Trouble with “Game of the Year”

29 Dec

I’ve said before that Professor Layton and the Curious Village was the best game of 2008, but that’s obviously my opinion, especially when you consider heavyweights like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Grand Theft Auto IV were also released that year. While big sites were debating over which of the big games deserved their big “Game of the Year” award, I was trying to decide if I enjoyed Curious Village more than World of Goo and if the MOTHER 3 fan translation should be eligible for consideration. This year, I considered submitting to the “game of the year” craze, but it occurred to me that no one cares or should care. It’s not because I’m just one guy writing for a small site but because the honor is so broad that it loses all of its meaning.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves appears to be receiving this year’s award from many outlets but I’ve never played the game and never had any desire to do so. The award means nothing to me, and it shouldn’t mean anything to you.

“Game of the Year” implies that there was a consensus among the staff of an outlet that this one game is better than every other game that came out that year. I imagine it’s left up to little more than a vote and maybe a bit of debate, but that isn’t representative of a staff’s opinion. What if some of them hated Uncharted 2 or didn’t even play it? A simple vote doesn’t convey that, but this only sheds light on a bigger issue that plagues all attempts to rank video games.

Outlets are always sure to make it clear that just because one game gets an 8 and another gets a 9, that’s not an outright claim that one is better than the other. Yet, when the year ends, they lay it all out on the table and explicitly state that this one game is better than all the rest. In the end, it’s just a culmination of the staff’s opinions, but I think this honor loses its meaning when it’s filtered and processed, usually for the sole purpose of gathering more traffic. Listing the runners-up accomplishes the job that should be done, shedding light on a year’s worth of quality games, but the big “Game of the Year” title seems to devalue all of the games involved.

Unless you agree with the result, a “Game of the Year” doesn’t represent your opinion, and that’s fine, but it may not represent some of the people tasked with awarding the honor either, and that seems counter-intuitive to me.

[And for the record, I honestly can’t decide what my favorite game of 2009 is. You would think Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box would clinch it for me, but I had a lot of fun with Borderlands‘ co-op, Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer, coin-collecting in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and being immersed in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Of course, those were all released in the latter half of the year and are still on my mind because of how recently I played them, but that’s getting into a topic for another day… :P]


2 Responses to “Trouble with “Game of the Year””

  1. Joonas July 18, 2010 at 3:48 PM #

    Gamers, especially on the internet, love lists. Best-ofs are just a way to generate traffic and discussion among the community.

    I do tend to compile a best of year list at some point, mostly to go back to my old posts and last year’s games, figuring out which ones stood out and why. I’m not even saying anybody should care, I just find it a fun exercise for myself. I don’t believe in grading games as there is usually something to enjoy in even the most atrocious games (thinking of experiences instead of products), but with the amount of games released these days, it can be healthy to take a breather and go back to those “old” games from time to time.

    • Chas Guidry July 19, 2010 at 1:23 AM #

      I don’t have a problem with a single person ranking their favorite games of the year, or even all time, because it reflects the opinion of that one individual. But as soon as you start weighing the opinions of a staff against one another to come up with a “winner,” the outcome doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: