Bafta video game awards: Destiny triumphs, while indies dominate

13 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

BAFTA Video Game Awards: Best Game in 2015 nominations.

The game, developed by Bungie, the studio behind the iconic Halo franchise, picked up the top award at the show in London, which was hosted by comedian Rufus Hound. In a night that was otherwise dominated by an array of creative indie titles, it was Destiny that was given the BAFTA for Best Game at the British Academy Games Awards.Beating out a few best game or game of the year winners from other major award shows, Bungie’s Destiny took home the top prize at the 2015 BAFTA Games Awards.

With the spectacle delivered by increasingly photo-realistic video games with budgets running into tens of millions of pounds on a par with that of the film industry, it seems only right that video games should be offered awards by the same organisation, the Baftas. The big winners of the night were British studio UsTwo, whose mobile game Monument Valley picked up two awards: Best British Game, as well as Best Mobile & Handheld title. Announced to a muted response from the attendees, last night’s success for Halo creator Bungie crowned them with their fourth BAFTA in total and saw them beat pre-show favourites Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Alien: Isolation.

The sport category was won by skateboarding sim OlliOlli, best debut game went to Alaskan adventure Never Alone, and artistic achievement was claimed by experimental mobile game Lumino City. Destiny released last September after a public alpha and beta during the summer, and has received one major expansion pack of content since its debut.

And despite its flaws, Destiny has demonstrated why it’s tough to put the game down, and may be worth revisiting for those who initially wrote the game off. Aside from Destiny’s unexpected headlining victory, it was mainly a night of independent studios taking home their golden trophies, with the unique handmade puzzler Lumino City taking home the Artistic Achievement gong and the hauntingly beautiful Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) taking home the Debut Game BAFTA. The night’s awards spread the wealth in other categories, with only two games, Monument Valley and The Last of Us: Left Behind, receiving multiple honors. Less controversially Elite creator David Braben was inducted into the BAFTA Fellowship for his ‘outstanding and exceptional creative contribution to the games industry’.

Franchises such as FIFA football, the Call of Duty first-person shooter and the Forza racer are commercial goldmines that are revisited annually to generate predictable profits. Speaking after her win she discussed why she felt the Left Behind DLC stood out amongst other full length games: “After the full game and after connecting with the character of Ellie, I think people wanted to find out who she was.” She also talked about her conversations with the game’s Creative Director Neil Druckmann and his vision for depicting Ellie’s youthful relationship with her friend Riley and exploring the character’s homosexuality, while also confirming rather emphatically that she would love to return to the character in the future should the opportunity arise.

The budget of your game doesn’t really affect its ability to reach people and touch people and be addictive and fun.” Blizzard’s card game title Hearthstone beat the likes of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Grand Theft Auto V to the multiplayer prize. Other award winners include the pretty but vacant Lumino City for best Artistic Achievement, Alien Isolation for Audio Achievement, and Far Cry 4 for Music – after Far Cry 3 also won the same award last year.

This is as much to do with audience expectations of the game they’re getting as it is testament to the development costs required to exploit the technical power of the latest consoles. First World War game Valiant Hearts won for best Original Property (i.e. not a sequel or licensed game) and Blizzard’s virtual card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft won for best Multiplayer game. Yet despite the technical accomplishment of next-gen games such as Destiny and the mechwarrior-style Titanfall, many players look for novelty and a different type of challenge. For example, incarnations of classics such as Nintendo’s ever-popular Mario Kart (now up to the eighth instalment), and a simplified version of the retro-themed Minecraft for games consoles illustrate the enduring appeal of old school game mechanics and characters over games that sell themselves on photo-realistic environments. Still, as in the world of film, it often seems that once again we’ve been seduced by the polish of sequels and derivatives rather than risky new ideas.

With far lower costs to develop games for mobile platforms, the opportunity is there for smaller studios and independent developers (often individuals) to enter the market with interesting, unusual, or downright idiosyncratic games. Big budget games may be technically impressive with their realistic physics engines and lighting, but it’s often the smaller studios with tiny budgets that deliver real innovation. Compelling gameplay doesn’t have to mean breakneck speed and bullet-dodging action; nor, as the regular use of self-deprecating humour in 80 Days demonstrates, do contemporary games need to take themselves so seriously.

Regardless of whether the games enjoy a large or small budget, the Games Baftas should serve to remind us of the enormous versatility, skills and innovation within Britain’s creative industries. The British video games industry is a homegrown success story dating back to the 1980s, but which is continually enriched by the range of excellent design and development courses at UK universities today – long may it contiune.

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