The Game Awards 2015 Nominations And Predictions

the-game-awards-2015-headerSure, The Game Awards aren’t nearly as terrible as the old VGAs / VGX that used to be on Spike TV and now that it’s solely streamed, it’s easier to ignore. However, Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards is still the only real North American live year-end video game awards show on the block.

So as I am wont to do and since we don’t do a big year-end awards list of our own, I think it’s only right to evaluate the decisions of the big names in garme jurnalizm think are 2015’s best games with our regular look at the nominees for The Game Awards and predictions of who will win.

Game of the Year
Bloodborne
Fallout 4
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Super Mario Maker
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Our Pick: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Prediction: Fallout 4

I know that this is the first category on the nominees list but this is actually the last section that I’m writing. However, going through all my predictions and the categories have led me to my conclusion here.

If you were to go strictly by the ratings (and the game), it’s an easy win for Metal Gear Solid V. In my experience, though, I’m leery to say that the best game will always win. Sure, there are only two members of GameJournoPros on the panel and one more that was reported to be in a relationship with an employee of a publisher that is nominated for awards. My concern is over the “Advisory Board” that includes executives of the major publishers. I think you can guess why I have this odd gut feeling over this.

Anyway, if you look below, I don’t give any awards to Fallout 4. In terms of aggregated review scores, it’s actually the lowest rated game in this nominee list. The best game on this list is MGS5 by the slimmest of margins over The Witcher 3 so I think Kojima goes out with a win for Konami. Since he and Keighley are pals, I hope they allow him to run away with the award without letting Konami getting their hands on it.

So why do I think that Fallout 4 might pick up with award from the panel? Well, it’s the most hyped of the five games on the list. It’s the game with the most mainstream appeal as it’s a shooter, though Super Mario Maker is timeless by virtue of being a Mario game. It’s also had the most marketing dollars thrown at it so a Fallout win would get the most exposure for the show through advertising.

The funny thing is that nothing has ever happened in the past with the Game of the Year award to make me think that I can’t trust the panel. Still, the cynic in me just doesn’t stop thinking conspiracy.

Developer of the Year
Bethesda Game Studios
CD Projekt Red
FromSoftware
Kojima Productions
Nintendo

Our Pick: Nintendo
Prediction: Kojima Software

Wouldn’t that just be the ultimate f*ck Konami to give the Developer of the Year award to a production studio that they are shutting down. The ongoing lack of straight answers when it comes to Hideo Kojima’s involvement makes me wonder if Konami would decline this award if they won. I really hope that Kojima wins this one if only to see the collective reactions worldwide.

My first instinct would be to give this to Nintendo, though. Sure, they make most of the noteworthy games on the Wii U but it’s not like they’re producing only one per year. This year, Nintendo development teams are credited with developing or co-developing seven games on the Wii U, including Game of the Year nominee Super Mario Maker. In terms of preferences, I’d like someone who is pushing technology to get the award so sorry Bethesda.

The other thing to watch out for is that this award occasionally acts as a consolation prize. Because I think the panel will pick Fallout 4 as GOTY, Kojima picks up Developer of the Year as a consolation prize. However, if MGS5 wins GOTY, I think that CD Projekt Red could pick up this award.

Best Independent Game
Axiom Verge
Her Story
Ori and the Blind Forest
Rocket League
Undertale

Our Pick: Ori and the Blind Forest
Prediction: Undertale

Two things: 1) For my money, this is the Game of the Year category. Apart from Axiom Verge (which I suppose I should play), every one of these games is on et geekera’s Top 15 of 2015 list. 2) Life is Strange isn’t on here because it was backed by Square Enix. That’s okay. Ori and the Blind Forest was developed by Moon Studios in collaboration with Microsoft. They admit that on the game’s website. How is Ori an independent game when it’s been backed from the start by a console manufacturer?

For the panel, I think that the choice comes down to Ori and Undertale. The reviews are better for Undertale so I think it’s going to take of the award. Interestingly, it’s the 2nd highest reviewed PC game out this year. The only game with a higher aggregated rating is GTA5’s PC release. So Undertale is effectively this year’s best PC game. The cynic in me says that a Best Independent Game award is going to be a make-up award for these great games that weren’t allowed into the GOTY list for political reasons. After all, there will be a lot of big premieres and announcements that will be funding this endeavour. Keighley’s never really appeared independent with his dealings. He could be independent in fact but you need independence in appearance too. I’ve talked about independence before and you could legitimately independent of outside interests but it if doesn’t look that way, it doesn’t matter.

Best Mobile/Handheld Game
Downwell
Fallout Shelter
Lara Croft GO
Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate
Pac-Man 256

Our Pick: Downwell
Prediction: Downwell

This year, I’ve actually tried playing more mobile games this year. I played none of these but I did try You Must Build a Boat and Twenty and a little of Final Fantasy Record Keeper and Hitman Sniper. Apparently I’m not doing this mobile gaming thing right but I also need a new phone so that’s part of the problem.

Anyway, I’ve given the award to Downwell because it’s an action game and those are so hard to come by on mobile. Pac-Man 256 could make a run for this award and I wouldn’t complain.

Best Narrative
Her Story
Life is Strange
Tales from the Borderlands
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Until Dawn

Our Pick: Life is Strange
Prediction: Life is Strange

The size of The Witcher 3 is one of those factors that you’re never really sure how a voter could factor in. You have dozens of hours in The Witcher and a dozen in Life is Strange. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Life is Strange and I even liked the ending. This game dealt with heavy themes and took standard teen movie tropes but put their own twist on them. I think this should be in consideration for Game of the Year but I suppose this will be a half-decent compromise.

Best Score/Soundtrack
Fallout 4
Halo 5: Guardians
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Ori and the Blind Forest
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Our Pick: Ori and the Blind Forest
Prediction: Ori and the Blind Forest

While I can see the Best Narrative category not being a clear-cut choice, I don’t see any way that Ori isn’t winning this category. This is an all-timer score that the game relies on to invoke almost all of the atmosphere and mood. No game in recent memory leans on the soundtrack as heavily. This category doesn’t require a long discussion because it should be the easiest choice for the panel.

Best Performance
Ashly Burch as Chloe Price in Life is Strange
Camilla Luddington as Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider
Doug Cockle as Geralt in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Mark Hamill as The Joker in Batman: Arkham Knight
Viva Seifert in Her Story

Our Pick: Ashly Burch as Chloe Price in Life is Strange
Prediction: Mark Hamill as The Joker in Batman: Arkham Knight

Interestingly, Viva Seifert’s performance doesn’t have a character name in it on the official TGA website. I find that interesting that they would avoid spoilers there but not avoid spoiling the fact that The Joker, who died in Arkham City, is back in Arkham Knight. That’s a bit of a double-standard boys.

Anyway, I went with Hamill’s Joker as the panel’s choice because of how much Keighley panels love Mark Hamill as The Joker. I could see Cockle or Burch picking up the award here but I think this is one of those categories that the panel could throw a bone to a big game that isn’t picking up awards elsewhere.

Also, I’m very unhappy that all performances were lumped into one category. Should The Game Awards follow the other major awards shows and separate male from female performances? On the one hand, it’s 2015 so why are we still separating performances based on gender? On the other hand, it is sort of tradition at this point having worked for almost 100 years or however long the Oscars have lasted. I think the women are the strongest contenders in this category so separating out by genders would give the men a chance to win. I don’t know who won last year but for 2013, I think Ashley Johnson as Ellie in The Last of Us would have easily trumped her male counterparts in a combined category. Male voice actors need to get their own performance award category to help them fill up some shelf space.

Games for Impact
Cibele
Her Story
Life is Strange
Sunset
Undertale

Our Pick: Life is Strange
Prediction: Undertale

Okay… What does “Games for Impact” mean and why did they change the name of the category from “Games for Change” after revealing the nominees and forcing me to re-write this whole section? Anyway, I can see how Life is Strange is on there because of the second episode. I went over the themes of that episode in the review so you can see why it would be in here. It hits on some properly heavy themes and hits you over the head with them. #TheFeels as it were. But the other Cibele’s focus on relationships? It’s a unique, real-world-ish take on modern romance. How about Her Story? It’s a unique game but I didn’t get a message or lesson out of it. I’ve heard the same about Undertale as well.

So I guess the result of this category could be entirely dependent on how the jury sees the meaning of “Games for Impact.” My first instinct is to go with Life is Strange because of the mature themes that largely revolve around mental health over the course of the five episodes. However, if it’s about unique gameplay mechanics in a quality game, wouldn’t that lean us to Undertale?

Best Shooter
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Destiny: The Taken King
Halo 5: Guardians
Splatoon
Star Wars: Battlefront

Our Pick: Splatoon
Prediction: Halo 5: Guardians

Okay… I don’t play shooters so I don’t really have that much of an idea what’s good or bad in the world of shooters this year. I know that CoD and Halo 5 were rated within a point of each other on Metacritic which is probably more of an indictment of Halo 5 than anything. It’s supposed to be the Xbox flagship and it’s just keeping pace with an annual release.

Anyway, I figure that Battlefront should have no chance of victory based on my time with the beta and review scores. Destiny has too much hostility towards it to give it an award. That leaves CoD, Halo and Splatoon. I liked Splatoon so I don’t have a problem going with it. That and it took the FPS and made it family friendly. CoD, Halo and Destiny are all M-rated games. I think Nintendo should be commended for making an all-ages shooter. Will the panel give it to Nintendo? I doubt it. I would assume that they’re going with one of the traditional big names and Halo not being the annual release will get the nod.

Best Action/Adventure
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Batman: Arkham Knight
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Ori and the Blind Forst
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Our Pick: Rise of the Tomb Raider
Prediction: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Speaking of bad categories… You have a third-person shooter and a platformer in with three proper action/adventure games. The problem is that ACS is uninspired and Arkham Knight is buggier than a pile of manure on PC so the only good action/adventure game left is Rise of the Tomb Raider. Is it the best game of the bunch? No! It’s solidly behind Metal Gear Solid V (the shooter) and Ori (the platformer). I also think that the name of the category on the box should be taken into consideration in selecting the award winner.

Best RPG
Bloodborne
Fallout 4
Pillars of Eternity
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Undertale

Our Pick: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Prediction: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I was so disappointed that we didn’t get that epic face-off of Dragon Age 3 and The Witcher 3. I think it would have made for a fantastic debate to have those two mega fantasy RPG franchises in direct competition last holiday season. The whole of the games press and fandom would have been swept up in two adventures that are tens or hundreds of hours long without time to do anything else. Actually, that would have crippled the whole industry if that happened.

All of these games have a legitimate chance to win the award. My instinct is to award these genre awards to games that are properly representative of their genre. Since Fallout 4 is a shooter and Bloodborne is a Souls game, I wouldn’t necessarily call them RPGs just because they have RPG elements. If that was the criterion, almost every game released nowadays would be eligible for nomination.

So that leaves The Witcher 3, Pillers of Eternity and Undertale. Since I think Undertale is going to win Best Independent Game, I think CD Projekt Red gets its lone award of the night here so the Polish dev doesn’t go home empty-handed.

Best Fighting Game
Guilty Gear XRD -SIGN-
Mortal Kombat X
Rise of Incarnates
Rising Thunder

Our Pick: Guilty Gear XRD -SIGN-
Prediction: Mortal Kombat X

Interestingly, I don’t think that Rising Thunder has been released yet. You have games like StarCraft II: LOTV, Football Manager 2016 and Heroes of the Storm that were left off the list in various categories but an unreleased game is on here. I wonder if there’s something to be read into there.

Anyway, Guilty Gear is the highest rated game of the bunch so I don’t see why the panel shouldn’t pick it. Actually, I do know why they won’t. Mortal Kombat is on the list. It’s the biggest (or most mainstream) fighting game franchise in the world. I keep thinking that the panel might default back to mass appeal when given the opportunity and that includes this category.

Best Family Game
Disney Infinity 3.0
Lego Dimensions
Skylanders: Superchargers
Splatoon
Super Mario Maker

Our Pick: Super Mario Maker
Prediction: Super Mario Maker

“Family game” is such an odd category. What defines a family game? Is it just the E rating or does it have to do with playing it with your family? I find far too many of these The Game Awards awards to be poorly defined. However, it’s a makeshift industry event rather than an awards show. Like I said before, the game’s industry needs a second showcase event beyond the trailer reel that is Keighley’s VGAs/VGX/TGAs. Everyone from publishers through gamers would be better served by a weekend event with short keynotes and hands-on demos to hype games heading into the holidays.

Anyway, Super Mario Maker is the best game on this list regardless of supposed criteria so let’s go with that.

Best Sports/Racing Game
FIFA 16
Forza Motorsport 6
NBA 2K16
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
Rocket League

Our Pick: Rocket League
Prediction: Pro Evolution Soccer 2016

So I did a quick Metacritic look at all of these games. With the exception of the PC version of Pro Evolution Soccer (which is a last-gen port of the game) and FIFA (which is in the 82-84 range), everyone is rated in the 85-87 range. I’m serious. This is as much of a pick ’em category as any of them. You just don’t know which one could win.

I’m picking Rocket League because that game is different. Sure, Psyonix did that Super Karate Monkey Death Car or whatever it was years before Rocket League but it was the sequel that absolutely took the world by storm. I think that it deserves an award for changing the sports game game. In the actual vote, I think that Pro Evolution Soccer is going to pick up the win based largely on the fact that PES trumped the unquestioned king of sports games worldwide. I think the comparison to FIFA is what’s going to push PES over the top.

(P.S. That was a pop culture reference, not a bad joke at the expense of Psyonix. If you get the reference, you already knew that.)

Best Multiplayer
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Destiny: The Taken King
Halo 5: Guardians
Rocket League
Splatoon

Our Pick: Rocket League
Prediction: Call of Duty: Black Ops 3

If it wasn’t for Rocket League, I would have thought I accidentally grabbed the shooter category again for the multiplayer. When you consider the keys to success for a shooter, a strong multiplayer component is chief among them. So when four of the five nominees for Best Multiplayer are also nominated for Best Shooter, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Just because it’s different, I would go with Rocket League as the winner in this category. Will it win in this category? Well, that’s why I break it up between what I think the panel should pick and what I think they will pick. It’s more than likely that they’ll go with a shooter and CoD was actually the best of the bunch this year. Maybe this three-year development cycle idea was a good one out of Activision. Now about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5…

Best Art Direction
Batman: Arkham Knight
Bloodborne
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Ori and the Blind Forest
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Our Pick: Ori and the Blind Forest
Prediction: Ori and the Blind Forest

Much like the Best Score category, I don’t think there needs to be a long discussion. The art style of Ori and the Blind Forest and the resulting graphics makes this one of the most beautiful games ever made. This category belongs to Moon Studios. Sure, the other games in this category look good but this is the only one that is truly beautiful.

There are also six categories that are voted on by fans rather than the panel. The following are those categories and nominees.

eSports Game of the Year
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Dota 2
Hearthstone
League of Legends

Best Fan Creation
GTA V – Targets
Portal Stories – Mel
Real GTA
Twitch Plays Dark Souls

Trending Gamer
Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles
Greg Miller
Markiplier
PewDiePie
TotalBiscuit

eSports Team of the Year
Evil Geniuses
Fnatic
Optic Gaming
SK Telecom T1
Team SoloMid

eSports Player of the Year
Kenny “Kennys” Schrub – CS:GO – Team EnVyUs
Lee “Faker” Sang-Hyeok – League of Legends – SK Telecom T1
Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer – CS:GO – Fnatic
Peter “PPD” Dager – Dota 2 – Evil Geniuses
Syed Sumail “Suma1lL Hassan – Dota 2 – Evil Geniuses

Most Anticipated Game
Horizon Zero Dawn
No Man’s Sky
Quantum Break
The Last Guardian
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on December 2, 2015, in Games and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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