Paying tribute to a range of great games

by Shane Dillon

SOME years ago, BAFTA – the British charity that has become an internationally recognised award/recognition brand for its celebration of the moving image – expanded its remit to take gaming into account.
As gaming sales, and the industry, quietly adds billions to the British Exchequer each year, it’s no surprise that gaming was eventually elevated to enjoy the same critical analysis and recognition as film and television, with the BAFTAs now enjoying global recognition.
The annual BAFTA gaming awards were held just after The Gazette went to press last week, but here’s my analysis of some of the big winners.
The awards proved an unexpected night for the underdogs, as small games and fledgling companies emerged as the top winners in some David and Goliath showdowns.
First up, and the small, indie title Her Story (developed by Sam Barlow; available on IOS, PC, Mac) was debatably the critical darling of the night, picking up awards for Debut Game, Game Innovation, and Mobile & Handheld – three more to add to its range of awards from around the world.
Her Story’s daring narrative featured jumbled video snippets from the 1990s of ‘lost’ police interviews with a woman reporting her husband missing.
This initially simple premise took would-be Sherlocks on a ride through an ever murkier, adult tale, creating a truly unique and innovative title in the process.
Moving on, and the award-winning indie title, Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture (The Chinese Room; PS4) also impressed, scooping Audio Achievement, Music, and Performer (for Merle Dandridge, as Kate Collins) awards to add to its global haul.
Awards for audio may not sound (no pun intended) like particularly impressive wins, but Rapture’s soundscapes were key to creating one of the most haunting titles of several years; quite simply, its audio was in a class of its own throughout.
Its imaginative setting – a beautiful, sunlit and rustic English village in Shropshire, set some time in the 1980s in the immediate aftermath after the end of the world – was gorgeous to explore.
However, seeing as it played/sounded like a cross between evergreen radio serial The Archers, and Day of The Triffids, its terrific music score, natural sound effects, and the recovered snippets of overheard conversations between initially calm but increasingly panicky and upset villagers were pretty singular in their use.
Studio co-founder and composer Jessica Curry’s superb, pastoral score also made an unforgettable impression.
Still, while the overall feeling was that the night had gone to underdogs such as these, a number of major titles also won awards.
Best Game went to Fallout 4 (Bethesda Game Studios; PS4, XBO, PC). The latest iteration in the popular franchise once again set gamers loose in an irradiated, post nuclear-war landscape, but packed in a bewildering amount of quests, missions, secrets, easter eggs and sheer silliness to keep players lost in the wasteland for a very long time.
Despite being full of game bugs and glitches, and although the title wasn’t exactly pushing the consoles into a sweat, let alone to their limits, Fallout 4 became a critical darling pretty quickly, leaving a warm, fuzzy, irradiated feeling in gamers’ hearts.
Next, and Best British Game went to Batman: Arkham Knight (Rocksteady Studios; PS4, XBO, PC).
By no means a small title – Rocksteady is one of the biggest British games developers – this latest iteration of the Batman franchise had top-notch graphics that pushed the consoles hard.
Despite some niggles – its over-reliance on the Batmobile, and its infamous, disastrously unplayable PC launch – this Batman was the best yet.
The very cinematic yet oddball title Until Dawn (Supermassive Games; PS4) claimed the Original Property award, as its complex, multichoice narrative – trying to keep a group of youngsters alive through the night at a remote, snowbound cabin – impressed with great if occasionally gory graphics, while its branching slasher plot demands repeated playthroughs.
Finally, Rocket League (Psyonix; PS4, XBO, PC, LX, Mac) continued its relentless drive into gamers’ hearts, scoring Famiy Game, Sport Game and Multiplayer Game awards.
While the thought of, basically, playing football by using cars to knock a ball about in giant stadiums doesn’t sound like much, the game’s spectacular success underscored that the simplest games, or ideas, still strike a chord for anyone just looking for a blast of pure, uncomplicated fun.
For the full list of winners, and nominees, see awards.bafta.org/award/2016/games.

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