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My Biased, Subjective Alternative GDC Awards

I've been trying to avoid kneejerk negative reactions to things, instead trying to funnel these responses into something positive. This, I hope, is something positive!

 GRUMPS

The GDC Awards, arguably the most prestigious awards for the game industry, have just announced their nominations for 2009.  My immediate response to most of the selections was "REALLY??  But there was so much wonderful stuff that came out this year, where is it?"  So I thought I would just do my own nominations, instead of vainly attacking a popular vote!  Without further ado, my biased, subjective, unsolicited, alternative list of nominations for the GDC Awards:

Best Game Design
Street Fighter IV (Capcom)
Flower (Thatgamecompany)
Trials HD (RedLynx)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)
Captain Forever (Farbs Farbs Farbs)

Best Visual Art
Street Fighter IV (Capcom)
Flower (Thatgamecompany)

Best Technology
Really not sure why this category even exists anymore.  Should it even be given to a game?  All Sony's first/second-party games share code, half this year's games were built on Unreal, the other half on iterations of decade old Quake engine clones.  This seems much more like it should be a juried prize given out every couple years when somebody actually does something pretty special.

Best Writing
Brutal Legend (Double Fine)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios)

Best Audio
Shatter (Sidhe)
Flower (Thatgamecompany)

Innovation
Flower (Thatgamecompany)
Osmos (Hemisphere Games)
Closure (Tyler Glaiel)

Best Debut
The Maw (Twisted Pixel)
Cogs (Lazy 8)
Swords & Soldiers (Ronimo)
Trine (Nobilis)
AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! (Dejobaan)

Best Downloadable Game
Flower (Thatgamecompany)
Torchlight (Runic Games)
Trials HD (RedLynx)
Critter Crunch (Capybara)

Best New Social/Online Game
This category should not exist.  Why isn't there a category for best video slot machine?  That is a huge, profitable segment of the games industry too.

Best Handheld Game
Clash of Heroes (Capybara)
Henry Hatsworth (EA)
Drop7 (Area Code)

Game Of The Year
Spelunky (Mossmouth)
Street Fighter IV (Capcom)
Flower (Thatgamecompany)
Osmos (Hemisphere Games)
Captain Forever (Farbs Farbs Farbs)

Honorable Mentions (i.e. games I haven't personally played but seem great)
Brutal Legend (Doublefine) - Writing
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog) - Audio, Visuals
Demon's Souls (From Software) - Game Design
Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal) - Everything
Borderlands (Gearbox Software) - Game Design
Space Invaders Extreme 2 (Square Enix) - Game Design
Scribblenauts (5th Cell) - Game Design
Left 4 Dead 2 (Valve) - Everything
Shadow Complex (Chair Entertainment) - Audio, Game Design, Downloadable
Machinarium (Amanita Design) - Everything
Saira (Nifflas) - Audio, Game Design, Downloadable

Obviously there is a lot of stuff I didn't get to play this year...my greatest regrets are missing out on Machinarium and Shadow Complex I think.  I think if I had gotten to play all my honorable mentions I could easily fill out the rest of my nominations.  And I am pretty sure it wouldn't be dominated by Uncharted and MW2!

Again, this is obviously a pretty biased, subjective list with a heavy tilt toward the indies, but it's kind of amazing to see something like Uncharted 2 get nominated for Innovation, but not see Closure or Osmos on the list anywhere.  Spirit Tracks, the latest watered down, linear Wind Waker clone, taking up space that Clash of Heroes earned through sheer creative willpower definitely disappoints me.

Not that the list this year is a travesty or a mockery or any such thing; Batman is a polished game, and ACII seems to have really stepped things up.  Flower is obviously wonderful!  But it seems very much like the categories are filled out primarily by popular games with high metacritic scores and/or press visibility, and not necessarily by games that actually excelled in each area. This is unavoidable in one way or another, I am sure, but...yea.  I guess I'm rambling now!  If you are looking for something that really achieved something special this year, and you already finished the top 4 cross-platform metacritic winners, try googling for some of this stuff.  You might like it!

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