This week the British Academy of Film and Television Arts hosted the awards for excellence in video games. Since 2006 this annual award ceremony has been given equal status with film and television in recognition of its importance as an art form of moving images. Dara Ó Briain has presented the awards the previous four years and this year is no different. He jokes of his dismay at continually being asked to defend video games in the role of ‘token’ game playing celebrity. Presented at the end of the night is an Academy Fellowship, a lifetime achievement award in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to games. Previous recipients of this award have included Peter Molyneux, Will Wright and Shigeru Miyamoto, the first citizen of an Asian country to receive the award.
This year the Academy decided it was time to honour Gabe Newell, not only for his critical and commercial success as a games developer, but also for his work in giving back to the games industry through developing and showcasing other games makers. Valve is no stranger to success at the British Academy Games Awards, having previously won BAFTAs for Left 4 Dead in 2009 and Left 4 Dead 2 in 2010 (Best Multiplayer), and for Portal 2 in 2012 (Best Game, Story, and Design).
This year belonged to Journey, which managed to pick up no less than five awards (Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, Design, Online Multiplayer, Original Music). Sadly, although it was a nominee, Journey did not win the ‘Best Game’ category despite the success it enjoyed in other categories. That particular award was presented to Dishonored, the only award presented to the game that night. While collecting the award, the set designer Viktor Antonov did apologize to the British for the Americanized spelling of the name.
Also nominated for ‘Best Game’ was FIFA 13. It is a pleasure to see yearly iterative titles lose out to other games, despite the number of foolish individuals willing to part with their money for EAs latest cash cow. FIFA 13 was also nominated for ‘Sports/Fitness’, though it lost in that category as well, this time to New Star Soccer. Not only is New Star Soccer a game developed by a independent games studio, they are also a British company. FIFA 13, although on the surface a very British game, was actually developed by EA Canada.
Other independent games were also given awards during the ceremony. The Walking Dead was awarded both ‘Mobile & Handheld’ and ‘Story’, The Room won ‘British Game’ and Danny Wallace picked up ‘Performer’ for his role of narrator in Thomas Was Alone. That is a total of nine awards counting those won by Journey as well. Half the awards went to independent games during the night. Quite a feat when one considers that awards often go to games that have been heavily funded by publishers.
As a father of two, I was pleased to see Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes collect the award for ‘Family’. I know my son has enjoyed this game immensely since it was released. There are few games that I would let a six year old play by themselves, and this is one of them. Admittedly Traveller’s Tales had an unfair advantage there what with having two games nominated (LEGO the Lord of the Rings was also up for the award) and also LEGO involved in their titles, but even so, LEGO: Batman 2 is a deserving winner regardless.
So that leaves six awards. Far Cry 3 won best Action game, The Unfinished Swan collected two awards (Debut Game and Game Innovation), SongPop (the one that clogs Facebook feeds) was awarded best Online-Browser game and XCOM: Enemy Unknown picked up best Strategy game. Finally, the BAFTA Ones to Watch Award (or, the You’re Lucky To Still Be Here Award) was presented to Starcrossed.
So that wraps up a very British awards ceremony. Other programs and magazines may also compile their own list of awards, but none have quite the weight that the BAFTAs do. Where else would Gabe Newell be lauded in the same way as Alfred Hitchcock or Sir Michael Caine?
Readers, do you agree with which games won awards? Should Dishonored have won ‘Best Game’? Do you think another prominent individual should have received an Academy Fellowship? Let me know in the comments!