As someone who has managed a few Award Ceremonies over the years (not in the video gaming industry), I can’t say I am the biggest fan of the Video Game Awards – although I fully appreciate its value and place in our industry. Why? This is mainly due to personal values and perceptions around what the event should be focusing on – less about the barrage of major announcements and new previews that took up the brunt of the runtime, which has seen some this year dub it as “Winter E3”, and more about celebrating and providing more time to the year that has just past and celebrating the developers, studios and individuals of all levels who have worked hard to passionately bring us a cornucopia of amazing games throughout 2023. Additionally, less focus on eSports would have been nice and much more focus on celebrating the indie community would have been nice.
That said, purely from a AAA gaming standpoint, I think most of the awards and award recipients were good choices. Baldur’s Gate 3 was by far the most deserving of Game of the Year as an all-encompassing experience, Hi-Fi Rush deserved the best audio design, and many of the specific game genre choices were also pretty apt. I particularly loved the inclusion of the ‘Innovation in Accessibility’ award, and in my opinion, Forza Motorsport is going next level with that. Even those I would see as more debatable decisions, such as Cyberpunk 2077 as the best ongoing game or Final Fantasy XVI being awarded best score and music… I don’t necessarily agree… but I can see the justification behind why they were chosen.
When it comes to the grand winner of the evening, there is no debate that with six awards and the title GotY, Baldur’s Gate 3 is well deserving of any gaming award’s highest honours. It is the one revolutionary game of 2023 which pushes the boundaries of what is possible in so many ways, with much more to come in the coming weeks and months.
But, as you would already know from the title of this article, I feel that Sam Lake, Creative Director of Remedy Entertainment, and in return Remedy Entertainment also walked away as major winners of the 2023 Game Awards. While working with some major publishers over the years, Remedy Entertainment’s works could technically be seen as a bit on the niche side, offering more story-driven, experience-oriented games that you are dragged along for the story just as much as you play them. Alan Wake is arguably the studio’s most beloved work, and after thirteen years of a mix of needing to focus on other works and development hell, Alan Wake II was finally released on the PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S a couple of months back, and even with limitations such as being a digital-only release and not being part of the main group of AAA heavy hitters, managed to draw affection from across the spectrum (including us with a 10/10) for its clever writing, atmospheric and moody graphical design, incredible music and generally, being a quality experience start to finish befitting the 13-year wait, while also not being another run-of-the-mill approach to gaming.
Up against some heavy hitters of the industry, Alan Wake II received eight nominations and a total of three wins in experiences, all in experiences that it was clear the emphasis of the game was on – Best Game Direction, Best Narrative and Best Art Direction – with nominations going to Score and Music, Audio Design, Best Performance (Melanie Liburd as Saga Anderson), Best Action/Adventure Game. In my opinion, it is indicative of Alan Wake II not fitting the bill of a standard game, but absolutely acing the production values. In my opinion, outside of Game of the Year, the awards Alan Wake II received were three of the more valued awards on the night – and I truly hope that Remedy Entertainment hasn’t stopped celebrating their success yet, and uses it as a motivational cornerstone as they work on the development of Control 2 and other games in the works.
Then, of course, you have the live performances, a cornerstone of any good awards ceremony and an opportunity to showcase the more creative endeavours of gaming for a year. Given Alan Wake II’s surprise musical number as part of the Initiation chapters, early on there were comments about “Wouldn’t it be great if they brought Poets of the Fall / Old Gods of Asgard to The Game Awards and have them perform Herald of Darkness live?”. Something that some would have filed in the nice-to-have-but-probably-unlikely file ended up occurring, with the band alongside Ilkka Villi (Alan Wake’s Actor), Matthew Porretta (Alan Wake’s Voice Actor) and David Harewood (Warlin Door) all reprising their roles in one of the most exceptionally choreographed and performed segments of not only Game Awards 2023 but arguably any Game Awards to date. Especially at the end when Sam Lake, after winning the awards, comes on-stage to perform his role in the musical (In-game as the actor portraying Alan’s fictional character Alex Casey), it is not only a segment of epic proportions, but it is also emotionally charging, seeing how visibly happy and excited he is – it was an inspiring moment and shows that as much as we hear some negative stories about working in the industry… there are some who remain truly passionate and have a clear love for their craft and art.
Now, if we could have more of these fun and celebratory awards ceremony-style segments, cut back on all the game announcements and celebrity cameos, and give the winning developers more time to speak… that would be fab. And if you haven’t played Alan Wake II… I highly recommend doing so… especially as Hearld of Darkness is even better when played in-game.