James Veitch opened up proceedings at the 34th Annual Golden Joystick Awards ceremony on Friday afternoon. Giant glasses and white Converse trainers in hand, Veitch looked the part in his job to wake up the wined and dined videogame developers before him, ready for the big show. Warming up the crowd with his famous Ted talk spam email routines proved successful, as his justice-serving online antics were rewarded with everything from wry smiles as punch lines were slowly figured out to outright guffaws.
By the time the awards started coming round however, people just wanted to get to the good stuff. Shortlists have been devised by top names in the videogame journalism world and it was finally time for 2016’s winners to be announced. Some strobe lighting and feisty introduction videos later, we were on the edge of our seats waiting for Best Original Game.
The afternoon began as it meant to go on for Overwatch, which not only picked up the first trophy but went on to become the most awarded title of the show, grabbing Best Multiplayer Game, PC Game of the Year, Competitive Game of The Year and Best Gaming Moment for its play of the game feature.
It was also an incredibly successful afternoon for The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, whose multiple wins always incited raging applause from fellow developers, press, and public viewers both present and watching online. Beating Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Firewatch, the title picked up the Best Storytelling award as well as Best Visual Design. Doug Cockle, the voice behind Geralt of Rivia also got in on the action bagging himself the Best Gaming Performance title just beating Uncharted’s Nolan North to the punch. CD Projekt Red also came out on top in the race for Studio of the Year.
Fallout 4 was awarded Best Audio, with Battlefield 1 strangely absent from the shortlist. Firewatch was hailed as the Best Indie Game, much to the crowd’s delight.
The Competitive Play of the Year is perhaps my favourite category purely for its demonstration of awe at the center of our play experiences. Despite the crazed astonishment at his moves, player Coldzera was surprisingly calm in his acceptance video when he was awarded the prize for his jumping AWP quad kill at MLG Columbus in Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
The announcement of the Innovation of the Year prize was met with some confusion in the crowds, however. In the shortlist stood VR headsets HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR, as well as Guitar Hero Live, No Man’s Sky, and Quantum Break. Yet it was Pokemon Go that took home the prize, admittedly to some groans from the crowd. Niantic sure deserved it, the app was definitely revolutionary, but I’m unsure whether it beats out every VR headset we’ve developed this year.
An emotional Lifetime Achievement Award was won by Eiji Aonuma, a major player in The Legend of Zelda series. The developer heavy-weight told crowds in a VT of how “there is one person who constantly surprises me with his unique and varied perspective. It is none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, the original creator of The Legend of Zelda”.
Similarly, Lara Croft was welcomed into the Golden Joystick Awards Hall of Fame on the 20th anniversary of Tomb Raider. With some moving footage of early gameplay and nostalgic memories shared by those on the judging panel, the win was cemented with a few embarrassed tear wipes from the crowds. Camilla Luddington also appeared on video to thank the panel and Golden Joystick Awards, as well as the players themselves for the role they have played in making Lara such an icon.
Though perhaps biased in my approach (Sony forever), I would have loved to see the PS4 take home the award for Best Gaming Platform. Steam was predicted however, and fulfilled this afternoon as Valve’s PC gaming software took the award.
Fire Emblem Fates came in third, followed by Monster Hunter Generations, and topped off as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD took home the Nintendo Game of the Year award. Meanwhile, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End somewhat predictably bagged PlayStation Game of the Year.
Unfortunately this was Naughty Dog’s only win of the afternoon, so keep an eye on the title in upcoming award shows to see what’s going on in its critical reception. Over at Microsoft however, Forza Horizon 3 came second to Rise of the Tomb Raider for Xbox Game of the Year, a win that roused the only-just-emotionally-recovered crowd.
It was obvious at this point that Pokemon Go was going to grab that Handheld / Mobile Game of the Year title, and predictions rang true for Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Most Wanted Game win.
The Critics Choice Award was a different story, however. After Titanfall 2’s unfortunate release window between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the sequel came out on top against big names. There’s no reason it shouldn’t, and audiences weren’t particularly shocked by the revelation; however it’s reassuring to know that such an awesome game isn’t slipping through the net as much as you’d expect.
What did silence the crowds was the second place revelation for Ultimate Game of the Year. With Overwatch’s successful run previously in the afternoon, it was an easy tie in to the award. And yet when it was announced in second place, a shocked hush fell over awaiting ears.
Dark Souls III was the winner of the coveted prize, beating not only the biggest winning title at the event but also the likes of Doom, Fallout 4, Hitman, No Man’s Sky, Uncharted 4, and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Throughout the afternoon we were treated to a handful of upcoming game trailers, including an intense and awesomely choreographed introduction to Tekken 7 as well as a hauntingly appealing expose of Little Nightmares. The Breakthrough Award was bestowed upon Eric Barone’s Stardew Valley, released in February for all current-gen platforms.
Being a predominantly player-voted awards show, it’s not surprising that No Man’s Sky fell short of all trophies up for grabs. However, it’s difficult to conceive how Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End only swiped one, and indie sensation Inside went unnoticed throughout the afternoon despite being nominated for the highly coveted Game Awards 2016.