Katie Lalwani looks at the big winners at this year’s BAFTA Game Awards.
2016 was a spectacular year for the games industry, something that’s clear looking at the diverse scope of games celebrated at this year’s 13th annual BAFTA Games Awards. Presented by Danny Wallace, the awards paid tribute to the biggest titles from the last year and the people behind them. From AAA blockbuster franchises to smaller indie titles, the diverse showcase of talent on display made it difficult to predict who would be taking home awards.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End scooped the biggest prize on the night, taking the award for Best Game. Developed by Naughty Dog, the action-adventure title saw protagonist Nathan Drake journeying across continents in search of lost treasure. Featuring stunning cinematic sequences, thrilling combat and platforming elements, the game quickly became one of the best selling games on Sony’s console. Marking the end of ten years for the series, the award was an apt sendoff for the franchise. Uncharted 4 joins previous winners of game of the year including The Last of Us, Fallout 4, and Destiny.
It wasn’t just the major developers picking up accolades. Indie developers won big too, with Playdead’s Inside taking awards for Artistic Achievement, Narrative, Original Property and Game Design. Inside is a haunting puzzle platformer and sidescroller acting as a spiritual successor to its predecessor LIMBO, where you play as a silent, unnamed boy maneuvering through a nightmarish, dystopian world created by masterful design and extraordinary attention to detail.
Another indie game, Overcooked, took home awards for both best British and best family game. A cooking game with a twist, Overcooked sees players embody up to four different cooks in a kitchen as they work together to prepare and serve orders quickly, while trying not to set fire to everything.
Best Game Innovation went to Numinous Gaming’s That Dragon, Cancer. Its development came about to mark the legacy of two of the game’s developers, Amy and Joel Green’s, son who passed away from cancer. The game encapsulates the highs and lows of raising him from when he was diagnosed aged 1 to his passing at age 4. This is done through an immersive, narrative-driven point and click adventure, following the Greens’ emotional journey in raising their son.
App games also made an appearance, with Pokémon Go claiming the award for best mobile game. The app took the world by storm last summer, being downloaded over 500 million times globally. Developed by Niantic, it encouraged gamers to seek out, catch, train and battle with the virtual animated creatures facilitated via phone GPS.
The Last Guardian was crowned the winner in the audio achievement category. The game
centres on the friendship between a young boy and Trico, a giant feathered beast. The game makes excellent use of Trico’s oars, growls and huffs to convey emotion, while location elements such as the falling of rocks and water flowing are vividly brought to life.
The game was pipped to the post by OTwo’s hidden gem of 2016, Virginia, for the best music award. Virginia follows an FBI agent on a case to find a missing boy. Featuring no dialogue – the narrative is completely visual, complimented by the winning score. The soundtrack flows beautifully, adding tension and suspense to certain scenes as well as the calmer mood evoked by others.
Blizzard’s multiplayer shooter Overwatch won best multiplayer game. Overwatch offers players the ability for players to battle it out online with any number of the game’s 24 (and counting) heroes, each with unique skills and abilities. The game is noted for offering players a diverse variety of characters to play as, with a range of different backgrounds, races and sexualities represented. This is certainly something future games should aspire to.
Other awards on the night included Campo Santo’s first-person, narrative game Firewatch, which won awards for Best Debut game and Best Performer (for Cissy Jones’ portrayal of Delilah). The mystery game follows Henry, a fire lookout in a Wyoming national forest, as strange occurrences start happening around him. Best Evolving Game went to the car football phenomenon Rocket League, while the eSports Audience prize was awarded to Clash Royale, a card-based strategy spin-off based on popular mobile game Clash of Clans.
Meanwhile American game designer and developer Brenda Romero was awarded the BAFTA Special Award. With over 35 years experience in the industry, Romero’s most prolific works include ‘80s and ‘90s hits such as Wizardry and Jagged Alliance.
This year’s winner of the Ones to Watch award was Among the Stones, a vibrant puzzle platformer which sees you play as a girl exploring an island while helping its stonelike inhabitants.
The BAFTAs this year was overpacked with strong contenders that many great titles missed out on awards including Hitman, Titanfall 2, and Dishonoured 2 to name a few. The awards come at a time when new challenges are arising for the industry, including the question of what effect, if any, Brexit will have on British gaming. While only time will tell, this year’s phenomenal showcase tells us the future of gaming is in good hands.