It’s been ten years since the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (a.k.a. BAFTA) began recognizing video games with their own special awards. While still not well known among American audiences (though notably more respectful and less cringe-worthy than its consistently awkward American counterpart the VGX awards), the BAFTA Video game awards have become an increasingly meaningful piece of yearly recognition for game publishers and developers. Focusing on not only the best games in certain genres, but also on the best art, music, and game design, the BAFTA awards celebrate all parts of what make video games great.
2013 was a varied year for gaming, presenting perhaps the most argued-over GOTY potential in gaming history. With the rise of indie games, and the final push of last-gen consoles, there were many games setting themselves up to win.
But 2013 was, in terms of BAFTA nominations, a huge year for Sony. With The Last Of Us pulling out a massive 10 nominations out of 16 awards, and underdog Vita game Tearaway receiving 8 nominations. But could those nominations lead to victory for Sony’s heavy-hitting exclusives? Or would the 9-time nominated Grand Theft Auto V steal the show? Read on for the best picks from the 10th annual BAFTA awards.
Best Mobile/Handheld Game
Runners-Up: Badland, Device 6, Plants Vs. Zombies 2, Ridiculous Fishing, The Room Two
In a fairly indie-centric division, the Vita exclusive Tearaway would prove to be too popular of a force in its native England. Utilization of the Vita’s unique technical aspects would propel Tearaway to a victory as the best on-the-go gaming experience of the year.
Best British Game
Runners-Up: DmC: Devil May Cry, Gunpoint, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, The Room Two, Tearaway
Winner: Grand Theft Auto V
This year’s winner of BAFTA’s annual Academy Fellowship recognition award was given to Rockstar games, and they proved their strength in the UK by pulling down best British Game from what was actually one of the most varied and interesting catagories at the awards this year. Proving that a little violence and crime is fun no matter where you’re from.
Best Sports Game
Runners-Up: F1 2013, Football Manager 2014, Grid 2, Forza Motorsports 5, NBA 2K14
Winner: FIFA 14
The FIFA franchise pulls down its third BAFTA win in ten years and proves once again that soccer, excuse me FOOTBALL is still very much a dominating sport in Europe.
Best Strategy/Simulation Game
Runners-Up: Civilization V: Brave New World, Democracy 3, Forza Motorsports 5, Surgeon Simulator 2013, X-COM: Enemy Within.
Winner: Papers, Please
One of last year’s many indie darlings, Papers, Please beat out some tough competition to win best Strategy/Simulation game. Tough decisions and real-life tension proved to be a simulated experience that couldn’t be bested. The game’s developer Lucas Pope was on hand to accept the award, and his humble, quiet thank you speech was perhaps my favorite acceptance of the night. A great celebration of small indie games that hit big.
Best Family Game
Runners-Up: Skylanders SWAP Force, Super Mario 3D World, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Rayman Legends, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons
Nintendo seems to struggle when it comes to BAFTA awards, and even when presented with multiple nominations, they just couldn’t catch a break as Vita exclusive Tearaway pulled out yet another win. Its charming art, focus on expression, and its sense of adventure proved to be too great of an experience for all ages.
Best Multiplayer Game
Runners-Up: Battlefield 4, DOTA 2, The Last Of Us, Super Mario 3D World, Tearaway
Winner: Grand Theft Auto V
Even after being delayed until awhile after launch, and plagued with various technical issues, Grand Theft Auto V’s variety and scope for multiplayer gaming claimed another award for Rockstar’s flagship franchise. Sorry Mario, but sticky-bombing a jet and flying it into your friends is just that much more fun.
Best Audio Achievement
What should come as no surprise to anyone who’s witnessed the game in action, The Last Of Us pulls out an award for its exceptional attention to audio. From the subtle use of environmental noise to that d*** creepy Clicker sound, The Last of Us proves that sometimes little sounds are more effective.
Runners-Up: Troy Baker (Joel, The Last Of Us), Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth, Bioshock Infinite), Kevan Brighting (the Narrator, The Stanley Parable), Steven Ogg (Trevor, Grand Theft Auto 5), Ellen Page (Jodie, Beyond: Two Souls)
Winner: Ashley Johnson (Ellie, The Last of Us)
In what could have been the “Troy Baker Award For Best Troy Baker In Video Games” instead went to his The Last Of Us co-star Ashley Johnson for her work as Ellie. Sadly, Ashley was not on hand to accept the award so the man she beat, Troy Baker himself, had to accept the award he had just lost. Awkward…
Best Original Music
Runners-Up: The Last Of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Super Mario 3D World, Tearaway
Winner: Bioshock Infinite
While it’s very easy to remember Bioshock Infinite’s soundtrack for its exceptional remixes of various recognizable songs, not to mention the beautiful duet of the classic early 20th Century Christian hymn “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” by leads Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper, it was Bioshock Infinite’s exceptional score that helped it beat out some impressive competition for best original music.
Runners-Up: Gone Home, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, Grand Theft Auto 5, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, The Stanley Parable
Winner: The Last Of Us
An excellent variety of styles and topics, ranging from deeply personal, to quirky and meta, to sprawling fantasy epics, made Best Story one of the “could go to anyone” awards this year. But ultimately, the tale of Joel and Ellie’s struggles against a cold, ugly world was just too powerful and showcased Naughty Dog’s refined skills for narrative and storytelling.
Best Game Design
Runners-Up: Tearaway, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, The Last Of Us, Papers, Please, Tomb Raider
Winner: Grand Theft Auto 5
Blending a massive world to explore, an unbelievable amount of things to do, and balancing three different player characters at a time, GTA V’s ambition paid off as it showed that Rockstar is the master of making large-scale free roaming action games. And also that we need more heist games… I mean, seriously.
Best Artistic Achievement
Runners-Up: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Beyond: Two Souls, Device 6, The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite
Even the beloved artistic masters at Studio Ghibli couldn’t take down the charming paper-craft style of Media Molecule’s Tearaway. It’s impossible not to smile when looking at the stunning art direction of this must-own Vita title.
Best Action/Adventure Game
Runners-Up: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Badland, Grand Theft Auto V, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Tomb Raider
Winner: The Last Of Us
Naughty Dog continued its dominance in a genre that it’s helped propel into cinematic glory over the last handful of years. The blend of exploration, terrifying stealth and strategy, and pulse-pounding action helped The Last of Us snag yet another one for the PS3’s heavy hitter.
Best Game Innovation
Runners-Up: Grand Theft Auto V, Papers, Please, The Stanley Parable, Year Walk, Tearaway
Winner: Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons
The ability to control two characters at once allowed for Brothers to claim itself the most innovative game of 2013. Taking familiar adventure gameplay and adding a narrative-strengthening control scheme is an achievement that many developers will try to build off of in coming years.
Best Debut Game
Runners-Up: The Stanley Parable, Badland, Castles In The Sky, Gunpoint, Remember Me
Winner: Gone Home
The Fullbright Company’s debut touched many people personally when it finally dropped in 2013. Its focus on subtle storytelling and deep attention to detail managed to push the small team into full-blown celebrity status. Now, let’s just see where they go with it.
Best Game Of The Year
Runners-Up: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Grand Theft Auto V, Tearaway, Super Mario 3D World, Papers, Please
Winner: The Last Of Us
Uncharted 2 may have been shockingly passed over for BAFTA’s GOTY award in 2009 when it lost to Batman: Arkham Asylum, but Naughty Dog was not to be denied this year. Pulling down the most awards of the night (an impressive five), The Last of Us proved it was a sum of its parts and a game that will leave an impact on the industry for years to come.
The night ended with the annual presentation of BAFTA’s Academy Fellowship award, given to the team at Rockstar. This marks the first time the award was given to a team instead of an individual industry professional, having gone to brilliant minds such as Gabe Newell, Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Nolan Bushnell in the past.
What do you think of this year’s BAFTA awards? Did Sony deserve to dominate with its exclusives? Did something get snubbed that you think deserved more recognition? Where the h*** was A Link Between Worlds? And what will the future hold for the BAFTA awards?
Sound off in the comments, and let’s celebrate all the amazing winners and nominees together!