Every year at Kotaku Australia we have game of the year awards. We have a reader voted Game of the Year and we have an Editor's choice. Meaning: I usually make a very public Game of the Year choice.
This year? I'm absolutely dreading it.
It's tough. It's always tough. But this year might be the toughest yet.
I still remember the year I had to choose between Journey and Trials Evolution (I went with Trials Evolution). I remember choosing Luigi's Mansion 2 one year instead of a steller 3DS Zelda game or Mario Kart 8.
In general it's strange. Choosing a 'Game of the Year' means distilling 12 months of incredible experiences and saying this one -- this is the one was the best. It means comparing weird disjointed experiences with traditional ones. It means weighing up completely disparate criteria and making some sort of decision about which was more important or which was more valuable. It can mean going with your gut. It can be about weighing up personal experiences with a more objective approach. It means juggling all this shit and then raising one video game over the others like Simba in The Lion King and saying...
THIS IS THE VIDEO GAME THAT IS THE BEST ONE OVER ALL.
Until this year, the choice I struggled with most was Trials Evolution over Journey.
In a lot of ways that choice, for me personally, perfectly embodied the absurdity of the 'game of the year' debate. In the red corner: Journey. Perhaps one of the most perfectly crafted video game experiences ever made. A unique experience. One you might point to if asked to justify gaming as a medium. "SEE! SEE VIDEO GAMES CAN SAY MEANINGFUL THINGS ABOUT STUFF!" If they gave Oscars to video games Journey would probably get a dozen.
In the blue corner: Trials Evolution. A game about fucking Motorbikes doing wacked out shit for no good reason. A game that I personally adored, a perfectly balanced example of brilliant level design. By all definitions of the word a very 'video gamey' video game.
NOW CHOOSE! CHOOSE BETWEEN THESE TWO DISPARATE EXPERIENCES.
On that occasion I went with my gut. I enjoyed Trials Evolution the most. It brought me the most 'pleasure'. On some level it taught me more about myself and my ability to endure than Journey did despite the fact its thematic content amounts to nothing more than "motorbikes are fucking awesome, right guys?"
Laboured point being: what is the criteria for this stuff? Should there even be criteria? How are we defining these defining experiences? What is even the point of it all?
It's a question that's front of mind for me as Game of the Year season approaches.
I'll level with you, here are some of the games that are in the 'Game of the Year' discussion for me:
-- Bloodborne -- Her Story -- Rocket League -- Metal Gear Solid V -- Mario Maker -- Okay, let's also say for argument's sake that Fallout 4 makes this list because it probably will.
Seriously. Look at that list. We have a video game about cars playing soccer competing with a video game about making Super Mario Bros. levels. They're both competing with a video game in Her Story where you literally type in search terms and watch videos. That's it!
How does one go about defining the terms for that comparison?
Just go with the old gut instinct? Probably. That's what I've been doing for the past three or four years and it's worked for me. It's allowed me to highlight some of the stranger games that I've enjoyed, and that's a nice byproduct, but I'm really just trying to be honest with myself and with you. I chose Skyrim when it was the consensus choice among critics and I've chosen Luigi's Mansion 2 when no-one else was even close to picking it. I chose both games with a real sincerity: those the games I enjoyed most on those particular years.
But 2015? I feel as though this is going to be the most difficult choice yet. Metal Gear Solid V was sprawling, ambitious, yet flawed. Rocket League was surprising, ingenious and incredibly fun moment-to-moment. Her Story was dazzlingly original. Bloodborne was a brilliantly distilled experience and a feat of universe building. What do we value most? What do I value most? That's a metric that is constantly shifting. It's impossible to retain any sort of consistency there.
Bugger it. I'll probably just choose Rocket League.
OR WILL I?