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The VG247 Very Serious Game of the Year Awards 2014

It's that time of year again, when our tempers are so frayed as to be best described as piles of threads. Let's impatiently run down some of the best and worst bits of gaming offered in 2014.

The VG247 Staff's Very Serious Game Awards are given out annually when we've gotten disastrously bored of coming to work, and especially of compiling our actual awards, which involve a lot of thought and desperate trawling of the archives while screeching "something must have happened in March".

Last year we honoured some truly stand out moments, and it was a challenge to build on that very strong foundation. But this is VG247, my children, and we do not shirk. We are not daunted. We took 2014 by the horns, stared into its beady, glistening eye, and mentally extracted its secrets.

Here they are. Congratulations to all nominees and winners on not receiving anything worse.

Most ghastly opportunity to live out your sexual fantasies in a video game


Winner: GTA 5 next-gen's first person sex scenes

It is apparently some people's fantasy to pick up a sex worker in a car and give her what seem like unfairly small amounts of money to perform various acts with them. This is a thing people wish they could do, regardless of the fact that they probably could do it in the real world quite easily, and Rockstar continues to allow them to live out this fantasy.

In the new first-person mode, the payoff is genuinely unpleasant. Even making allowances for the uncanny valley, watching the weird puppet sex (bless you for that, Ken Levine) is disturbingly unsexy. The dialogue raises a number of interesting questions we have posed to our male and female colleagues alike. Does anyone ever actually say "my clit is throbbing for you"? Does anyone find it attractive? Have the writers ever had sex, or do they just watch bad porn and sort of extrapolate? Moreover, it's very hard not to imagine the voice actors performing these lines in a booth while a po-faced sound engineer and director look on, which is an instant boner killer.

GTA 5 is R18+ in most territories, so if you can purchase a copy of it you are probably also legally entitled to purchase real pornography, which won't leave you feeling like Hitler just licked the back of your neck.

Runner-up: Dragon Age: Inquisition's nude armour sets


Dragon Age: Inquisition fronts some of the best romance scenes of the series to date, since BioWare thoughtfully dialled back the action to focus on suggesting rather than showing. Since the bits that made the cut look like two store mannequins vaguely swivelling their heads through each other, deciding not to try to simulate closer contact was a good call.

Nevertheless, there are occasions where our companions and advisors must be seen in the buff, and rather than create all new character models BioWare apparently chose to leverage its excellent armour system to build "nude" sets. The results, tinkered out of the engine by curious PC players, are absolutely terrifying. You see a link labelled "Dorian naked" and you feel like all your secret dreams have come true, and then the blank, staring, genital-less horror that confronts you is like a cold shower that lasts a week.

Well done Bioware for managing to make characters engaging and romantic despite the tools it was working with; its writers and cinematic editors are clearly stars.

Cock-up of the year


Winner: Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Halo: The Master Chief Collection was always an ambitious project. You can talk about managing playlists all you want, but the fact is bundling together hundreds of pieces of multiplayer content means you're going to get long wait times - even with a fanbase as large as Halo's. The numbers required for successful, snappy matchmaking for even one game are staggering - so enormous that even GTA 5 can't manage it. Call of Duty is just about the only game to really nail it on the regular.

With all that in mind: what an absolute cock up. This is the flagship multiplayer title of a brand that built itself around multiplayer gaming, and it bloody well didn't work. It didn't work for weeks. It didn't work after multiple patches. It didn't do a lot to convince us Halo 5: Guardians is going to be the exclusive that year, either.

Let's hope we see a new influx of Halo players due to the holiday gifting spree - and that the damn thing works by then - to justify the longterm fan's faith in the brand.


Runner-up: DriveClub.

Obviously. Kudos to Sony for turning the mess around - eventually - but it must be said if the hubris had been a little lower when DriveClub was first announced its constant delay and violent launch day downfall would have been significantly less wince-worthy.

Next: two more snarky award categories.

Best attempt to spam one's way into relevancy


Winner: A whole bunch of online games.

The key to making a success of an online game is keeping your audience hooked in, providing subscriptions, microtransaction purchases and a large enough player base to attract new spenders. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure your game is constantly offering fresh content, or daily challenges, or whatever. A savvy developer will communicate any such content or challenges in regular updates to the community.

Those already interested in the games in question anxiously await these updates, and pick over their details. For everyone else, it's like watching paint dry, only the paint is actually slabs of incomprehensible text, and it slathers all over your office at least once a week, and you're supposed to do something about it even though neither you nor your audience care, and the people who do have already absorbed everything there is to know thanks to their direct game-to-vein IV connections.

In 2015, the VG247 crew would quite like to go more than seven days without a communication regarding MechWarrior Online, Warframe, Firefall, Tribes: Ascend, Wildstar and countless MMOs we don't even know the names of and which have absolutely zero traction with our core audience. That would be quite nice. We'd like that.

Runner up: Every tinpot indie in Brenna's inbox


The whole VG247 team gets a lot of email, but Brenna's inbox is a thing of horror thanks to her reputation for liking the quirky and the bravely independent. The truth is we all used to have a lot more free time, and the long Australian hours in particular are easily whiled away testing and writing about whatever piece of madness has been jettisoned hopefully into the amorphous world of press releases. During the halcyon years our indie coverage was significantly more, uh, robust. (Editor note: You mean "sporadic, erratic and driven entirely by whim"?)

But now that everyone with a copy of RPG Maker can put themselves on Kickstarter, the pitches have reached such intensity that there's no way to keep up with them - and little value in so doing, even if we had the time (I'm talking about you, Obvious Scam 2014, and also you, This Game Is Totally Pants 2). The accusing tone of these often inappropriate emails ("I sent you an unsolicited email with a code for my mobile app about counting how many clean socks you have left and you did not give me a featured review") and their sheer volume ("I have emailed you three times a day all month") has us convinced that it is time to turn back the clock, reverse the Kickstarter revolution, stuff indies back in their corporate prisons and also maybe evacuate to the moon, where you can't get any signal.

The only reason we haven't gone to jail yet is because "mark all as read" is almost as satisfying as murder.

Game we used as an excuse not to do any work for weeks on end


Winner: GTA 5

It was bad enough the first time it came out, but now that GTA 5 is on PS4 we regularly lose both Pat and Matt to it for hours every day, and Pat's been known to openly announce he's going to spend all day on it.

Oh, they justify it, with community events, opinion pieces and highly informed news articles. If something happens in and around GTA 5, they're the first to know and therefore so are you. It's a pleasing arrangement. But seriously. There's only so much patience one can extend when one's leave request goes unfulfilled for the fourth day in a row because both of one's bosses are knee-deep in their own beards, staring hypnotically at the flickering light. Answer your emails.


Runner up: Destiny

It's a bloody good thing Steph and Sherif do any work around here because the day Destiny came out Brenna simply closed her office door and refused to come out until the fever left her just before Assassin's Creed: Unity. We have never seen this prolific contributor do less work than for those two weeks in September when reader interest in Bungie's MMO was high enough for her to just quietly pretend not to have any other responsibilities. The result was a huge series of very popular guides, but also her concerningly smug assertion that her behaviour was perfectly justified. Also she suddenly won't shut up about DPS and aggro-ing, and it's just disturbing to hear that instead of the usual "here's 8,000 words on a game about falling in love with an artificial intelligence" stuff.

Next: our final two excuses to cock a snook at this wretched industry before we go to our well-earned and much-needed rest.

Swansong of the year


Winner: Murdered: Soul Suspect

Pedigree ain't everything. Airtight Games was most famous for one of its chief creatives, but despite her prominence in the development of the original Portal, Kim Swift's team hasn't survived 2014.

Airtight's history is stangely patchy; how was it making money between (and even during) a number of low-selling releases? You might not remember this, but Dark Void, its first release, was supposed to spawn a whole franchise, with Brad Pitt on board to star in the movies (spoilers: this didn't happen, because the game was middling at best). Then we had the excellent but sadly under-appreciated Quantum Conundrum, a couple of forgettable mobile and Ouya games, and Murdered: Soul Suspect. That's not enough to keep a company going for ten years, surely?

Well yeah, apparently not, and Murdered: Soul Suspect made it out the doors just one month before they closed forever. Gone, but not forgotten, Airtight; although we are going to do our best to forget Murdered, which was not quite up to our expectations.


Runner up: Homefront: The Revolution

The only reason this one isn't the winner is because it didn't actually make it to release before its team was shuttered. "Oh," you might say, "Most of the staff went on to join Deep Silver as Dambuster Studios", but the fact remains: the company founded as Free Radical and later renamed Crytek UK had to be shut down.

It's a good thing Deep Silver was there to pick up the pieces, having acquired the Homefront IP from the collapse of THQ, because Crytek really didn't seem to be doing a very good job of holding them together. And this is a team we care about deeply, because it brought us Timesplitters. If you don't like Timesplitters, we'll fight you IRL. And we'll win. Because we'll have right on our side.

It really wouldn't surprise us if, gently sheltered from the apparently terminal madness of THQ and whatever in the name of heck is going on at Crytek, Homefront: Revolution grows into something quite lovely. Deep Silver for publisher of the year? Deep Silver for publisher of the year.

Publisher of the year

Winner: Deep Silver

With the exception of Nordic Games, which has gone from being an absolutely forgettable distributor to a very jolly and interesting little publisher, Deep Silver did the best out of THQ's failings. At one stage Deep Silver was best known as a quiet German label mostly attached to broken fantasy RPGs, but it's rapidly and suddenly reinvented itself as a real triple-A contender, with a small but excellent portfolio of properties.

It keeps making good decisions: allowing significant delays, picking up strong properties, and allying with excellent developers. The announcement that Spec Ops: The Line developer Yager was behind Dead Island 2 rocked our little worlds, and such gems as Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell suggest management isn't averse to giving its talent free rein.

These are the Very Serious Game of the Year Awards, so we're allowed to give an award to a publisher who didn't really have a hit in 2014, but instead continued openly laying the foundation for a tremendously bright future. Also, we really liked the Dead Island 2 trailer.


Runner up: It's a tie!

This year we'd like to acknowledge, in all seriousness, both Activision Blizzard and EA. Now, the two great giants of our time don't need our love: they're doing absolutely fine on their own, dominating the triple-A space. But both companies took some big risks on 2014 releases that turned out to be rad (Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition) and more to the point neither of them did anything absolutely dreadful.

Let's add it up: number of indie studios purchased and subsequently crushed - 0. Number of absolutely disastrous game launches - 0 (compare to 2014 industry standard of 1.2). Number of appallingly anti-consumer money-making schemes launched - 0. Titles that ought to have been cancelled left to continue draining money and attention - 0. High profile cock ups regarding lack of diversity among staff and offensive game content - 0. Exclusivity deals with one platform holder that weren't made up for by equally good arrangements with the other team - 0. No other publisher can claim that record this year, as far as we know.

We're all very cynical and we expect a corporation to be evil incarnate, so the enormity of Activision Blizzard and EA's failure to do that this year is a pleasant change. Well done!

Thanks for playing along during VG247 Staff's Very Serious Game of the Year Awards 2014.

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