The Game Awards need clearer rules and more categories. 4 snubs reveal why.
Justice for No Man's Sky.
The Game Awards 2020 nominees are in, announced by host Geoff Keighley during a Wednesday live stream. While plenty of beloved titles received nominations across multiple categories — Hades (8), The Last of Us Part II (10), Final Fantasy VII Remake (6) — there were more than a few snubs.
Part of what makes it challenging to nominate games are the wide variety of potential categories. Where do you draw the line between Action and Action/Adventure? Game Awards ballots are blank, not multiple choice, so each category yield some idiosyncratic results. A game's release timing can also impact its consideration. For any game to be considered, it must have been released no later than November 20, 2020. Even so, given that the ballots were likely due well before the November 18 reveal, it may prove difficult for judges to play every buzzer-beating fall release. (That's probably why the widely acclaimed Miles Morales didn't make the cut for Game of the Year.)
Here are the four biggest Game Awards snubs this year.
4. No Man's Sky deserves recognition in VR
There's no chance that No Man's Sky could ever beat Dreams or Half-Life: Alyx, but the overhyped and underloved space exploration game deserves more recognition when it comes to virtual reality.
No Man Sky's VR update was released back in March 2019, but particularly given how well it runs on PS5 via PSVR, the overall quality of the experience is one of the best to be had in the medium right now. It only functions via backward compatibility to the PS4 version, but it's still a remarkably immersive experience that's even more engaging in VR. With the substantive Next Generation Update released in November and the Origins update before it, No Man's Sky is dangerously close to being a live-service game.
That Best Ongoing Game nomination feels like a mere courtesy when No Man's Sky competing with last year's winner, Fortnite, and the recently relaunched Destiny 2.
3. Pokémon Sword and Shield officially neglected
For the 2019 Game Awards, the cutoff for eligibility was on November 15, 2019. That was the exact day that Pokémon Sword and Shield was released. It was theoretically eligible for last year's rewards but wasn't nominated for anything. But then again, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was released that same day and was nominated in 2020 for Best Action/Adventure.
There's just no love for Pokémon.
"Games released in previous years are eligible in all award categories, so long as the jury feels their inclusion is merited due to new content, improvements or service updates," The Game Awards' official FAQ reads. By that rationale, even without the original release date threshhold Sword and Shield could theoretically be considered for 2020 due to The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra expansions.
Does the jury of 95 global media and influencer outlets simply not like Pokémon? Or is Pokémon's very structure a bit too antiquated for The Game Awards, which is dominated by narrative-driven prestige games and big-budget "games as a service" titles?
2. Demon's Souls gets zero nominations, and it's a travesty
While the PS5 launch title is in a curious position as a full-on remake of a much older 2009 game, throwing its eligibility into question, for Demon's Souls to not be considered for anything at all seems egregious. Over on Metacritic, it's the seventh best-rated game of the year, and it was definitely released before the November 20, 2020 cutoff date.
For Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 to receive a nod and not Demon's Souls just feels like the system is broken. There's the obvious observation that the competition is greater in action games than it is in sports games, but still, in terms of overall quality, it's better than other nominees. The Soulsborne subgenre, however, can be hard to pin down.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was nominated for and won the Best Action/Adventure Game category in 2019. Demon's Souls is a very similar game, albeit one that's more action-heavy and focused on combat rather than overt story. So would it qualify for Action instead? This difficulty in pinning down a category, coupled with its awkward release timing, are probably what made it overlooked for the 2020 awards.
1. Ghost of Tsushima had the best soundtrack of the year
The overall world design and even the music in Ghost of Tsushima construct a somewhat authentic look at 13th-century Japanese culture. Composers Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi even incorporated into the original score a 7th-century folk instrument called the biwa to add a more unique sound to the game. Not only is the soundtrack epic in scale, but it's more inventive and interesting than its potential competition.
There's admittedly a lot of stiff competition in this category against this year's top games, including the slightly more niche inclusion of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. But how can anyone consider the Doom Eternal soundtrack "more outstanding" than Ghost of Tsushima's? It speaks to the sameness across many of the nominees this year.
The Game Awards 2020 will be broadcast live on December 10, 2020.