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Players voted for some of the worst choices possible in the Steam Awards

Were the votes ironic?

The player-voted Steam Awards have reached their conclusion, and the results are about as weird as the nominees. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the weirdest game possible won in several categories, such as Red Dead Redemption 2 for the Labor Of Love award and Starfield for "Most Innovative Gameplay".

The Labor Of Love award is given to a game that has been regularly supported by its developers long after release. Red Dead Redemption 2, which was released on PC in 2019, has not received a meaningful update since 2020. Perhaps the award is sarcastic?

"Most Innovative" meanwhile goes to a game "at the front lines of creative experimentation," one which brings "a fresh perspective and brain-breaking surprises", according to Steam's own description. Skyrim with more loading screens seems an odd choice for such an award.

There's a thing that can happen when video game awards are led by votes, whether by the public or even by a small team of journalists: you end up rewarding the good games that everyone played rather than the masterpieces played by only a few. The games that everyone played are inevitably the blockbusters, and your awards can therefore quickly skew towards reocgnising successful marketing campaigns rather than actual video game quality.

There are ways to control for this, particularly if you're a small team of journalists (hi). I'd guess that Valve, in some way, have tried to control for it via the categories they've selected, which attempt to set a more specific criteria than just "I've played this, it's good" for the people casting votes. On this evidence, it hasn't worked, and voters have jammed the big game they've played into holes that don't seem a natural fit.

To be clear: I don't hate Red Dead 2 or Starfield, but they're obviously poor fits for the categories they've won.

The full list of victors does contain some more reasonable results. Lethal Company won the "Better With Friends award", which probably reflects some recency bias but is at least a genuine co-op sensation. Baldur's Gate 3 won Game Of The Year and Outstanding Story-Rich Game, and there is genuine consensus that it's great.

Here's the complete list of Steam Awards 2023 winners:

  • Game Of The Year Award: Baldur's Gate 3
  • VR Game Of The Year Award: Labyrinthine
  • Labor Of Love Award: Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Best Game On Steam Deck Award: Hogwart's Legacy
  • Better With Friends Award: Lethal Company
  • Outstanding Visual Style Award: Atomic Heart
  • Most Innovative Gameplay Award: Starfield
  • Best Game You Suck At Award: Sifu
  • Best Soundtrack Award: The Last Of Us: Part 1
  • Outstanding Story-Rich Game Award: Baldur's Gate 3
  • Sit Back And Relax Award: Dave The Diver

I assume the Steam Awards will be viewed by a huge number of Steam players and so it's a shame it isn't used to highlight more deserving winners across all its categories. On the other hand, I suppose as democratic awards, it's not only Steam players who miss out, but who are to blame.

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