As we near the end of 2017 there is recurring thought that is not lost on game writers, critics and just lovers of video games in general. 2017 has been chock full of amazing releases. No, that is not just hyperbole; Just look at all the releases from January onward and you will see how lucky we are to basically have our pick of amazing titles and experiences:
The first quarter of the year gave us releases such as Resident Evil 7, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Nier: Automata. It also gave us the Nintendo’s long awaited console the Switch along with the revolutionary The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The second quarter saw the release of Persona 5, What Remains of Edith Finch, the surprisingly fun fighter Arms, and the Crash Bandicoot remastered trilogy among others. In quarters 3 and 4 we saw Splatoon 2, Final Fantasy XII the Zodiac Age, Pyre, Hellblade, Sonic Mania (who knew we’d ever see another good Sonic game again!), Metroid: Samus Returns, Cuphead, Mario + Rabbids…you get the idea; 2017 was full of amazing games up and down the board for all tastes.
One of the knock on effects of having such a strong year for releases is that come Game of the Year time (like now) there are quite a few contenders that one can easily make the argument for, and The Game Awards, an annual ceremony hosted by Geoff Keighley, put together a strong list of candidates for 2017’s top prize…well mostly a strong list in my opinion. 4 of the 5 nominees are strong contenders – I mean anyone can easily make a case for Horizon Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Pesona 5. Player Unknown’s Battleground though…for game of the year? ehhh.
Now don’t get me wrong, PUBG is one hell of a multiplayer experience and it did things on steam that perennial favorite DOTA 2 hasn’t done. For those who haven’t heard of PUBG, something of a rarity if you ask me, the game was released to Steam early access back in March of this year by Bluehole. The game is a battle royale style game that pits you against 99 other players (max) and your goal is to essentially be the last player standing to get that oh so sweet chicken dinner. How you do this is up to you; you can hide and hope no one finds you, you can scavenge for weapons and gear and take the fight to your enemies, or you can play a more methodical game that combines the two strategies. In any case the goal is the same, stay alive. Oh yeah, there is also the caveat that as players get eliminated the map’s area of play becomes more constricted – if you’re caught out of the playable area when it contracts, you lose. Sorry lurkers, can’t hide forever. The game is incredibly fun.
So why the issue with it being a game of the year nominee? Well, the first thing is that the game is technically not a full release. It has been in early access since March and only now in December (late in month I believe) will it get a full release. That’s one point of contention, the second is that the game, as is, is still janky as hell. There is quite a bit of work that needs to be done to make sure this game is polished up and ready for it’s release and I just don’t think that, as it stands, it should qualify as a nominee for game of the year.
Games that are nominated as Game of the Year exhibit a number of qualities that show they are deserving of the nomination. Beyond playability, gameplay and fun factor, the technical aspects of a game should also be looked at. Game of the Year is the whole package, not just a piece of the package despite how massively popular and widespread that one piece is (in the case of PUBG). There is no denying the effect PUBG has had on the industry; back in October the title crossed over 2 million concurrent users on steam and looking at the steam charts now shows that the number has only grown (recent day trends show that at it’s peak there are about 2.5 million PUBG concurrent players). The title has even inspired other games to start implementing battle royale style modes. The effect is being felt industry wide and that is a testament to PUBG and Bluehole. I just don’t think that you can rest your hat on that one argument for Game of the Year when it falls short on the other aspects compared to the rest of the titles nominated.
As for me? When the Hold Up a Sec guys start talking game of the year, I will be going to bat for my personal favorite of 2017 and my nominee for Game of the Year. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. What do you think?