While the Game Developers Conference is not happening this week, postponed by Covid-19 health concerns, its two big awards shows went ahead on livestream. The vile waterfowl of Untitled Goose Game ran off with the Game Of The Year Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards, and the chill A Short Hike scooped the Grand Prize at the Independent Games Festival Awards. A Short Hike and fellow winner Mutazione are both free for keepsies on another few hours too. If you enjoy having your preferences validated by awards from distinguished-sounding bodies, read on!
The IGF lineup is only games who pay to submit (or are approved to have fees waived), so it's not every indie game under the sun and often includes games which aren't finished yet. They're then played and voted on by a huge number of developers and other industry figures then sent to a smaller panel of category jurors. On the scale of video game awards, it is a pretty decent sense of what developers' peers think. Which makes them quite nice to win.
Excellence in Visual Art - Knights And Bikes ($2000)
That's the lovely adventure of two kids on a Cornish-ish island. "It's such a warm game," Matt said in our Knights And Bikes review. "Touching and heartfelt, masterfully capturing the cosy excitement of the places and stories we explore as children." Chuffing pretty too.
Excellence in Audio - Mutazione ($2000)
Visit an island of mutants, make friends, become tangled in their lives, and worry about overstepping your bounds in this cracking soap opera. It's got a great soundtrack, characters speak with musical noises, and you can plant your own songs with seeds.
"Mutazione allows you to be an artist, as you choose where your plants will grow, perhaps with a big splash of pink leaves on the left and a smattering of bright mushrooms across the ground, and also a composer," Alice Bee said in our Mutazione review. "Then you can sit and watch, and listen to it. It's a miracle that all the little sounds come together to make music."
We declared it the best games of 2019 too. My favourite part was anything involving swimming, Miu, or swimming with Miu.
Also! Mutazione is still free for keepsies for another few short hours on the Epic Games Store, until 3pm UK time. Hop to!https://vimeo.com/359035307
Excellence in Design - Patrick's Parabox ($2000)
Huh, this one is new to me! A puzzle game about pushing boxes into boxes in boxes in boxes in boxes with infinite recursion? I'll keep an eye open for when it's done and out.
Excellence in Narrative - Heaven's Vault ($2000)
Sail the rivers between stars, learn and translate languages of long-dead civilisations, and see where that takes you.
"You pull at threads and you tease out the meaning of a whole civilisation, the most satisfying unravelling imaginable," Alice said in our Heaven's Vault review "And I already know that there are secrets I didn't properly uncover, because it was a bit of history I didn't chase down far enough."
Nuovo Award - The Space Between ($2000)
Also new to me, this. Drifting into a dreamy, surreal play at night? I'm game.
The Nuovo award is for games which make folks "think differently about games as a medium". It's previously been won by games including Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, Oikospiel Book I, Cart Life, and Tetrageddon Games.
Best Student Game - Bore Dome ($2000)
Another new one to me, cool! A... first-person puzzle game about experiencing boring and medicocre moments with weird simulated senses and actions? I'll play this when it's out, no doubt.
Audience Award - A Short Hike ($2000)
"I did want to keep exploring, and once I'd found everything there was to find, I kept playing just to hang out for longer in its world," our Graham said when declaring it one of last year's best games "Just as Claire found more than she expected on her mountain climb, I found more in A Short Hike. It's a spiritually refreshing videogame – and how many of those are there?"
Seumas McNally Grand Prize - A Short Hike ($10,000)
You again? Hello! In that case, I'll show you towards Katharine saying "A Short Hike is the best Animal Crossing game this side of New Horizons."
And! A Short Hike is also free for keepsies on the Epic Games Store if you grab it by 3pm today.
What else was nominated? You can see the full list of finalists over here.
I'm glad to see three games I don't know this year. The IGF Awards may not be as wild and exciting as they once were but I'm always glad to be introduced to evidently-pretty-good games I'd missed so far.
While the Game Developers Conference is one of the many events cancelled by coronavirus concerns, with a replacement event tentatively planned for summer, many of the talks planned for this week are being streamed online for free.
Disclosure: Hannah Nicklin, a former RPS contributor and pal of mine, wrote Mutazione.