We’re kicking off our awards with a bang — that is, one of our biggest awards, Best Criticism is launching this shin dig. Adding to the awesome are our awards for Best Soundtrack, Best List Article, Best Series, our first Rising Star award, and the 8CN.tv Best Adaptation Into A Videogame. Here. We. Go.
Best Soundtrack: Kentucky Route Zero
Runner-up: The Last of Us
Gustavo Santaolalla’s unconventional composition and sparse sensibilities built a somber and unique score for Naughty Dog’s opus that was instantly identifiable to anyone who played it.
Honorable Mention: BioShock Infinite
Best List Article: “Get This Man Up To Speed,” Jim Rossignol
Whereas last year’s batch of judges opted for “Best List” to be a fun experience — tasting Pokemon won out in a monumental way for those wanting to try eating a Charizard — this year’s judges opted for more serious takes on the list article, in the vein of Tom Bissell’s awesome “13 ways of looking at a shooter”, or, indeed, Rossignol’s examination of the last fifteen years of PC gaming. Rossignol blends the seriousness of a piece like Bissell’s and the lightheartedness generally associated with lists — complete with tongue-in-cheek jabs at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the out-of-nowhere success of League of Legends, and sports games still iterating like nobody’s business. It’s a very Rock, Paper, Shotgun take on the last fifteen years…and that’s exactly what we wanted.
Runner-up: “Twenty Developers You Don’t Know But Should,” Joystiq Staff.
The Joystiq staff came together to provide a meaningful overview of developers you might not be following but should be, featuring the folks that make games like Wizorb, Year Walk, Papo and Yo, and other darlings. Sure, they’re probably not creating the next juggernaut franchise — but who’s to say that they aren’t?
8CN Best Adaptation Into A Videogame: Lego Marvel Super Heroes
We turned the floor over to our friends at 8CN.tv — a great place for all things geek — to chat about the best bit of geekdom turned videogame geekdom. This is what they came up with.
Lego has a long history of fantastic licensed games (everything from Star Wars to Batman to Harry Potter and beyond), but their 2013 installment really raised the bar on video game adaptations.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes managed to take Marvel’s rich, 75 year history and distill it into an experience that was both accessible and endearing to fans and non-fans alike.
The game featured nearly 150 characters ranging from the Avengers to the X-Men, and even the Guardians of the Galaxy; bringing them together for an adventure that’s full of both fan-service (Clark Gregg voices Agent Coulson! Lego Asgard! Stan Lee cameo!) and surprises alike.
More important than the volume of content though was the attention to detail. Despite the blocky Lego visuals, Marvel Super Heroes still felt true to its source material. The characters felt polished and accurate, the gameplay was light and fun, and the entire experience radiated the wit and excitement that has grabbed readers for generations.
Marvel Super Heroes is likely Lego’s best yet, and undoubtedly one of the finest comic book-inspired games of all time. Plus, it has Troy Baker shouting, “I am Groot!” You’re not going to find that anywhere else.
Best Series: “Tropes vs. Women,” Anita Sarkeesian
Though Good Games Writing’s primary focus is on the written word, both our judges and our staff decided that video ruled the roost in the Best Series category this year, and we agreed that no video series was more important and more influential than “Tropes vs. Women.” Beginning with the firm acknowledgment that games are something we can all enjoy as well as criticize, “Tropes vs. Women” proceeded to dissect gaming traditions and compel its audience to examine the different ways games depict women.
Runner-up: “Extra Credits,” James Portnow, Daniel Floyd, Allison Theus, Elisa Scaldafferi, Scoot DeWitt
Beloved by GGW’s readers and judges alike, Extra Credits continues to be one of the best educational series about game development and gaming traditions available to us.
Honorable Mention: “The Jimquisition,” Jim Sterling
One of our 2012 nominees for writer of the year marched through 2013 with his typically unflappable swagger, gaining armies of new followers along the way, and expertly transitioning from Destructoid to The Escapist without his flagship video column missing a beat.
Rising Star: Laura Dale
Laura Dale is on a mission to highlight quality indie games…and make them. While her venture into game development is certainly one worth watching, it was her decision to found Indie Haven and ability to anchor the publication that has gained our attention. With a regular column highlighting indies, a series of short, thoughtful reviews, and running the always fascinating developer roundtables, we regularly drop by Indie Haven for our indie fix. However, Laura’s most important article, as we see it, didn’t appear on Indie Haven, nor did it talk indie games at all; instead, Laura proposed we talk about Birdo and the implications the character has for transgender people in the gaming space.
Laura is the first of our three Rising Star recipients.
Best Criticism: “True-ish Grit,” Tom Bissell
It’s a testament to Tom Bissell’s contributions to games writing that a search for his recent declaration that he won’t be writing about games anymore yields nothing but links to some of his best writing about games. “True-ish Grit” is Bissell’s take on The Last of Us, an effacing contrast between the current hang-ups of AAA games and their latent literary and cultural power. Nothing else came close in this category.
The announcement of the PS4 was cause for celebration for many people, but Teti was there to eloquently keep opinions in orbit, and enumerate the shortcomings of Sony’s next-gen philosophy.
Honorable Mention: “Football: The Kotaku Review,” Tim Rogers
This is our own Adam Condra’s single-favorite piece of games writing from 2013. No, he’s not upset that it didn’t go higher amongst our judges, he’s just happy that it was nominated.