Right after A Short Hike won the Independent Games Festival Awards grand prize last night, the Game Developers Choice Awards declared Untitled Goose Game the game of the year. Other games to win prizes Dev Choice Awards include Disco Elysium, Control, and Baba Is You - some good stuff. They also handed the Pioneer Award to Roberta Williams, the Sierra co-founder known for adventure games from Mystery House to Phantasmagoria.
The Game Developers Conference itself was postponed due to Covid-19 concerns, but the awards still went ahead livestreamed on Twitch (where GDC have been streaming talks too). While the IGF Awards are quite broad in scope with a squillion judges, the Game Developers Choice Awards are limited to games released in 2019 and decided by a smaller and more tightly-controlled group of developers. But it is again, unlike many other awards decided, primarily developers judging developers' work.
Best Audio - Control
Remedy's superpowered third-person shooter does have some cracking noises when smashing extradimensional entities with fire extinguishers using your telekinetic powers. Great music too. And all the sounds of the spooky videos and voiceovers? Very good. A treat to the ear.
Best Debut - ZA/UM for Disco Elysium
It is wild that the studio's first game is so striking and so confident and so wholly itself.
"It's a great, bleak rumination on the failings of humanity on a macro and micro level. But not without hope," Alice Bee said in our Disco Elysium review. "A masterpiece, but flawed, and proof positive that if ZA/UM can do flawed masterpiece for their first outing, they might already be chipping away the flaws in time for their next."
Best Design - Baba Is You
This clever wee puzzler is about a friendly little rabbit, Baba, who needs to become all sorts of other elements of the levels. Baba is you at first, obvs, the character you control. But what does it mean when Baba is you and weak and Baba is Baba - all at the same time?
Our Baba Is You review declared "this is wonderful. Completely wonderful. Original, inspired, challenging, and most importantly of all, that constant sense of 'Oh no, how will I ever do this one!' so quickly followed by, 'I AM A GENIUS!' It's a very, very smart game, that has the humility to let you, the player, feel like the clever one."
Best Mobile Game - What The Golf?
Not just on mobile, this weird and wacky golf 'em up shakes up the game of stick and ball in new ways every level. It's golf but with eggs. It's golf but you're driving a car. It's golf but football, complete with defenders trying to intercept the ball. It's golf but Portal. It's golf but snowboarding. It's golf but Katamari Damacy. It's golf but you launch the golfer. It keeps coming up with new jokes and surprises for a lot longer than I'd expected.
Innovation Award - Baba Is You
Further demonstrating quite how different the IGF and GDC awards are, Baba Is You actually won an IGF award for excellence in design way back in 2018.
If you dig Baba, do see The Mechanic's talk with its creator about some of the trickiest words for Baba to be.
Best Narrative - Disco Elysium
You know who fell truly, madly, deeply for Disco Elysium's story? Old Man Alec Meer, who said it "offers a dark mirror to my mid-life crisis."
Best Technology - Control
Not knowing what technologies most impressed the judges, I'll just say I liked sprinting through a hall of desks like a dickhead just to watch them collapse into their component pieces pieces at my mighty touch. Lovely destruction, bit overly keen. It has plenty of other tecnotrickery too, mind.
Best Visual Art - Control
It is a game which had me mashing my screenshot key every time I went somewhere new, and especially at moments like the Ashtray Maze. Or when nothing happened, when simply a load of agents floated in mid-air in an office. A lot of rooms spring to mind but to me the best-looking part was scenes combining live-action video with the game world. Gorgeous.
Best VR/AR Game - Vader Immortal
It is my understanding that VR motion controllers were invented to play lightsabers, and anything else is just winging it.
Audience Award - Sky: Children Of The Light
The studio behind Journey are back with a free-to-play explore-o-dealio which looks a fair bit like Journey? Alrighty!
Game of the Year - Untitled Goose Game
This was undoubtedly the breakout hit of the year, a concept and protagonist which propelled Goose Game to be ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE and THRILLING TO MANY. People who I never knew had any interest in games wanted to talk to me about Goose Game.
Katharine said in our Untitled Goose Game review that "brief as it may be, Untitled Goose Game leaves a lasting impression – much like the geese of my youth." Alice Bee also had a childhood connection to the goose, though more because she grew up near a similar village and was so happy to ruin this loathed place.
Pioneer Award - Roberta Williams
They say she's pioneering "for her influential work in the graphical adventure game genre with titles like Mystery House, for creating the landmark King’s Quest game series and for co-founding Sierra On-Line with her husband Ken Williams." A good shout!
Ambassador Award - Kate Edwards
Edwards is the co-executive director of the Global Game Jam, the huge annual gamesblast which this year boasted 48,700 developers making games in 934 places across 118 countries. She was the executive director of the International Game Developers Association before that.
You can see all the notwinners and honourable mentions in the list of nominees.
Disclosure: I'm pally with some of the House House lads off Goose Game. I say "pally", I mean "am acquaintance of, who once forced one of them to eat an awful amount of mayonnaise squeezed straight from the bottle after shouting swears at him."