Ever since Geoff Keighley broke out on his own with The Game Awards, moving away from the stereotypical Video Game Awards on Spike, the event has gone from strength to strength. Not without its faults, but for the most part, much better than the far cry I massively ripped into in 2011 for its stupid shenanigans of teabagging during acceptance speeches, WWE style-promos and more.

So you can imagine my disheartment when I see the bastion of political conversation Boogie – someone who has actually said that some good came out of the Holocaust and just really wonderful person (read as “not a wonderful person”) – was attending the show. And with that and the assumption that he would present on stage as a result of him winning Trending Gamer a few years ago, it literally plummeted my expectations for the show significantly.

Why am I saying this? To provide context. Because with those lowered expectations, despite faults during the event, the show delivered in a massive, massive way to the point it may be the best iteration of The Game Awards to date.


SonicFox is not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need

With the exception of Greg Miller in 2015, personality wins during The Game Awards have not gone down well. TotalBiscuit, Boogie (for the remarks outlined above) and DrDisrespect, the latter winning Trending Gamer last year over AbleGamers Steven Spohn, who felt more worthy of the award than Disrespect (Spohn did get his moment this year though as a Global Gaming Citizen in a great highlight of the show). It’s worth noting that the award was voted on entirely by the audience, but it still didn’t make the moment any less awful.

Matters weren’t helped when Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins won Content Creator of the Year at this year’s show. The same Ninja who is easily one of the biggest entertainers on the planet currently, let alone the biggest streamer on Twitch right now and who has played with Drake in Fortnite on Twitch in what is one of pop-culture’s biggest moments of the year. But it’s also the same Ninja who said in an interview this year with Polygon that he doesn’t play with women on stream in similar remarks made at the start of the year by US Vice-President Mike Pence. Needless to say, considering his awfully sexist remarks and actions (to say the least), his win didn’t sit well with me or a lot of my Twitter timeline at the time.

But then, something magical happened.

Joel McHale, himself ridiculed after co-presenting the final iteration of the Spike Video Game Awards alongside Keighley in ways that made fun of the medium and the people making them, returned to present Best Esports Player to Dominique ‘SonicFox’ McLean. And from there came the show’s most wonderful, magical and human moment of the night. And arguably, in the show’s history.

SonicFox is a fighting game prodigy across numerous games, well known for winning EVO several times and this year winning the Dragonball FighterZ tournament at EVO. He is also someone that can be considered caring, given that he recently donated his entire winnings from becoming the champion at the Injustice 2 Pro Series Grand Finals to a fellow competitor’s father who’s currently battling cancer. In his words, he didn’t come in to the FGC for primarily winning.

“I only did it just to make new friends and bonds within the community,” he said during a speech where he was out of breath and in disbelief a few times. And it just went from there.

“As you guys may, or may not, know, I am also super gay. So I want to give a super shoutout to all my LGBTQ+ friends that have always helped me through life,” he added before referring to his fursuit and his being part of the furry community.

If the speech had ended there, it would have brilliant as is. But he ended on the most perfect of closers.

“I guess I just gotta say that I’m gay, black, a furry – pretty much everything a Republican hates – and the best esports player of the whole year, I guess!”

We’re not worthy of Dominique ‘SonicFox’ McLean. We don’t deserve someone truly as human and wonderful as him. But he is someone who not only deservedly won over a brand new audience of fans, he is someone who truly deserves every success given to him. Truly, a wonderful soul.


Peace Time

So I’m just going to leave this here. This was earlier in the day UK afternoon, a good ten or so hours before the show, referring to a tweet Keighley put out moments earlier:

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Minutes later, I posted this in the GameDaily.biz Slack channel:

No, it wasn’t Game of the Year. No, it wasn’t even any singular award. And in hindsight, it was best it worked out that way. Imagine the awkwardness of having to read a game out that was a first-party exclusive on a platform that was on their competitor or even a third-party game that wasn’t on a certain platform but was on others?

The games industry is very competitive and cut-throat at times. And let’s be clear here, two of the men on stage are heading up companies who are about to make a leap into next-generation console hardware and who will go toe-to-toe again within the next two years. And yes, it could have led somewhere very particular and even unique with all three announcing a commitment of some sort to announce officially have crossplay across all PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo platforms current and future, but sadly didn’t.

But make no mistake, this felt like a very special moment. Imagine Ken Kutaragi, Howard Lincoln or Peter Moore in the Sony, Nintendo, Sega days? Or even ten years ago with Jack Tretton, Reggie Fils-Aime and Don Mattrick (though let’s be honest, I get the feeling Mattrick would have laughed at it if he was pitched at the concept stage).

And yet, the moment between Reggie, Phil Spencer and Shawn Layden on stage together was a moment that, although didn’t have anything of substance otherwise, led a celebration of what games are about as the greatest medium running today and that it was for everyone, a message that Spencer has drummed hard on since his keynote speech at this year’s DICE conference and in subsequent interviews over the course of 2018. That’s a start.

I’ve had people say to me or seen people say that it meant nothing or that they were three talking heads, and that I was making a big deal over nothing. It wasn’t nothing. It was a great moment of symbolism.

And honestly, if this moment of symbolism leads to something more, even better. But as just a moment on its own, it was something I had never seen before in my 21 years of playing games, let alone my near ten years writing about the games industry. A moment that I honestly didn’t think I’d ever see. And for that reason alone, it was worth it.


An upset, BOY

Red Dead Redemption II had won numerous awards over the course of the night that I tweeted this after its fourth win.

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Literally thirty seconds after that tweet, it lost the category it was in (I can’t remember which one). But it was widely assumed it’d sweep up a few more awards, including Game of the Year.

Up stepped Jeff from the Overwatch team to throw the script out the window.

When Jeff Kaplan said the words ‘God of War’, it was a bombshell. A big one. A massive surprise. Arguably the bigger surprise than any world premiere during the show. God of War was always a contender for GOTY and before RDR2 came out, it was a shoe-in. But then Rockstar dropped a game and at that point, it was considered – forgive the pun – game over.  After all, when Rockstar releases a game, it’s considered a lock for all the awards.

But Sony Santa Monica, somehow, beat Goliath and ran off with the statue, plus other awards for Best Game Direction – which Creative Director Cory Barlog gave a wonderful speech for – and Best Action-Adventure Game.

It was, like I said, a massive surprise. But it was a happy one. And considering the company work and crunch nature at Rockstar, Sony Santa Monica’s win was one that seemed to be positively received, at least from my Twitter timeline. Even if, by my own admission, Red Dead Redemption II is rated a lot more highly than God of War is in my end of year list currently.

Santa Monica Studio’s David toppled Rockstar’s Goliath. And it was a great moment.


Epic goes after Valve in a massive way

When Epic Games announced it was opening its own storefront and offering a 88/12 revenue split with developers and publishers regardless of stature, on the back of Valve laying out newer terms for Steam that would benefit mostly bigger developers and publishers, it was a wave felt throughout the industry in a mostly positive sense.

But how would the store pan out in regards to content? We got our first look at the show in a massive, massive way. Supergiant Games’ new title Hades was released in early access exclusively on the store, while the Annapurna Interactive-published Ashen was shadow-dropped exclusively on the store alongside its Xbox One release, despite being previously promised for release on the Windows Store and Steam.

They’ll even have Journey. That Journey. Thatgamecomapny’s Journey. The final game in TGC’s three game publishing deal with Sony, assisted by Sony Santa Monica and funded by Sony. That Journey.

Even games in the Kinda Funny Games Showcase had titles that’ll appear exclusively on the Epic Games Store. And it does seem like this is starting to venture outside storefronts, considering Valve’s addition of a Battle Royale mode to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in its move to F2P in what could seen countering Fortnite, as I wrote for GameDaily.biz.

With Bethesda now starting to go exclusively with its own PC client with Fallout 76 and RAGE 2, alongside the existing Origin and Ubi Store, the PC market is starting to fragment significantly. But that’s a discussion for another day. But considering the amount of Epic Games Store exclusives at The Game Awards and Kinda Funny’s Showcase, that should tell you something.


Other Notes

– Annapurna Interactive had a lot to show during the event and all of them fantastic. Sayonara, Wild Hearts on the pre-show for Nintendo Switch sung to me, literally, in a massive way and I am all the way in for that. Next year. Meanwhile, Ashen from A22 was shadow dropped during the show, as referenced above, and it also showed the new game from Giant Squid of Abzu fame, The Pathless. 2019 on PS4 and PC via the EGS. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Annapurna Interactive is the publisher you should be watching right now.

– Typhoon Studios and 505 Games’ first effort Journey to the Savage Planet got a first teaser and it looks cool! This is the first new game from Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed III creative director Alex Hutchinson since he went indie with Typhoon. Speaking of, even though as a running series it’s over, I should put out his episode of My Favourite Game. New year, then!

– The Stanley Parable is coming to consoles and with new content that’ll be added to the PC version. I didn’t buy into the spiel around the game the first time and I don’t know if I will here for this version, but to be fair, its trailer was hilarious.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3 is a Nintendo Switch exclusive! And it’s coming next year! The kicker: Team Ninja is developing it! Also, my heart stopped for a minute with me thinking it was Square Enix’s Avengers game. Spoiler: even with the Russos presenting at the show, it never turned up.

Far Cry: New Dawn is so my jam, it’s not even funny. Out very soon. February 15, in fact.

– I mentioned Hades in passing earlier with its E.A. release on the Epic Games Store, but although I’m waiting for its full release and for consoles, I will say its gotten my attention in ways that its last game Pyre never did. Its gameplay reminds me so much of Transistor. And that’s a big win.

Ancestors: A Humankind Odyssey, from former Assassin’s Creed co-creator Patrice Desilets and his new studio Panache Digital Studios, looks cool. Coming next year from Private Division on PS4, XB1 and PC.

Scavengers from Midwinter in Seattle, a battle royale game that is shaped by various games such as Halo 5: Guardians’ Warzone mode. Not a surprise considering its creative director also headed up that mode and is now currently working on Scavengers. I wrote a teeny bit about it here in this piece regarding Improbable’s Unity SDK.

Crash Team Racing next June! I will batter you all.

“Read it, BOY.” What else needs to be said?

– Obsidian revealed what it was working on with Private Division and honestly, it looks phenomenal. The Outer Worlds is Fallout mixed with Borderlands and No Man’s Sky’s creature designs. And it seems to have picked up the humour of the pre-Bethesda Fallouts. Not a huge surprise considering this comes from Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain, the creator and game designer of the series respectively. Next year for that one on Xbox One and PC as well as – likely for the last time on a PlayStation platform with Obsidian becoming a first-party studio at Microsoft – PlayStation 4.

The Last Campfire is coming to PC and consoles. It looks genuinely wonderful and is so my jam, it hurts. Oh, and it’s coming from Hello Games as a short title, being made by two people there alongside the majority of the studio working on content updates for No Man’s Sky.

– The new winter map for PUBG is out now on PC and coming to consoles, including the recently released PS4 version, in January.

Atlas is a new pirate MMO coming from the makers of Ark: Survival Evolved. Out this coming week on Steam early access and next year on Xbox Game Preview. Very Sea of Thieves, but with magic.

Crackdown 3 got another run out. This time, primarily a live-action trailer with two Terry Crews. And look, I don’t know how this game will pan out, but its been worth it just for Terry Crews alone.

– BioWare had a huge night of reveals. A brand new Anthem trailer that showed a lot more of its story in what was its best showing to date. And it also teased Dragon Age 4 or whatever it’ll be called. That won’t be out for a good while, though.

– (Spot a trend with this? IT WAS A LONG SHOW)

– A 16-bit Stranger Things game on all platforms. Don’t watch Stranger Things, I just like its theme.

Mortal Kombat 11 finally got its reveal in a bit of a weird reveal presentation wise, but had a fantastic CG trailer with a really dope track to it. Out April 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch. Full reveal event happening on January 17.

Psychonauts 2 gots its first proper showing during the event, though I was quite surprised it was even there considering the ongoing events at its publisher Starbreeze. Out next year.

– Devil May Cry V got a trailer at the show and a demo the next day. By the way, I’m not very taken with the demo after one go at it. And I’ve pre-ordered it too digitally on PS4. Oh no.

RAGE 2 looked phenomenal. Between this, The Outer Worlds and Far Cry: New Dawn, I have my post-apocalyptic fill for next year! This one is out May 14 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

JOKER FROM PERSONA 5 IS IN SUPER SMASH BROS ULTIMATE AS ITS FIRST DLC FIGHTER TO COME. AND NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN, DESPITE ITS ISSUES TOWARDS THE END, I WANT PERSONA 5 ON THE SWITCH. WE MAY JUST GET IT TOO. “OH REGGIE, REGGIE, REGGIE” INDEED.


In his fourth attempt of doing this, Geoff Keighley has found a close to perfect balance since he went solo and away from Spike TV.

That’s not to say there were faults. It went too long, there were developers who weren’t given the spotlight for their victories when they should have, too much marketing (though a necessary evil to help fund the show) that padded out the time of the show that, as someone watching from the UK, did not help matters at all before the show wrapped at a little before 5:30am in the morning. All among other things.

But considering the lowered expectations I had coming into it with the Boogie stuff, the show not only met expectations, it surpassed them. Its production was still spectacular, incredible musical performances for Red Dead Redemption II, Anthem and more by the orchestra, great world premieres and some really special, human moments, peak among them SonicFox’s acceptance speech, as well as Layden, Spencer and Reggie’s moment on stage together.

Its come a long way from the absolute trainwreck it was that I alluded to at the top of this post seven years ago – even five years ago – but it’s close, if not already there, to being the standard bearer of award shows in the games industry.

Bravo, Geoff. Bravo.


Full list of winners:

Game of the Year

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Celeste

God of War

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Monster Hunter: World

Red Dead Redemption II

Best Action Game

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Dead Cells

Destiny 2: Forsaken

Far Cry 5

Mega Man 11

Best Action/Adventure Game

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

God of War

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Red Dead Redemption II

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Best Role Playing Game

Dragon Quest XI

Monster Hunter: World

Ni no Kuni II

Octopath Traveler

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Best Game Direction

A Way Out

Detroit: Become Human

God of War

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Red Dead Redemption II

Best Narrative

Detroit: Become Human

God of War

Life is Strange 2: Episode 1

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Red Dead Redemption II

Best Ongoing Game

Destiny 2: Forsaken

Fortnite

No Man’s Sky

Overwatch

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Best Art Direction

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

God of War

Octopath Traveler

Red Dead Redemption 2

Return of the Obra Dinn

Best Score/Music

Celeste

God of War

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

Octopath Traveler

Red Dead Redemption II

Best Audio Design

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Forza Horizon 4

God of War

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Red Dead Redemption II

Best Independent Game

Celeste

Dead Cells

Intro the Breach

Return of the Obra Dinn

The Messenger

Best Performance

Bryan Dechart as Connor, Detroit: Become Human

Christopher Judge as Kratos, God of War

Melissanthi Mahut as Kassandra, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Roger Clark as Arthur Morgan, Red Dead Redemption II

Yuri Lowenthal as Peter Parker, Marvel’s Spider-Man

Games for Impact

11-11 Memories Retold

Celeste

Florence

Life is Strange 2

The Missing: JJ Macfield and the Island of Memories

Best Mobile Game

Donut County

Florence

Fortnite

PUBG MOBILE

Reigns: Game of Thrones

Best VR/AR Game

ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission

Beat Saber

Firewall Zero Hour

Moss

Tetris Effect

Best Fighting Game

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Soul Caliber VI

Street Fighter V Arcade Edition

Best Family Game

Mario Tennis Aces

Nintendo Labo

Overcooked 2

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Super Mario Party

Best Strategy Game

Battletech

Frostpunk

Into the Breach

The Banner Saga 3

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Best Sports/Racing Game

FIFA 19

Forza Horizon 4

Mario Tennis Aces

NBA 2K19

Pro Evolution Soccer 2019

Best Multiplayer Game

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Destiny 2: Forsaken

Fortnite

Monster Hunter: World

Sea of Thieves

Best Student Game

Combat 2018

Dash Quasar

JERA

LIFF

RE: Charge

Best Debut Indie Game

Donut County

Florence

Moss

The Messenger

Yoku’s Island Express

Best Esports Game

CSGO

DOTA2

Fortnite

League of Legends

Overwatch

Best Esports Player

Dominique “SonicFox” McLean

Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi

Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao

Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev

Sung-hygeon “JJoNak” Bang

Best Esports Event

ELAGUE Major: Boston 2018

EVO 2018

League of Legends World Championship

Overwatch League Grand Finals

The International 2018

Best Esports Host

Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez

Alex “Machine” Richardson

Anders Blume

Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere

Paul “RedEye” Chaloner

Best Esports Moment

C9 comeback win in triple OT vs FAZE

G2 beating RNG

KT vs IG Base Race

OG’s massive upset of LGD

SonicFox side switch against Go1 in DBZ

Content Creator of the Year

Dr. Lupo

Myth

Ninja

Pokimane

Willyrex

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