The awards show highlights the industry's finest, though what warrants celebration is often less clear.
The Game Awards 2021 is broadcasting live once more on December 8, and host Geoff Keighley has announced which games are taking the spotlight this year. Deathloop, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Psychonauts 2, and It Takes Two lead with the most nominations out of the 107 total games and creators included.
Xbox and Bethesda, one company since Microsoft acquired ZeniMax, have the most nominations, with 20 titles between them, followed by Sony Interactive with 11, and EA and Square Enix with 10 each. The Game Awards video announcement mistakenly attributed Genshin Impact to Square Enix, instead of developer and publisher miHoYo, but it’s not included in the 10 nominations.
The Game of the Year category features Metroid Dread, Deathloop, It Takes Two, Psychonauts 2, and Resident Evil Village.
Award nominations inevitably cause differences in opinion, but the nominations for game of the year and other categories have garnered particularly heated discussion. The official Metacritic Twitter account responded to The Game Awards’ announcement with a list of games that received higher critical scores, but no nominations, including Playground Games’ Forza Horizon 5.
“Sadly not surprised but would have loved to see more indie rep - Chicory, Death’s Door, Inscryption, TOEM, and more really made this year shine,” IGN senior editor Jonathan Dornbrush said after the nominations were announced.
Some expressed disbelief that Cyberpunk 2077 made an appearance in the Best RPG category, after it released in an unplayable state and was delisted on the PlayStation Store for weeks after its launch.
Other categories had surprises of their own. Best Art Direction included Ember Labs’ Kena: Bridge of Spirits as that category’s only indie representative, while games such as Chicory: A Colorful Tale and Sable were relegated to indie categories or forgotten entirely.
Part of the confusion stems from how The Game Awards groups its nominees. Over 100 outlets submit their ballots of five choices for each category, and the games that appear the most often end up with nominations. However, there’s less transparency in which outlets cast a vote, and it naturally means some games get overlooked.
For example, the indie category features 12 Minutes, a game with a budget and promotional campaign that far exceeded most indie titles, and Death’s Door, from a publisher successful enough to have recently entered the public markets. Other titles, including Wildermyth, TOEM, and Valheim, received little to no attention.
“You guys like... Like you know there's more to indie games than Devolver and Annapurna, right?” Paste Magazine’s Dia Lacina said on Twitter after seeing the nominations. “Like... You know it's not just them. Right?”
While smaller publications and those focused on titles from minority developers have less say in what games get spotlighted, The Game Awards has slowly embraced change since its inception in 2008. Most recently, it added auxiliary programs, such as Future Class, to promote diversity in editorial and video creation, along with the Games For Impact category to highlight games with meaningful messages.
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