Golden Joysticks 2015 (Part 2) – Bracketing Woes, and the First No Award Call

“OMG Doc posted something on time?” Yeah, he did. Don’t act too surprised. Starting back from where we left off in Part 1, don’t forget to head over to the Golden Joysticks site and cast your vote. As always, you may not agree with me, and if you don’t, I wanna know why in the comments, and where you live. Just kidding. I don’t really want to know why. Let’s go.

Best Handheld/Mobile Game – Lifeline

lifeline

This category annoys me because of the weird mixture of handheld games, mobile games and tablet games strewn into one blanket bracket. It may not be a massive issue if all of these games were put together in, say, a “portable” bracket, because that comes with its own presuppositions on what is expected. What we have, however, is handheld and mobile games, and the difference in the nature of handheld and mobile games as compared to games that are simply portable is in their brevity. They are the games that you sit and play on your commute, on your break or on the toilet – as such, they need to allow you to play for short, snappy periods of time, and still be interesting enough to keep you coming back for more. As such, games like Steins;Gate or Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, while amazing games in their own right, get a miss because they are the antithesis of the bracket that holds games that they simple can’t compare themselves to.

So what’s left? Between the idle collectathon Neko Atsume to the engrossing artistic feat that is Framed, a lot of people would take Fallout Shelter for their pick for its easy access and persistent gameplay that rewards you for your work even when you are not playing it. And while I want to give the award to Fallout Shelter, there is something missing from Fallout Shelter that annoys me: it’s just a wee bit shallow. For all of the people you send into the wasteland and all of the vault rooms you build, there is no real pull for you to care about any of the characters. For this reason alone, Bethesda’s vault sim is pipped at the post by the simpler, humbler and altogether more engrossing Lifeline.

Her name is Taylor, and she has crash landed on a moon light-years away from any hope of rescue. The only thing she has working his her communications device, which your mobile device has picked up on and is receiving Taylor’s messages. During your dialogue, you will direct her to find supplies, salvage equipment, discuss strategies, swap stories and wait for a rescue that may never come. The writing is impeccable, and justifies the need for you to put the game down while Taylor completes a task that you have set her to perform, and will notify you through stylized notifications, leaving you waiting for her next report while life continues on. It is simple and minimalist in its style and dramatic in its aims, and is completely different to any mobile game you have ever played.

Honorable Mentions – Fallout Shelter, Framed

Innovation Of The Year – Destiny’s Companion App

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In a pool of options that are apparently “innovations”, I find myself wanting for something that is going to make me go “holy shit that is really cool” rather than “eh, I could see myself using that”. Perhaps it is the hype that surrounds new technologies and nigh-inaccessible gadgets that make people weak at the knees, but there is something simplistic about the little things no one really thought of doing that make people wonder why no one thought of it in the first place. It sound seem however, with entrants like the GamePad cockpit from Affordable Space Adventures or the Project Morpheus demo, that the caliber of “innovation” requires more equipment that you could ever need for an innovation that doesn’t warrant the expenditure. Consequently, this award needs to go to something simple – the Companion App for Destiny.

Don’t have time to hit the pause button during that massive firefight? Use the app to control your inventory. Need to change weapons from your backpack toute suite? Use the app to rearrange your layout. Have no idea where the fuck you’re going in a mission? Use the app to check the maps. It is the natural evolution of using what we already have to enhance the experiences that need small but essential things that a massive new plastic doohickey may not warrant. The success of the app can pave the way for other games to start making their own external apps. How about a mobile store for MOBAs so you can preplan your next gear purchase and get back in position faster? A live map and scoreboard for FPS fans? The possibility are only limited by the games they accompany, and with a smartphone in everyone’s pocket, it’s about time someone put them to use.

Also, just to clarify: in my humble opinion, putting GTA in first person is to innovation what Iggy Azalea is to poetry. Confusing why you would even call it “innovative”, and certainly not innovative in the slightest.

Honorable Mention – #IDARB

Best Gaming Moment (The “Holy Shit” Award) – Saving Kate, in Life Is Strange

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These are the best parts of gaming: the moments that, for whatever reason, make you temporarily put down the controller and go “holy shit”. This category is tough every year, and they didn’t make it any easier this year: not necessarily because of the subjectivity of the whole thing, but because there is just such a massive variety of moment, and everyone gets a flavor of “holy shit”. There’s the “holy shit” power trip moment when you ride your very first elephant in Farcry 4, the “holy shit” of sheer majesty you feel when you summon Ramuh for the first time in Final Fantasy XV, and the “holy shit” nerd-out when you meet your very own Hawke in Dragon Age: Inquisition. In my heart of hearts, though, I could not think of a better moment to give this to than foiling Kate’s suicide attempt in Life Is Strange.

Everything about this moment is tense: the initial sucker punch as you watch her suicide helplessly. the first fruitless attempt to rewind time and watching her plummet again, the push to get to the roof to do what you need to do, and then finally, when the rewind option is no longer available, the taut, brief talk-down that has a life hanging in the balance. Life Is Strange may not have the best voice-acting in the world, nor the most imaginative script. Regardless. it was something in the moment, having every word hang in the air and hoping to God that it wasn’t in vain, that gave the entire moment the weight it deserved. For most, you fail, and the futility of your attempts weigh on Kate – and you – for the remainder of the episode. For those that were lucky enough to talk her down, however, you were treated to a wave of relief, a brief tap of the pause button, and a well-deserved sigh of “hooooooooooooly shit”.

Honorable Mentions – Ramuh smites some bitches in FFXV, OMG-IT’S-MY-HAWKE from Dragon Age Inquisition

Gaming Personality Of The Year – Austin Creed (UpUpDownDown)

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In all honesty, I did not feel right voting in this category – not because of my unfamiliarity with the people involved, but the fact that most of them are either Minecraft personalities, British gaming personalities and PewDiePie. I couldn’t vote for the first because Minecraft makes me want to drill a hole in my head, I know not of the British Youtube community outside of the occasional TomSka video, and I feel like if I vote for Pewds, Markiplier will come to me in my dreams and smack me across the jaw with a bright pink mallet shaped like a mustache. So imagine my surprise when two of my greatest passions – professional wrestling and video games – just happen to coincide at just the right moment. Enter Austin Creed.

Otherwise known as Xavier Woods in the WWE, he takes his particular style of Lets Play and plays it with the WWE wrestlers in a side of them that is far removed from their television personalities. We see the cocky Seth Rollins jamming Turtles In Time and having a blast, we see the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev and the high-flying Jimmy Uso fight not in a WWE ring but in Street Fighter IV. But more importantly, aside from all of this, we don’t see slightly too overproduced videos: we see people relaxing, playing video games and having a whale of a time. Let’s be honest with ourselves: what do we prefer, watching a group of people have a genuinely good time with a video game, or watching a Swedish man hit that ever so cringe-worthy C# with his screaming?

Honorable Mentions – Day9, the man who brings me PewDiePie’s larynx

eSports Icon Of The Year – No Award


I honestly don’t know what to tell you. I care not for these gentlemen, though I understand that they are good in their fields. I’m not throwing my vote to something I don’t feel confident in, and this is exactly that category. I will go out of my way to mention, however, that there are no women in this bracket. Not making any political statement, just something to think about. Next.

Honorable Mention – Fiber internet

Studio Of The Year – Blizzard

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When it comes to game developers, you can often expect to get one really good, polished product out of them per year, or a handful of cash-grabs over the space of the year. It’s a case of quality over quantity, and a good developer wants to be able to balance both. Of course, it is always helpful to have a developer that works well with its audience and gives the people what they want. Klei Entertainment and Frontier are small companies that have gone above and beyond the call of duty over the past year, and as always CD Projekt RED are being cool dudes with their website GOG making massive strides in the PC gaming landscape, and releasing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to boot. But there is only one place for this award, and it can only go to the most hard-working developer on the nominations list: Blizzard.

Simply looking at their to-do list over the past year will tell you what you need to know. They are simultaneously working on a new World Of Warcraft expansion, a new Starcraft 2 expansion, a whole new IP in the form of Overwatch and tinkering with Heroes Of The Storm, while also maintaining and patching all of these games, not to mention the work they have done with Hearthstone and Diablo 3. They are helping drive the competitive eSports scene in two different genres and could well be leaning into MOBA or FPS competition in their new IPs. The sheer volume of work that Blizzard does is damn near superhuman for a company even of their size, and yet they stroll through it like it was the work of a small indie studio. Hats off to you, guys. Just remember to take a break every fifteen minutes like the warnings tell you to.

Honorable Mentions – CD Projekt RED, Klei Entertainment

Best Gaming Platform – Playstation 4

PlayStation-4

Yet another contentious bracket, but for totally different reasons than the others this time around. All consoles have their strengths and weaknesses, which will lead to a total shitstorm of people claiming their platform is the best for sometimes the most inane reasons. The PS4 has the most solid performance so far on the console market, the Xbox One has made a surprising resurgence after its opening fiasco and the Wii U is chugging along and releasing the best exclusives of all of the consoles. On the non-console front, Steam is still the one-stop stop for the PC crew, the New Nintendo 3DS is a middle finger to a Sony handheld that may has well have not existed, and the mobile markets are going strong. Everyone will have their reasons, but I am trying to be objective and pick the most well-rounded console. As much as it betrays my PC gaming heritage, I simply can’t look past the Playstation 4.

With PC gaming shifting even further into the big boys club of the gaming community, we are left to the consoles to bring the bacon home, and its not hard to see why people would look to the PS4. Solid exclusive titles, and the preferred place to play third-party titles with superior performance over the Xbox One, the Playstation 4 also provides free titles with Playstation Plus: a service that is required to play online games anyway, but Sony decided to leave in the benefits of the service because they’re cool like that. Of course, with those strengths out of the way, the Playstation 4 does have its shortcomings – namely, the lack of the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility and the big names of the Wii U’s monstrous catalog of exclusive titles. That’s the issue with the category, though. It can go any and every way, because all of the applicants have their particular strengths. The Playstation 4 just has the fewest weaknesses.

Honorable Mentions – Xbox One, Wii U

***

Tune in on Monday when we release the third and final installment, starting from Best Gaming Performance and ending with the big one, Game Of The Year. Stay tuned!

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