The Game Awards has increasingly positioned itself as the de facto awards show for the gaming industry, turning itself into something of a mini winter E3 in the process. It’s certainly starting to look that way, as more and more celebrities get involved, although the show itself for many has become a game news show, with its host and creator Geoff Keighley attracting more and more marketing eyeballs to the proceeds.
How exactly are the awards chosen, though? Well, The Game Awards uses a ‘jury’ panel consisting of media influencers and outlets (including some of our colleagues at GamesRadar and PC Gamer, no less), who vote on the nominees for the top accolades, they also cast votes for who actually wins the awards, with a mere 10% of the vote weight going to the public, you know, the people who actually play and buy the games en masse.
If I was questioning The Game Awards’ candidacy for becoming The Oscars of the gaming industry before, I certainly am now, after seeing them snub the top-rated game of 2021: Forza Horizon 5.
Snubbing Forza Horizon 5 is a mistake
Source: Xbox Game Studios
If there was ever a year where a racing game deserved to be nominated, 2021 was exactly it.
Forza Horizon 5 might not be a cinematic tear-jerker of a game, but it’s no less worthy of being nominated. This is a game that currently enjoys a position at the top of 2021’s Metacritic metascore, which averages out scores from hundreds of different review sites and YouTubers. This is a game that will probably see more players than all of the current nominations combined over the course of their lifetimes. This is a game that will touch more lives and create more friendships and relationships than all of the current nominees and is also arguably the most technically impressive game on the docket.
You might be wondering if Forza Horizon 5 is ineligible for awards based on its launch date, but alas no, since Forza Horizon 5 has found itself into many other categories, including top gongs for accessibility features and audio.
Forza is a franchise that wins top prize for racing year in, year out. Does this mean games in the subcategories are ineligible for the top prize? Will we ever see roguelikes such as Returnal hit the top spot? Will strategy games like Age of Empires ever be given a fair analysis?
None of this is to suggest the current nominees don’t deserve it, but if there was ever a year where The Game Awards could prove it wasn’t specifically looking for Hollywood-styled games for its top prize, 2021 was exactly it.
What makes an award-worthy game?
Source: The Game Awards
To snub Forza Horizon 5 isn’t just a snub for Playground Games, it’s a snub of the creativity of the entire industry.
Why should Forza Horizon 5 be discredited for not having a heavy story-driven campaign? The entire point of a video game is that they can be more than movies. They can be more interactive. They can shift modalities and transcend our ideas of what entertainment is. This snub is symbolic of a game journalist’s general inability to think outside of the narrow perspective of a movie critic when it comes to game analysis.
Video games are more than the stories they tell. They represent the cutting-edge intersection of culture, art, and technology. Few games represent this as impressively, as effortlessly as Forza Horizon 5, which showcases Mexico with utterly stunning visuals, laser-scanned cars, cloud-powered features. A complete package, with full cross-platform mass-multiplayer gameplay, regardless of whether you’re playing on a phone, on a console, or on a PC.
To snub Forza Horizon 5 isn’t just a snub for Playground Games, it’s a snub of the ingenuity of the entire industry. Game journalists have unwittingly sat up and said “unless your games fit this specific criterion of design, we aren’t going to award you,” and that amounts to a dereliction of duty.
The Game Awards “jury” failed
Source: The Game Awards via Thumbsticks.com
For The Game Awards to give such a heavy 90% voting weight to games journalists and media outlets is, in my view, laughable, and isn’t reflective of the industry at large. Game developers should be allowed to be involved in the nomination process somehow too, as they peer-review their colleague’s work with more expertise than the vast majority of game journalists on the jury panel. Gamers should also have at least an equal voting weight with journalists since it is ultimately gamers who vote with their wallets on this stuff.
The Game Awards could have been a legitimate source of accolades for an industry that desperately deserves it, but its current methodology for nomination represents a huge failure towards the industry it represents.
Geoff Keighley put out a tweet this week which asked viewers to give feedback on the nominations with a conciliatory “we also have the Player’s Choice award to vote on coming up!” “Player’s Choice” should be the voice that matters more than establishment journalists who struggle to celebrate a video game if it isn’t trying hard enough to be a movie.