better yet, goty edition) and then wondering which website/magazine screwed up.
  • cart00n - July 12, 2010 9:41 p.m.

    I've long associated GOTY editions as being "all inclusive" editions, i.e. they include all the dlc/expansions + game for one low price...
  • tacoman38 - July 12, 2010 9:31 p.m.

    mostly, I just use the GOTY edition to get the expansions and DLC included in the main game.
  • bishopcruz - July 12, 2010 8:22 p.m.

    Does it really matter? Honestly, there are several best picture awards for movies. There are several book awards each year. Is it marketing? Yeah, but have I ever seen a truly awful game get a GOTY edition? Not that I can remember.
  • oryandymackie - July 12, 2010 8:22 p.m.

    Think about pop music. The artist which reaches Number 1 one particular week, by rights, is supposed to be the pinnacle of music released in that time period. But you can't just call everyone else's favoured artists inferior because they're not at the top of the charts. I guess you've figured out that my rant is not gaming related. God, I hate pop music...
  • OriginalJonty - July 12, 2010 8:05 p.m.

    Maybe all the editors of the big gaming websites/publications should get together and decide a definitive GOTY.

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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