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Golden Joystick Awards 2021: Everything you need to know

GJA 2021 Logo
(Image credit: Future)

Voting is now open for the main categories in the Golden Joystick Awards 2021, including Best Indie Game, Best Studio and Ultimate Game of the Year. You can check out the official Golden Joystick Awards 2021 nominations shortlist or head straight to the Golden Joystick Awards voting module to cast your ballot and help decide which games, studios and performers will take home the coveted trophies. 

Voting for this year’s core categories will close on Friday, November 5. Voting for the Golden Joystick Awards 2021’s special award categories, the ‘Ultimate Game of All Time’ and ‘Best Gaming Hardware of All Time’, will open on November 8 and close on November 12.

Click here to vote in the Golden Joystick Awards 2021

The 39th Golden Joystick Awards are coming on November 23, and this year we’re celebrating 50 Years of Games. To commemorate this landmark occasion, two new - and certain to be fiercely-debated - categories will be added to our voting system: ‘Ultimate Game of All Time’ and ‘Best Gaming Hardware of All Time’. Voters will be able to pick what software and hardware have defined the industry since its commercial birth in 1971 with the first coin-operated arcade machine, Computer Space, as well as choosing their ‘Ultimate Game of the Year’, ‘Best Studio’ and more favourite games from the last 12 months.

More details about these special categories will arrive over the next few weeks, with voting set to commence on November 8. Players from all over the world will decide which games, developers, publishers and personalities will take home this year’s Golden Joystick Awards, picking from a pool of the industry’s best offerings over the past 12 months. The final results will then be revealed as part of a digital awards ceremony stacked with experts and talent later this year on Tuesday, November 23. In the run-up to the event, here’s everything you need to know about the Golden Joystick Awards 2021.

Golden Joystick Awards 2021 shortlists and categories

Resident Evil timeline - Resident Evil 8

(Image credit: Capcom)

The Golden Joystick Awards 2021 shortlist is now available to view in a separate article on GamesRadar.com, which you can access here. A list of all of the categories in this year’s show can be seen below, with notes on how they will be decided:

Publicly voted categories:

  • Best Storytelling
  • Best Multiplayer Game
  • Best Visual Design
  • Best Indie Game
  • Still Playing Award
  • Best Game Expansion
  • Best Game Community
  • Best Studio
  • Best Audio
  • Best Gaming Hardware
  • Nintendo Game of the Year
  • Xbox Game of the Year
  • PlayStation Game of the Year
  • PC Game of the Year
  • Most Wanted Game
  • Ultimate Game of the Year

‘50 Years of Games’ Publicly voted categories:

  • Ultimate Game of All Time
  • Best Gaming Hardware of All Time

Critically-chosen categories (selected by our judging panel):

  • Breakthrough Award
  • Critics' Choice Award

You can vote for your favourite Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC titles across 18 diverse categories. Voting is now open for the Golden Joystick Awards 2021’s publicly voted categories, and you can access the module and cast your ballot by heading to this webpage.

Below is everything you need to know about the Golden Joystick Awards 2021, along with when they are, how to watch it, and more. 

Why are some categories announced later during the voting process?

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

To be eligible for the Golden Joystick Awards 2021, games have to be released between Nov 20th, 2020 (when last year's Ultimate Game of the Year vote closed) and the present day. Upcoming games that are released during the public voting period, from October 19 to November 5, will be considered for addition to our voting shortlists in exceptional circumstances. For obvious reasons, we don't want to ask you to vote for games you haven't played, except in the Most Wanted award, for games released in late 2021 and (possibly way) beyond.

This year's Golden Joystick Awards are a little different, because we are celebrating 50 Years of Games - and the release of the first commercially-available arcade machine, Computer Space in November 1971 - with two special awards: Ultimate Game of All Time and Best Gaming Hardware of All Time. More details on these awards, and how we compiled the shortlists, will be announced in due course, with voting set to begin on November 8, after main GJA 2021 voting has closed. We felt such prestigious, one-off, awards deserved their own voting window.

How do the Golden Joystick Awards shortlists get decided?

Psychonauts 2

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Before voting begins, the Golden Joystick Award shortlists are (fiercely) debated by a panel of journalists from brands including gamesradar.com, pcgamer.com, Edge magazine, Retro Gamer, Future Games Show and Play magazine, plus our trusted network of freelance writers. Everyone nominates their favourite games of the last 12 months across 18 publicly voted categories, which are assessed and debated until we settle on a final shortlist, with a maximum of six games per category.

We also invite publishers and developers to nominate their games for consideration by the judging panel. This isn't a guarantee of inclusion but does guarantee the publisher-nominated game will be considered by the judging panel, eliminating the blind spots that can occur when judging the hundreds, if not thousands, of new game releases each year.

With the shortlists in place, the judges take a back seat, and public voting begins. Your vote can really make the difference, and it's worth noting that some of last year's most keenly-contested categories were won by less than 50 votes, which is fine margins when you consider the millions of votes cast each year.

When are the Golden Joystick Awards 2021?

Hitman 3 tips

(Image credit: IO Interactive)

The Golden Joystick Awards 2021 will take place on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. This year's show will be a digital event, and not broadcast live from central London like in previous years, for obvious reasons.

Here's a list of the Golden Joystick Awards 2020 winners if you need reminding of what went down last year, and it's worth pointing out that several categories were too close to call until the final day of voting. It’s your vote that decides the Golden Joystick Awards - and not, say, the result of some bizarre pact between the lizard people of games media and the industry’s AI overlords - so make sure to have your say when voting opens in early October.

What are The Golden Joystick Awards?

GJA 2019 Yu Suzuki

Yu Suzuki, creator of Out Run and Shenmue, collects a Golden Joystick trophy in 2019 (Image credit: Future)

Established in 1983, the Golden Joystick Awards are the world's longest-running public-voted games awards, with a star-studded ceremony held in London each year.

The 2020 edition saw millions of votes cast by gaming fans from all over the world, with Naughty Dog's The Last of Us 2 claiming the coveted ‘Ultimate Game of the Year’ prize. It's your support that makes the Golden Joystick Awards so special, as millions give something back to the creators and teams they love.

Over the years, the ceremony has played host to a number of legendary game developers and industry figures, including Hideo Kojima, Ken Levine, the CD Projekt Red team (who snuck a Gold Stick of Joy trophy replica into the Witcher 3 and more. Last year’s show was an all-digital affair and was hosted by voice actors Laura Bailey and Travis Willingham, who presented the Best Performance award to Sandra Saad, who played Kamala Khan in Marvel’s Avengers. Sandra's reaction is a joy to behold.

How to watch the Golden Joystick Awards 2021

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

(Image credit: Sony)

To watch the Golden Joystick Awards 2020 all you need to do is tune into the Golden Joystick Awards Twitch channel, or keep your eyes on GamesRadar nearer the event for a special article that'll point you to the stream. Our Twitter account will keep you up to date on when voting goes live, so make sure to check that out - and you can follow the official Golden Joystick Awards facebook page for more info.

How to feature your game in the Golden Joystick Awards 2021

The Golden Joystick Awards 2021 will feature a variety of new game trailers and announcements, in addition to celebrating the best games of the last 12 months. If you'd like your upcoming game to appear in the show, here's how to nominate and take part in the Golden Joystick Awards 2021. 

Featured slots are limited, but we're looking for cool, exciting games on any platform, from indie to AAA. There will be a number of larger, 2-3 minute trailer slots for major titles and key updates, plus a montage of upcoming games. Our games montage is perfect for smaller studios or indie titles that might deserve a larger spotlight - take a look at the 'One to Watch' clip from our sister show, the Future Games Show, above as an example. The Future Games Show has been delighted to debut a number of exciting games which has dramatically increased their exposure.

To debut a game trailer at the GJAs 2021 to an audience of millions or discover more ways to get your brand involved with '50 Years of Games' please contact melissa.makhmaltchi@futurenet.com and tom.parkinson@futurenet.com

Who are the previous winners of The Golden Joystick Awards?

Golden Joystick Awards 2018

Hidetaka Miyazaki collects the Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Joystick Awards 2018 (Image credit: Future)

You can check out an exhaustive list of Golden Joystick Awards winners (1983 - 2020) on Wikipedia, spanning classic consoles such as the ZX Spectrum, NES, Sega Genesis and more. If you want to test your video-game knowledge, why not see if you can name all our Ultimate Game of the Year winners in this short video spanning almost 30 years of gaming history?

Be first to hear about the confirmed list of categories and some surprise announcements by following The Golden Joystick Awards Twitter account