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Giant Bomb's 2013 Game of the Year Awards: Day Four

Another set of decisions for people to get angry about! Hooray!

2013 was the year we'd been waiting for. With new consoles announced, it meant the industry was finally lurching forward into a new generation, a move that always proves to have some messy, unexpected turns. Gaming giants are knocked off their perch, new kings are crowned, and longheld beliefs are questioned by evolutions of the market.

This also accurately describes Giant Bomb's process for picking awards. Knives are drawn, arguments are shredded, and somehow, somewhere, Brad won't give up on an argument about something.

Hottest Mess

Xbox One

This business is cyclical. What comes up must come down, and arrogance is often punished. It happened to Nintendo, it happened to Sony, and now it’s happened to Microsoft. Xbox One was the last new console to be revealed, but on the day Microsoft pulled back the curtain, no one was talking about games or its partnership with the NFL. Instead, everyone focused on what the company was taking away, especially how the company’s digital shift was stripping away some rights consumers had over physical games. Part of it was a communication issue, but much of it was tone deaf policy.

"If you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards."

Remember that?

It didn’t help Microsoft’s case when Sony decided to twist the knife at E3, declaring PlayStation 4 as a console that would let things remain as they are. (How many times do we cheer for the status quo?) Who knows what ultimately prompted Microsoft to make the decision it did on June 19, but the facts remain the same: it was a complete reversal of its DRM policies. No more always on requirement. No restrictions on trading physical game discs. It was all switched off. It was an enormous admission it had read the market wrong, and the company didn't do itself any favors by pretending they were "too ahead of the curve."

The changes didn’t stop there, either. Microsoft eventually ditched its Kinect requirement for Xbox One, though it stuck by its decision to keep the device in the box and part of the interface. To make such drastic changes in the middle of finalizing its new console was an unprecedented move, one that made the next-gen race even wilder than we could have ever anticipated. Crazy! (Don Mattrick even left!)

Runners-up: SimCity, Battlefield 4

Best Moment or Sequence

End Sequence, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

This is a fun category to think about and argue about, because it doesn't matter how good or bad the games in question are on the whole. Here we get to simply pluck one amazing scene or sequence of events out of any game we want, with no regard for the quality of the rest of the experience. That said, it's no surprise all the moments that made the list here hail from some of our favorite games of the year.

Only one of them feels like every previous moment in the entire game was building up to it, though, and it's the final minutes of Starbreeze's Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Without giving away too many of the specifics, both the storytelling and the unique gameplay mechanics--which have you controlling each of the two brothers simultaneously with separate analog sticks--reach a single climax that imparts a profound emotional resonance not just through the sequence of events that's occurring but also quite literally how you play your way through them. In a game that already creates a lot of pathos without a single spoken word to enhance its world design and narrative, it's nonetheless a rare feat that the most meaningful in the game (and indeed in most games of recent memory) comes about due to a subtle but profound change to the control scheme. You can't say that about many other games.

Runners-up: The Stanley Parable’s “clicking” achievement, The Last of Us’s final conversation with Ellie/Joel

Best Use of a Licensed Song

BioShock Infinite, "God Only Knows"

As video game budgets have expanded and their productions have grown more lavish, we've seen more and more instances of culturally relevant licensed music being used to enhance some moment of drama or humor in story-based games. The time when licensed music was confined to the latest set of Grand Theft Auto radio stations is over. These days, you're likely to hear practically any cut from the entire musical body of the 20th century included to underscore some powerful or amusing moment. The built-in feelings these songs can evoke with just their first few bars creates a specific kind of impact that you really can't get any other way.

BioShock Infinite took that concept a grand step further by not only choosing a range of memorable selections from the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Tears for Fears, R.E.M., and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but then rearranging them in a variety of styles that fit with the tone and atmosphere of the game's turn-of-the-century setting. None of these songs made a bigger impression than the first one you encounter, a barbershop-quartet rendition of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" that's instantly recognizable and yet profoundly puzzling as soon as you hear it. It's your first real clue about the anachronistic threads running through Columbia, and it establishes a mystique about the strange, unknown nature of the floating city and its residents faster and more effectively than an hour of expository dialog ever could.

If that weren't enough, the song's inclusion in BioShock Infinite seems to have reminded a lot of people that the Beach Boys weren't just a superficial, good-time surf band, and that Pet Sounds is actually a pretty damn classic and influential album. That's a sign of a musical choice that not only works exceptionally in context but also keeps people thinking about it even after the game is over.

Runners-up: Battlefield 4, “Total Eclipse of the Heart;" Rayman Legends, “Black Betty”

Biggest News

Xbox One DRM Reversal

Corporations are stubborn beasts. While it’s interesting how some game companies have made us come to know and care about the people in charge, they’re still companies looking for our dollars. It takes a shift in earning potential to spur change, and when Microsoft announced it was reversing the DRM policies it had spent weeks defending, it was clear Microsoft had realized change was needed to sturdy the next-gen ship.

The news first arrived by a text message to Patrick’s phone. It was the opening moments of a day that seemed otherwise totally ordinary, and he turned to Brad to initially convey the news. WHAT?! What followed was a morning spent trying to nail down the news with sources, the result of which was a story that ultimately came a few minutes after another site published similar news. It was still a huge, crazy thing, one that not only signaled a massive shift in thinking for Microsoft, but we were a small part of, too.

It is easy to think consumers don’t have a voice, that “voting with your dollars” is a cliche. For the most part, that's probably true. But when consumers speak loud enough, sometimes they listen. And win.

Runners-up: John Carmack leaves id for Oculus, Valve builds its own OS and controller

53 Comments
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Edited by TimesHero

Reading is for sissies. Article readers are sissies. HA! ... Wait.

Posted by jimmyfenix

Congratz Don.

Posted by DonChipotle

I think the best use of a licensed song was Saint's Row 4 for every instance of I.D.G.A.F.O.S.

The most fun I had with that game was just jumping/flying around listening to that hot banger of a track.

Posted by edgeCrusher

I likes me a good read every once in a while, just to make sure the internet hasn't stripped me completely of what remains of my attention span.

Edited by sub_o

Oh god, I wanna hear how Jeff defends Metal Gear Rising Revengeance for the best sequence / moment of the year.

Posted by Ares42

I obviously haven't listened to the deliberations yet, but how is the DRM reversal bigger news than the consoles themselves? =o

Edited by BeachThunder

The first one of those moments in the epilogue of Brothers was genuinely great. That was the one big redeeming part of that game.

Edited by shinboy630

I didn't think the end sequence in Brothers was even the best moment in that game, let alone of the year, but *shrug*.

Posted by zombie2011

These categories are getting dumb, but not in a good way either. Biggest mess it seems like they just made that one up for the Xbox: One, since it couldn't win biggest apology or biggest disappointment.

Posted by dr_mantas

The song choice is perfect. All I will say.

Posted by fatalbanana

@ares42: We knew the consoles were coming. Nothing about the console launches themselves were "news worthy" but the policies surrounding them and the out of no where "ok, we fucked up" from Microsoft was crazy given big business's and corporations never admit what they did were wrong for marketing reasons. They did that shit twice which is cray cray.

Posted by gbrading

The Xbox One saga was definitely a hot mess. The hottest.

Posted by Ares42

@fatalbanana: If nothing about the consoles launches were news-worthy why did basically every gaming site out there have extensive coverage of the events and many having several hours of video/streaming ? I get that the DRM thing was a big surprise, but have some perspective here. Just because we knew there were new consoles coming it doesn't mean there wasn't a TON of new and interesting things we didn't know anything about. And don't try to tell me that people weren't excited for new consoles..

Posted by brotherinarms

I feel like the Last of Us's award is a bit of a spoiler. Ahhh maybe I'm crazy... Just, the way it's phrased, you know? There's a point in the game where the fate of one of the characters is in doubt, and if I'd've read that "runner's up", it would tell me how things will go for that immediate situation, and lead me to think of who survives the game. Maybe just say, "The last conversation in the Last of Us."

Posted by WillieMcBride

I probably would've gone with "The Touch" in Saints Row IV.

Edited by SomeJerk

I'd have been okay with EA gaining the Biggest Mess award as a whole because they need a whipping from every direction, even if it means people lose jobs and studios die, or they're going to put out worse.

At the same time, Microsoft entirely could have taken it. Still happy with the results feeling they belong, and does any other site, any other piece of gaming media speak this openly about the screwups of the industry?

Edited by Lurkero

I was worried that the Apology award would have removed the Hottest Mess category. Microsoft wouldn't get away with that too easily.

The end sequence of The Last of Us was touching, but I would hardly rate it one of the best. Metal Gear Rising deserves to be on that top 3 list.

@ares42 said:

@fatalbanana: If nothing about the consoles launches were news-worthy why did basically every gaming site out there have extensive coverage of the events and many having several hours of video/streaming ?

Most of the new things learned about the consoles were technical specifications and games. The press covered those things extensively because that's what they do.

It is bigger news that Microsoft's revolutionary new software policy that would shape the XBO was reversed in a matter of months even though Microsoft said it was the foundation upon which the system was built. The "big news" about the XBO was completely reversed and became even "bigger news"

Posted by HellknightLeon

I hate old time music... hated most of it in Bioshock one and man did I hate this song. I also shot the lady that was singing Fortunate Son in the face.

Edited by Frostmane

@somejerk: I'm glad you're ok with me losing my job.

Posted by fatalbanana

@ares42: that's not what I'm saying at all it's great we hav new consoles and I'm sure a lot of people were excited for them but like someone else said all of that coverage for the new consoles is pretty much par for the course and isn't all that interesting from a news perspective. It's new and that's exciting but all the coverage is normal for a console launch.

Edited by ildon

I'm 30 years old and I've literally never heard God Only Knows before, other than the little sequence in Bioshock Infinite. A lot of times there will be a song like that and as soon as I hear it, I recognize that I have heard it before and just forgot about it, but I just now listened to it on YouTube and I have definitely never heard it before in my entire life.

Posted by Ares42

@lurkero said:
Most of the new things learned about the consoles were technical specifications and games. The press covered those things extensively because that's what they do.

Isn't that a very twisted perspective on news ? You're basically saying 99,9% of everything ever reported isn't really news. Are only exposés news ? If the Watch Dogs release date is revealed tomorrow and the press covers it, is that not news ? or are they just doing what they do ? If you look at the two runners up they are also just things the press would cover because that's what they do.

It just seems crazy to me that in the first year ever where we not only had one, but two major console launches (and right up against each other) the big thing is supposedly that MS said they would do something and then changed their mind. I get that people aren't super amazed at the consoles, but only one of these events brought tens (if not hundreds) of thousand of people out in the middle of the night to be part of what was happening. Only one of the events got extensive universal coverage, not only in games press but also traditional media.

I'm probably ranting too much about it at this point :P but really ? are we really gonna say that 2 console launches wasn't even top 3 news this year ? Have we become that much more enamored by the drama surrounding videogames than the products themselves ?

Posted by SomeJerk

@frostmane: I'd love for the three class action lawsuits thrown against the BF4 debacle and investor complaints and analyst scribbles to get rid of the right people, the ones in charge of the decisions that made things go flat out wrong, to get rid of them without parachutes to make them $50+ million a year but it's not going to go what way, at most an exec or two are going to suddenly switch jobs like Mattrick.

DICE are going to eat it because EA required a release on a certain date and time and the outsourced QA departments in eastern Europe continued reporting nothing but audiovisual matter because they get paid per report and took it easy on finding and tracking down anything but the most obvious showstoppers, again.

EA employees are going to lose jobs, it's inevitable. It's going to be from slow bleeds of burnouts and studios getting closed because the game production wrapped up, just like the mid-90's EA. I'd like a big EA-only videogame industry crash if they continue like they did 2013s non-fiscal year.

I'm quite biased, with former industry friends with years at Bullfrog Origin and Westwood who nod their heads as they hear people talk about EA bitterly, and being a huge fan of the productions from those studios. I should ask one to write the podcast about the parties Molyneux would hold in his prime.

Posted by radioactivez0r

That moment in Brothers was the best punch in the gut I got from a game all year.

Posted by RecSpec

Not sure if it would've broke the top three, but I thought the "Just a Friend" sequence was the best in SR4, was surprised that it didn't come up.

Edited by garnsr

I'm kind of interested in trying Brothers, Bioshock Infinite and DMC, after all the talk on these podcasts, but not enough to buy them. Lucky for me, they're all coming free to PSPlus in January! I wonder how long it will take for PSPlus to be as cool on PS4 as it has been on PS3?

Posted by fatalbanana

@ares42: In short yeah we kinda have but I think your not getting it. New consoles and the coverage surrounding it is big news, no one is saying it isn't but again it's what everyone expects from a new console. Having a huge corporation just change their mind about the entire infrastructure of what they orginally built their system and marketing around and throwing that out the window is huge and super crazy.

Posted by Ares42

@fatalbanana: Nah, I get it (although I don't quite agree). I'm not really arguing about how big the DRM thing was or wasn't, more just baffled at the fact that people treat the console launches as if it's not noteworthy. It barely even got mentioned during the deliberations (actually just the PS4 announcement was, not either of the launches). I guess in some way the fact that it has basically been the center of attention all year long has made it seem less "newsy" and we've sorta just grown into them over time.

I do find it peculiar though how one part of the grand story that has gone all year long is the biggest news, and not the big story itself.

Posted by paulunga

I don't know if I like the intro or the end of The Last of Us better. Too bad everything in-between is only mediocre-to-good.

Posted by 49th

Cool lists

Posted by MormonWarrior

I love you guys for putting the Castle Rock/Black Betty stage from Rayman Legends on there. I was afraid you wouldn't mention it. I wasn't sold on the game until I played that in the demo, and it became my number one or number two game of the year. But yeah, that God Only Knows thing was super cool, though I didn't actually know that song until after that.

Posted by RonnieBarzel

If that weren't enough, the song's inclusion in BioShock Infinite seems to have reminded a lot of people that the Beach Boys weren't just a superficial, good-time surf band, and that Pet Sounds is actually a pretty damn classic and influential album.

Here, here! (and that's even with 'Trombone Dixie' being cut from the album)

Posted by LikeaMetaphor

The moments in Brothers would have meant a lot more to me if the game didn't crash or throw bugs in my face constantly. I just kept assuming the game was broken - by the time I figured it out, I was more frustrated than anything.

At least Big Bro literally flew through a mountain at one point, so that was a pretty great moment.

Posted by fatalbanana

@ares42: Yeah, I see where your coming from.

Posted by Hayt

Man Bioshock is getting edged out of everything. I wonder if Jeff will allow Last of Us to win goty or if he'll fight for Bioshock

Posted by Cybexx

Since you guys didn't mention it on the podcast for either Best Sequence or Best Use of Licensed Song I want to mention GTA V's LSD Skydiving sequence that features "Shine a Light" by The C90s. The song is obscure and I don't necessarily think it unseats any of the picks but it is another great example of Rockstar combining an unexpected song with a gameplay sequence to great effect and it is one of my favorite game moments this year. It is also a nice payoff if you also played Micheal's Marijuana side mission earlier.

The clip shows the whole Yoga mission with the sequence starting at 5:52.

Edited by Lurkero

@ares42 said:

@lurkero said:
Most of the new things learned about the consoles were technical specifications and games. The press covered those things extensively because that's what they do.

Isn't that a very twisted perspective on news ? You're basically saying 99,9% of everything ever reported isn't really news. Are only exposés news ? If the Watch Dogs release date is revealed tomorrow and the press covers it, is that not news ?

I didn't say it isn't news. I said it isn't the BIGGEST news.

The press are expected to release lots of stories on XBO and PS4. Microsoft and Sony are expected to release specifications and features of their hardware. Most of that stuff went as expected.

The thing that didn't go as expected was that Microsoft had some bold new strategy for the future of videogames and immediately reversed it after a vocal negative response. If the news about Microsoft's reversal didn't win then the news about Microsoft's DRM strategy probably would have.

Edited by Encephalon

Quickly hurtling toward the end of Brothers. Waiting to have my heart ripped out of my chest.

Posted by Sil3n7

Just because the idea of "voting with your dollars" is a cliche doesn't make it any less true. Whoever wrote this needs to think about the merits of capitalism because they don't seem to understand them.

Companies are only successful if people decide to buy their products. That's it! Any other way of thinking just stems from people not wanting to take responsibility for the market realities we all have created for ourselves.

Online
Posted by Deusoma

"That moment" in Brothers was in fact what turned me off of the game, made me put it down forever instead of playing along with their misguided attempt to be emotionally deep. So I'd really have to say that for me, every single other thing that happened in every single game that came out this year was a better gaming moment than that. Watching cricket players glitch the fuck out in Ashes 2013, for example, is a better gaming moment. I'm not angry, just weirdly disappointed. Fortunately, I just reminded myself of a Quick Look that I know will help me cheer up... :)

Edited by Little_Socrates

@deusoma said:

"That moment" in Brothers was in fact what turned me off of the game, made me put it down forever instead of playing along with their misguided attempt to be emotionally deep. So I'd really have to say that for me, every single other thing that happened in every single game that came out this year was a better gaming moment than that. Watching cricket players glitch the fuck out in Ashes 2013, for example, is a better gaming moment. I'm not angry, just weirdly disappointed. Fortunately, I just reminded myself of a Quick Look that I know will help me cheer up... :)

I'm inclined to agree with you. I thought it was saccharinely morbid, and it perhaps single-handedly turned me against Brothers and took a rather mediocre game and made it one of my least favorite games of the year.

Posted by jayjonesjunior

Edited by djou

Has any video game company ever shit the bed as badly as Microsoft and EA this year? The only other company that I can remember that even comes close is Sega with the Genesis launch and the Sega CD debacle.

I also agree with the above poster about the LSD sequence in GTA5 and would throw in Ellen Page's cover of Beck's Lost Cause from Beyond. It was probably one of the shining moments of that super disappointing games.

Posted by RuthLoose

@djou said:

Has any video game company ever shit the bed as badly as Microsoft and EA this year? The only other company that I can remember that even comes close is Sega with the Genesis launch and the Sega CD debacle.

I also agree with the above poster about the LSD sequence in GTA5 and would throw in Ellen Page's cover of Beck's Lost Cause from Beyond. It was probably one of the shining moments of that super disappointing games.

How was the SEGA Genesis launch even comparable? The system came out with a couple so-so arcade ports at a time when people were dying to play arcade games at home. How does that equate to the fundamental removal of consumer rights as it relates to ownership?

The SEGA CD... I'll give you that it was too much too soon for a world that wasn't quite ready for the expanded data format.

Edited by Scotto

Their reasoning for keeping "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the top 3, was terrible. It was basically just Jeff insisting it stay, because he likes the song, and the rest of them not wanting to challenge him about it. They also apparently forgot that "The Touch" coming on at the end of SR4, coincided with you finally getting power armor - an ongoing joke through the entire game!

Edited by Shaanyboi

Wonderful 101's ending got robbed for Best Sequence

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