“This year was definitely a different kind of year”
A year ago, I wrote a piece where I talked about how I sat in my dorm room, alone, and with a heavy heart watched the Independent Games Festival and the Game Developers Choice Awards. This year, I don’t have the same feelings of defeat and fear; I still got chills watching the award winners stand in the spotlight as well as root for every game nominated.
The games this year highlighted all sorts of creative minds around the game industry, from fresh ideas like Shovel Knight by Yacht Club and This War of Mine by 11 bit Studios to huge AAA releases like Destiny by Bungie and Shadows of Mordor by Monolith Studios. For the first time in a long while, completely unknown studios like UsTwo, which isn’t a game development studio, won awards.
A man who created the franchise that inspired me to play and create video games was also awarded this year’s life-time achievement award; that man was Hironobu Sakaguchi. He is the creator of the Final Fantasy franchise and founder of MistWalker studio.
The Game Developers Choice Awards and the Independent Games Festival showed the imagination and creative minds and attitudes of those in it. Be they man or woman, social justice warrior or not, gay or straight, I was able to see games from all over on all sorts of platforms. These games showed me their passion and how powerful the pen (or designing software) can be. From the games that made us think to the developers who created our childhoods, I was once again reminded about why I make games, why I write about them, and why I love them.
This is why I can’t stand the whole argument and paranoia that spawned from #GamerGate and #AntiGamerGate. Unfortunately, this year’s Game Developer’s Choice awards had the unfortunate circumstance of being smack-dab in the middle of the dumb #GamerGate and #StopGamerGate debate, which overshadowed much of the celebrations.
The #GamerGate fiasco centers on the argument of sexism, stereotyping, and so on in videogames. Much of that argument started last year as several prominent feminist video game figures were threatened. The argument has devolved into the lambasting of developers’ creations due to their following or breaking certain stereotypes.
It is terrible developers being told that their ideas are wrong and that they shouldn’t be allowed to create, whether they are trying to break stereotypes or be a part of them. These conferences and conventions are about loving games and not about fighting over them.
The year of 2014 will likely be known as the year that everyone in the video games industry hated each other, especially because #GamerGate and #AntiGamerGate is still a thing. There is still this ongoing battle of really nice people and really “off” people. Both of these camps are mixed within each other, be they gamers, consumers, developers, journalists, straight white males, or underrepresented women in games.
I was afraid to check out what the games of last year were because, in the back of my head, I expected a scathing attack from both sides of the #GamerGate and #StopGamerGate camps. With the crazy Law and Order SVU episode misrepresenting everyone in the game industry to all of this petty back and forth, I was scared that people would forget about the games. Of course, there were going to be a few parts where the hosts, mainly Tim Schafer, showed their stance on the issue. But from what I saw, it didn’t stop the games from being the forefront.
There were still little bits of sprinkled ideologies in the awards show, like Tim Schaefer’s puppet, but it’s like what Nathan Vella said, the video games industry is supposed to be one of expression and freedom. Everyone should be allowed to have a platform and games are a platform that provides that voice.
Console manufacturers have stopped adding fuel to the console war fire. Developers, now more than ever, are being more personal with their games. Gamers, themselves, are being more vocal and passionate about what they play and are even banding together to create magnificent communities like the one for Super Smash Bros.
Last year I talked about the spotlight of the awards show and what it would mean for me to stand under it, the tears I would have and the rush of emotions swelling up within me. This year, I had a few tears of my own. They came not because I looked inward to myself, but because I looked at the kinds of games people are making and witnessed the power of the lives these games have touched.
I wonder where this year in games is going to take us. Last year was a roller coaster, so maybe we’re going skydiving.