The BAFTA Games Awards, being UK-based, may not get quite as much press attention from publications on our fair soil as big, glitzy events like VGX, but they tend to be a much more respectful celebration of the games medium on the whole. A thoroughly British institution, then.
This year's nominations for the awards, the final results of which are set to be revealed on March 12, are in, and there's an interesting mix of big-budget and smaller-name games represented.
The Best Game nominations include Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag; Grand Theft Auto V; The Last of Us; Papers, Please; Super Mario 3D World; and Tearaway. That's a good selection of not only platforms represented -- next-gen, current-gen, Wii U (which, let's face it, is sort of its own thing), PC and handhelds -- but also large- and small-scale productions. It's particularly gratifying to see titles like Papers, Please and Tearaway having enough of an impact to go up against the big guns of the triple-A sector.
Being a British awards ceremony, there's a specific category for British-developed games, and up for consideration this year are Ninja Theory's Devil May Cry reboot DmC; Grand Theft Auto V; Gunpoint; Lego Marvel Super Heroes; The Room Two for iOS; and, again, Tearaway. The first The Room for iOS picked up the British Game BAFTA last year.
The Debut Game award primarily consists of indie titles, with one exception -- Remember Me, from Dontnod and Capcom. Other nominees in this category include Frogmind's mobile game Badland, The Tall Trees' Castles in the Sky; The Fullbright Company's Gone Home; Gunpoint, again; and Galactic Café's The Stanley Parable. An interesting mix of games, there -- not to mention an intriguing snapshot of the sort of games brand-new developers are choosing to work on.
The Action & Adventure award holds few surprises, with its nominations including Assassin's Creed 4, Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us, Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Tomb Raider, but Badland also sneaks in there to fly the flag for smaller developers in this category.
Strategy & Simulation is an interesting mix: Civilization V: Brave New World, XCOM: Enemy Within, Forza Motorsport 5, Democracy 3, Papers, Please and... Surgeon Simulator 2013. Interesting. Well, simulations don't, strictly speaking, have to be entirely accurate depictions of something.
The Sport category consists of two Codemasters racing games (F1 2013 and GRID 2); FIFA 14; Football Manager 2014; Forza Motorsport 5 and NBA 2K14.
Under Family games, the nominations include Animal Crossing: New Leaf; Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons; Rayman Legends; Skylanders Swap Force; Super Mario 3D World; and Tearaway. It's interesting to see Brothers in this category, since it's not necessarily what I'd immediately think of when considering a "family" game -- still, its subject matter is family, so it fits, no?
In Mobile & Handheld -- two categories that should probably be separated in future given the growing rift between their respective philosophies -- includes nominations for Badland, Device 6, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Ridiculous Fishing, The Room Two and Tearaway. Not a 3DS game to be seen, and in a year where we had Fire Emblem: Awakening, too. Curious. Still, Dungeon Keeper was snubbed, so all is well.
The Game Design category nominations include Assassin's Creed 4; GTAV; The Last of Us; Papers, Please; and Tomb Raider. Game Innovation, meanwhile, includes Brothers; GTAV; Papers, Please; The Stanley Parable; Tearaway; and Year Walk.
Multiplayer games up for an award include Battlefield 4 (presumably the judges are basing this on a version of the game that actually works properly); DotA 2; GTA V; The Last of Us; Super Mario 3D World; and World of Tanks.
Nominees for the Story award include Brothers, Gone Home, GTAV, The Last of Us, Ni no Kuni and The Stanley Parable -- nice to see a JRPG getting some love, though David Cage is probably gnashing his teeth at the lack of a Story nomination for Beyond: Two Souls.
Beyond did, however, pick up a nomination for the Music award alongside Assassin's Creed 4, BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, Super Mario 3D World and Tearaway, and another for Artistic Achievement alongside BioShock Infinite, Device 6, The Last of Us, Ni no Kuni and Tearaway. Audio Achievement nominations, meanwhile, include Battlefield 4, BioShock Infinite, Device 6, GTAV, The Last of Us and Tomb Raider.
The BAFTAs also celebrate specific performers in games -- given the expressiveness of digital characters these days, particularly in games that have taken great care with motion and facial capture, it's something that is of growing importance in more cinematic or story-centric games. Nominees for the Performer award include Ashley Johnson (Ellie in The Last of Us); Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite); Ellen Page (Jodie from Beyond: Two Souls); Kevan Brighting (The Stanley Parable's narrator); Steven Ogg (Trevor from GTAV); and Troy Baker (Joel in The Last of Us).
Finally, the "Ones to Watch" award celebrates titles from Abertay University's Dare to be Digital games competition that are particularly worthy of note. This year, the nominations for this category are Project Heera: Diamond Heist, Size DOES Matter and The Unknown.