Why I Can’t Pick a Game of the Year and Why I’ll Try Anyway

Game of the Year

As soon as December comes on the back end of Thanksgiving and November at large, there are a few things that become readily apparent. The first is that Santa Claus is coming to town. The second is that all of my favorite gaming sites have suddenly been attacked by some sort of despotic overlord who demands tribute in a most peculiar way; a single game to be sacrificed to the masses, a “Game of the Year” with no other on equal footing.

I find it overwhelming. Firstly, as a reader, and secondly, as a critic myself.

Mark of the NinjaWith all honesty, I get more then a little terrified by the thought of having to crown a single game the clear-cut winner of the year. For one, how can a game be a clear-cut winner if it takes so long for one to decide that it is one? Then there’s the whole deal where a huge majority of blockbuster games arrive during this season, right when we are to crown one for the winner. Being so recent means that these games have a better chance at earning Game of the Year prestiges. At the same time, being so recent means that unless one has ample amounts of time, one might miss out on fully experiencing some games in favor of others.

For me that means a whole slew of notable titles like Sleeping Dogs, Far Cry 3, Hitman: Absolution, Halo 4, Mark of the Ninja, The Walking Dead, and on, and on.

No offense guys but I spent far too much time on XCOM and Assassin’s Creed III this year..

So my view on 2012 is disjointed. There’s a lot I missed. More woeful than that; there’s a lot I forgot about. I suspect that the same goes for pretty much every game journalist out there, though they don’t exactly ‘fess up or even confront the issue.

Did you know that Kingdoms of Amalur released this year? How about Final Fantasy XIII-2? Heck, I truly forgot the PS Vita released this year (for Americans at least), even though I have one right here on my desk.

Borderlands 2Then in the selection process for a Game of the Year, there are some unwritten industry rules. If I were to bestow honors upon an indie game, I’d be cast out as a progressive hipster. If I picked a game that sold very well, I’d be seen as a lemming. If I picked a platform-specific title, I would get approval from 1/4th the audience while being simultaneously derided by others. Even more heinous would be to crown a sports game or fighting game as Game of the Year.

Once I’ve categorized what’s eligible to win, I still have more criteria to meet. Actually, I still have to come up with some criteria.

Should the Game of the Year appeal to the self-proclaimed hardcore gamers or should it be a game that’s hit some sort of threshold with its marketing budget? A game can’t exactly be Game of the Year if average gamers don’t have a clue what it is. Should I be able to give the award to a game I haven’t played yet? We hit the problem I mentioned earlier where not many of us have enough time to play everything under the sun. But for sake of being a moral journalist, I can’t give it to something I haven’t played yet. That’s a little unseemly.

It’s hard to pick a Game of the Year. I can’t even imagine how some publications pick a Game of the Decade, what with all the technological revisions that a decade has.

XCOM: Enemy UnknownStill, I have to do a proper one, mainly because  I did one last year but at least because some part of my humanity wants to put these games head to head. We as a species have a need for organization and what better place to go nuts with it than with our dear gaming hobby.

Besides, you can’t have a proper gaming column without a yearly winner and without a whole bag of losers. Sorry Dishonored, it’s not you, it’s me.

Look for my Game of the Year list next week.