Game of the "Year"
So, Giant Bomb, the Giant Bomb community, and pretty much this whole industry has gone crazy over Game of the Year in the past week. And why not? The VGA's happened last week, displaying a surprising level of competence this year and choosing a winner in many of the categories I can't really argue with. So let's all get excited guys! It's time to record some podcasts, wrangle in some special guests, shoot some goofy video segments, and display our lists so we can all discuss, debate, and, ultimately, celebrate the best fucking games this medium has to offer! Video Games! Fuck Yeah, guys! Right?
To which I say, "bah humbug". Now, I'm not here to say that we shouldn't celebrate the awesome achievements in our industry, but just that we're kinda forgetting a few important things in all of this jubilation.
The obvious one is that it's still December. Games are still releasing that, by just the unfortunate time they release, will hit this weird point where no one is going to consider them. They could be the best game that year, but no one will notice it. Yes, yes what good has come out of December, you ask? When September, October, & November are done with their deluge, what dares show its face after Black Friday, let alone after the calendar flips? Well, quite a number of games over these past few years: Pushmo, Mighty Switch Force, The Old Republic, Far Cry 3, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, Mario Kart 7, Trine 2, Hawken, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks... Even the much beloved Persona 4 launched in NA during this holiday month. I know that, even if every game on that list is capable of being enjoyed enough to be celebrated, they were overlooked by far too many.
But it's not just what games are released in December, but what people get in December. Namely, gifts. 'Tis the season of giving and all that jazz, which is warm and heartfelt and all, but what it really means is that a LOT of games are going to be bought and wrapped up until the inevitable day of unwrapping. I understand that this isn't really the case for the enthusiast media, but for the 15 year old that only makes enough to buy a few games a year, for the college student worried more about food than games (at least for those who have their priorities straight), and for many of the knowledgeable folks on this site and, yes, even those within the industry itself, a few of those games that they will unwrap in the closing days of the year may be the best games they play.
(Yeah, I know the holidays are not the same for everyone and I can't speak for all faiths, but with the 100 metre tall godzilla that the holiday season has become, I hope you can forgive me for generalizing.)
A Time To Celebrate
So, why have it now, anyway? The aforementioned fall deluge is barely complete, it's bountiful harvest of AAA and indie games alike are still fresh. These months release more quality titles a week than most people could feasibly play in that timeframe. What possesses people to believe they can experience all that is offered to them, even if they have a narrow or refined taste in games? I find that, without the time for reflection and catching up on titles, the conversation quickly becomes less of "what I thought were the strongest titles this year" and more of "what I actually had time to play."
In films, there are still sites, bloggers, and critics awarding their Movie of the Year awards just like us, but the film industry has some clear advantages in this area of celebration. First, movies don't have a big rush of content in the closing months of the year. Instead, their big rush happens in the summer months so DVD's and the like can experience a nice boost in sales during the holiday bonanza. Also, it doesn't take 5-50 hours to watch a movie. You could watch the 20 biggest movies this year in the time it takes to play Persona 4 Golden or Xenoblade Chronicles.
But even with those advantages, the biggest celebration in movies, the Academy Awards, doesn't even announce their winners for another two and a half months. Heck, they don't even announce their nominations until the end of January. Even with most of their choices for the best films of the year already locked by the time snow starts falling, the movie industry still allows a large gap of reflection and judgement to actually make the right choices.
Hearing about the insane weekend the bomb squad had, just trying to fit all of the titles they've missed in the last year into a short 72 hour time frame, doesn't it seem that we're all rushing this a bit? Patrick is going to be finishing Virtue's Last Reward soon, Ryan seems like he'd want more time with FTL, and Brad missed everything just to make sense of that whole Mass Effect situation. How would the whole discussion on their end change if they delayed it, if only for a month of catching up and reflection, especially with a nice break coming up for the holidays? If anyone could go against the flow and do Game of the Year in January, it's Giant Bomb.
As for us humble forum posters and hobby bloggers, why do we need to make our lists to hit an arbitrary date? It's exciting to talk about all these amazing games from the past year, but what will we lose if we take that extra month or two or three? Will the games of the still-near past lack all of their appeal once the calendar rolls over? Will the relatively dry times (though its growing more fertile) of January & February distract us from looking back at what we've missed, something many of us will do anyway?
Finish Your Plate
I'm not naïve. I'm not saying that any amount of time will allow one to experience every game in a year while still keeping up with the newest, hottest titles, but I'm just saying that with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and with all of us growing our backlogs one game at a time, consider slowing your pace down a bit, sitting back with a nice drink, and just enjoying the games you have. And when the year is done and the games are played, then come forth with your list. I'm sure the discussion will be better for it.
So as for me, I'll be waiting until March to consider posting a Game of the Year list. Last year, those three months allowed me to play 6 or 7 titles that actually had a chance or ended up on my Top 10. Looking at the games I have yet to play this year, like Zero Escape, Last Story, X-com, and Torchlight II, I think I'll need a little extra time.