So the ever changing , ever evolving video game BAFTA’s have passed us by once again; the most prestigious awards ceremony that flies the flag of interactive entertainment, or at least the only one you have to wear a black tie to.
The BAFTA’s have had a rocky history when it comes to their geekier branch. After a slow start in the early naughties they went on a one year hiatus in 2005 and came back the next year with one ceremony to celebrate two years worth of games. In 2007 they courted controversy after nominating a title for best game even though it hadn’t yet been released. The nomination was based upon preview code, trailers, and hype; it also happened to be Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, a poor quality title, universally panned and instrumental in costing at least one well respected game reviewer his job.
Ever since then there have been schedule changes, voting has been restrctured and there is a never ending tweaking of the categories. In 2008 the show reached at least some stability with the hiring of Dara O’Briain, a man who for the first time in the shows history, had some respect for the medium he was representing. They have even seemed settled with the category list. Well for the most part.
So, can this show finally be the great tribute to video games we’ve all been hoping it to be? Yes and no.
Firstly, they are still insistent about giving out awards according to genre. This is either a sign of the adolescence of the show, or a sign of how adolescent the show perceives the audience to be. At least they don’t give out awards according to platform any more. But seriously, this has to stop. Games are so diverse in this day and age that you cannot honestly compare the likes of Plants vs. Zombies to Starcraft 2. It also leads to confusion. In the same category (Strategy) there was a nomination for Fallout: New Vegas. Why was this not in the RPG category? Oh, because there wasn’t one. No category for the genre that best embraces the qualities of the medium they are trying to represent. Well done BAFTA’s. Well done.
But I suppose we can take solace in the fact that the nominees were incredibly diverse. BAFTA is now one of the growing number of organisations taking an interest in mobile, downloadable and social gaming. Cut The Rope, a personal favourite of mine in the last year, took home Best Handheld. While in another category Need for Speed Hot Pursuit wins best multiplayer (an upset no doubt, but well deserved none the less). In years gone by both games would have no doubt gotten awards, but not in the same building.
Then we see Best Game itself, where Limbo rubs shoulders with FIFA 11, which hobnobs with Heavy Rain, which suggestively flirts with Mario Galaxy 2, which has a punch up with Assassins Creed: Brotherhood which takes on all comers to get knocked out by Mass Effect 2 for the win. A brilliant category that showcases all that gaming has to offer, both in awesome bombasity and emotional subtlety. And if you combine this with the fact that the only Multiple winner of the night is Heavy Rain, that every category but three had a unique winner, then you start to see the strong position in which interactive entertainment finds itself.
But there were missteps. In the artistic Achievement Category, the clue is in the name. What does artistic achievement mean? It’s so vague. Considering that the breath and depth of artistry in this industry can range from graphics to sound, from design to dialogue, BAFTA should be awarding all these things separately in the first place. These awards should cover all of the artistry of this industry specifically, not generally. But if you take artistic achievement in it’s more obvious sense, then the nominations are still confusing. Call of Duty? In artistic achievement? You may as well give Best Screenplay to Michael Bay for Transformers 2. And as for God of War beating out Limbo, Heavy Rain and Mass Effect 2… Now, I’m a God of War fanboy but even I am left speechless by this.
The final award of the night, as is traditional, is the fellowship, this years participant being Peter Molyneux. A man whose contributions to British gaming are legendary. He is also a man whose latest game is a massive disappointment and lost the one award it was up for (Score). That tells you something about the timing of the situation. Now I’m not a fan of Molyneux, you can try me for treason later, for now, listen; I think of him as a bit of a snake oil salesman. Every year he drives the publicity machine mad with his lunatic ramblings and every time fails to deliver on those crazy promises. He even got up on stage to admit that he has invented game features during interviews, in which the journalist was becoming bored. He knows his games are never going to do what he says they will, yet every year, game developers and journalists will treat him like the messiah and fall at his feet as he delivers his charlatan sermons.
But, even though he has lost his way in the labyrinth of public relations hell, he still remains one of our most influential and significant developers.
So we have had encouraging signs at this years BAFTA’s but also some mistakes. But remember this. At least they aren’t repeating the same ones.