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The games of 2022, according to this year's GDC and IGF Award winners

Bestest Bests all round

John Romero at the GDC Awards 2023
Image credit: GDC

This year's Game Developers Choice and IGF Award ceremonies were really heartening stuff. Getting to see so many great developers have their games celebrated by their peers will always warm the old cockles, especially when we celebrated so many of them in our own RPS Advent Calendar at the end of last year. Well, I say 'see'. In truth, I was tucked away backstage at this year's IGF and GDC Awards, clutching my dictaphone with a single question in mind: if each winner had to give away their award to another game in their category, who would it be and why?

It's an idea Brendan (RPS in peace) came up with back in the primordial mists of 2018, and it was so good I just had to knick it and do it again. It might be cruel to wrench these awards away so soon after receiving them, but it's all in the name of spreading good vibes and extra shoutouts, I promise. So here are the games of the year 2022, according to the people who just won awards for games of the year 2022.

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IGF Awards

The Forest Quartet - Mads & Friends (Excellence In Audio)

Mads Vadsholt, director of The Forest Quartet, receives his IGF Award 2023
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: Hello! Congratulations! Are you singing for joy right now?

Mads Vadsholt (director): Yeah! I guess this opens some new doors, and I've been anxious about how I'm going to produce my next project, and I think maybe this will help the next project come to life, so I'm very happy about it. I'm quite humbled actually. I really didn't expect it. I didn't prepare a speech, I was just kind of like, please someone else win!

RPS: On that subject, if you could give away your award to one other game in your category, who would it be?

Vadsholt: Let me think. I would give it to Dome Keeper. I really like [sound designer] Martin [Mathiesen Kvale]'s work.

Betrayal At Club Low - Cosmo D Studios (Nuovo Award)

Cosmo D receives the Nuovo Award at GDC 2023
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: A good roll of the pizza dice today!

Greg Heffernan (aka: Cosmo D): Yes!

RPS: Do you have any other lucky foodstuffs in your life?

Heffernan: Lucky foodstuffs... Yeah, I get onigiri on the weekend. And that's always great. You can never fail on the onigiri roll.

RPS: I see what you did there. But if you had to give away your award, who would it go to?

Heffernan: Flan [Falacci, creator of Titantic II: Orchestra For Dying At Sea]. Flan and I have known each other a long time, and I really appreciate the work they're doing, and it's really inspiring because we've supported each other over the years, so I feel like we're seeing a lot of people based in New York start to make their mark and come into their own as creators. So I think we're all rooting for each other.

Potionomics - Audience Award

The Potionomics team receive their Audience Award at GDC 2023
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: Congratulations on your award! From this position of ultimate power, having won out of all the finalists nominated tonight, which game would you give your award away to and why?

Aryo Jati Darmawan (co-founder): I mean, to everyone, all these games are fantastic. How can you pick just one? I think everyone deserves it. But! To pick one, I think RPG Time: The Legend Of Wright is really, really cool.

Gregory Nicolett (composer): They got it from us in the visual category.

Darmawan: [laughs] Well, we'll give them this one as well. There you go.

Betrayal At Club Low - Cosmo D Studios (Seumas McNally Grand Prize)

Cosmo D receives the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Betrayal At Club Low at GDC 2023
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: Second lucky roll of the pizza dice!

Greg Heffernan (aka: Cosmo D): Yeah, I guess so!

RPS: I guess the pizza dice have to stay now, to be this lucky.

Heffernan: They're staying, yeah. They'll be sticking around.

RPS: I'm going to ask you the same question I did a minute ago. If you could give you award away to another game, who would it be this time?

Heffernan: Ooo. I'm blanking right now. Okay. Who would it be? The Case Of The Golden Idol. More because of the... I mean, I think all the games are phenomenal, right? They're heavy-hitters. But Golden Idol was one person. They were like the spirit of the award. They have an idea, they're using a new engine, the Godot engine, they're trying something new, they're taking a chance on an idea, and they're just going for it. It's not like they have a track record yet. It's not like they know what they're going to do is going to result in anything. They're just putting it out there and boom, seeing what happens at the moment that they felt was right. It's beautiful, and I think that's something I really admire about it. I think they're all winners in many ways, and I think that Golden Idol captures the intimacy of a new idea executed beautifully by an individual who is coming from a fresh angle.

GDC Awards

God Of War: Ragnarok - Sony Santa Monica (Best Audio)

The God Of War Ragnarok audio team receive their GDC Award 2023 for Best Audio
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: Congratultions! In classic God Of War style, if you could shout one word right now, what would it be?

Jodie Kupsco (dialogue supervisor): Oh, "BOY!"

Michael Kent (sound design supervisor): [laughs]

Kupsco: I mean, that's all I can think of, because I had to record it 20 million times.

Kent: Just, "epic".

RPS: Excellent. And if you had to give away your award to another game in your category, what would it be?

Kupsco: I mean, I played so much Stray after God Of War came out, just because it was so therapeutic, but I mean, the great thing about the game audio community is we're so tight-knit and we support each other so much, and we all play each other's games, and share with each other, and you can't just pick one. You can't!

RPS: But it would be Stray?

Kupsco: Well... I was just scratching all the furniture, because I'm a jerk like a cat, so it's great...

Kent: I don't know! Horizon [Forbidden West]'s great...

Kupsco: Horizon is fantastic.

Kent: It does a lot. But again, I would want to cut this [award] and give it to everyone.

Kupsco: Played a lot of Elden Ring, too...

Kent: Yeah, Elden Ring's the bomb. It was like a full time second job! [laughs]

Kupsco: It really was.

Immortality - Half Mermaid (Innovation Award & IGF Award for Excellence In Narrative)

Half Mermaid, developers of Immortality, receive their GDC Award 2023 for Innovation
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: Picture the scene. You've found some 20-year old footage of you winning this award. What object would you click on and what would it jump cut to?

Sam Barlow (director): You'd click on the award, and it would jump to all the other winners across the ages, and you could compare and contrast the evolution of video games.

Natalie Watson (producer) That's a good one. Umm... I would say my glasses, because there was a point at which we tagged all the glasses in Immortality, and we decided too many people were wearing glasses, and so I'd bring glasses back.

Connor Carson (lead programmer): You stole mine!

Watson: Oh no!

Carson: I would say... you [Natalie] have a little notepad in your hand, and if I was not aware of what was on the notepad, I'd really want to know and clicking on it might divulge some of what you were holding on to - your secrets!

Watson: [laughs]

RPS: And if you had to give away your award, who would it go to?

Watson: I mean, every single one. I would probably give it to Pentiment for Innovation.

Barlow: Yeah, I love Pentiment. I just had a chat with Josh [Sawyer] the other day. I mean, I think this is the weirdest category because what is 'innovation'? Every game in that category was doing a different thing and going in a different direction, so I can't even call it. Apart from like, Elden Ring... I love the flex that he accepted the award for Best Design and said, 'Yeah, we didn't quite pull it off.' [laughs]

Carson: I'm going to second Pentiment, just in terms of my familiarity with the games and what I've really enjoyed.

RPS: What about your IGF Award for narrative?

Barlow: I'd give it to everybody because I genuinely couldn't choose. It's funny because we've been up against God Of War and stuff for narrative [at the GDC Awards], so it's like, 'Finally, we're in an indie category, we don't have to worry about Kratos!' But then it's even harder because every game is phenomenal. Norco is the one I played most recently, that's the one I'd give it to.

Watson: I'd do Tunic. I just think the environmental story-telling of that game is a story within itself.

Carson: The Case Of The Golden Idol was a really big one for me in terms of narrative. I think that would be up there for me.

Stray - Blue Twelve Studio (Best Debut)

BlueTwelve Studio, developers of Stray, receive their GDC Award 2023 for Best Debut
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: Congratulations! Do you think Murtaugh and your other office cats would approve of this award?

Swann Martin-Raget (producer): Ah, we'll see. Usually they make them fall off our shelves where we put them, so that's probably what they're going to do, but that means they really like it, so they're really grateful.

RPS: I hope you put lots of cushions on the floor underneath it. You wouldn't want to break that.

Martin-Raget: It should be pretty safe, there aren't any pointy bits.

RPS: If you had to give this award away to another game in your category, who would it be?

Martin-Raget: Was Tunic in there? Yeah. Tunic was made by such a small team, we were so impressed by the work and the amount of scope it has. It really left us... I mean, we didn't think we'd win this award because of them, so I am incredibly impressed by their work.

Pentiment - Obsidian Entertainment (Best Narrative)

Obsidian Entertainment, developers of Pentiment, receive their GDC Award 2023
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: If you could immortalise your award as a manuscript, what illustrations would be around the outside?

Josh Sawyer (director and narrative director): [laughs] Around the outside? Probably things that are very silly. I mean, Hannah should really answer this.

Hannah Kennedy (art director): The goofiest stuff is what we used in the margins, definitely a ton of animals, skeletons, for sure, and a frog. The grumpy frog.

RPS: Fantastic. And if you had to hand that manuscript of your award to someone else in your category, who would it be?

Sawyer: I'd give it to Sam [Barlow] and Immortality [laughs]. We actually had an interview together and he was like, Immortality came out and he was like, 'Oh great,' and then he said that Pentiment came out and he was like 'Oh no', because it came out before all the award nominations. But no, I just played it and it was fantastic. Definitely.

Kennedy: I don't know... I hadn't really considered this in advance.

Sawyer: I'm still so shocked that we got this!

Kennedy: There were a ton of stellar narrative games that came out, so I don't have another peak option in mind...

Alec Fry (producer): Can I give it to one that wasn't nominated, but was for IGF? Because I think Citizen Sleeper should earn it.

Sawyer: Citizen Sleeper is an incredible game, yeah.

Kennedy: Yeah, absolutely.

John Romero - (Lifetime Achievement Award)

John Romero receives his Lifetime Achievement Award at GDC 2023
Image credit: <a href="">GDC</a>

RPS: Congratulations! Out of all the games you've made, which one is your favourite?

John Romero: Doom.

RPS: Yeah?

Romero: Yeah, I'd have to say, yeah. It's still going, you know? I'm still making stuff for Doom. So yeah, abut four years ago I released the kind of fifth episode for Doom called Sigil, and I'm working on Sigil II, which is the sixth episode. And I basically make it, then I just put it out on the internet for free. And yeah, it's just fun. The Doom community is huge. Even the old games are still coming out with tons of levels every year. It's just really fun and cool.

RPS: Something I've been asking everyone tonight is if they could give away their award to someone else in their category, who would it be, but that seems a slightly unfair question to ask you in this particular case.

Romero: To any person? Jeez, umm... Maybe Ron Gilbert. I know Tim Schafer got it already. Ron's really great. Oh wait, Ron got it already too...

RPS: I mean, I think you're allowed to say you'd like to just keep it, if you'd like.

Romero: I'm definitely going to keep it. I worked a long time to get this award! [laughs]

So there we are. All the folks I got the chance to interview were very gracious in giving up their awards, and I, too, long for the day when Sam Barlow and Josh Sawyer can get back in the same room together to both commiserate and celebrate their mutual award re-gifting. To see the back-to-back awards ceremonies for yourself, hop on over to GDC's Twitch channel, and you can also catch the full list of actual winners here and here.

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