2013 VGX Nominations And Predictions

vgx-2013-headerEvery year, I give you my picks for the annual Spike TV Video Game Awards and predict the winners. Now that the rechristened VGX have gone to always online, I considered dropping the whole thing. However, this post is an annual tradition around here and who am I to argue with tradition?

While I’m not a fan of the VGX format of shameless promotion interrupted by the occasional award and burning through 80% of the awards either in a big list before a commercial or a big list when announcing that a given game won another award, it is probably the most mainstream of award shows (even if it’s been pulled from TV) so it’s probably worth giving a bit of attention to.

So let’s take a look at the 2013 group of VGX nominees and pick out some winners intermixed with a few rants about this awards show.

Game of the Year
BioShock Infinite
Grand Theft Auto 5
Super Mario 3D World
The Last of Us
Tomb Raider

Our Pick: The Last of Us
Prediction: Grand Theft Auto 5

I’m just running through the list as I found it. The Game of the Year will be the last award of the night but it’s going to be the first one I run through so I wouldn’t be shocked if everyone stopped reading after this paragraph. I’m not sure I’d blame you if you stopped reading after my pick and prediction for GOTY.

Anyway, we have five very strong contenders here that I’m going to pare down to three right away. I feel as though Tomb Raider was the weakest of the bunch so I’m tossing that out of contention early. Mario never really gets a lot of love from the VGA/VGX folks in the major categories so history says that he won’t pick up the gong either.

So that leaves BioShock Infinite, GTA5 and The Last of Us. I think BioShock Infinite may be the least likely of the final three to get it because it’s now in vogue to slag it off. Something about the gameplay mechanics and “ludonarrative dissonance” which is something I could go on all day complaining about because it’s such a load of crap that was made up be someone trying to sound smart rather than just enjoying/critiquing a game’s story and gameplay for what they are.

I think it comes down to a pick ’em between Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us. Rockstar North and Naughty Dog certainly sent this console generation out with a bang by doing what they do best at the very best they’ve ever done it. Since I prefer games with a strong narrative, I would go with The Last of Us (just marginally beating out BioShock Infinite). Unless GTA Online’s launch issues hamper it in voting, I’d reckon the panel goes with GTA5.

Studio of the Year
Irrational Games
Naughty Dog
Rockstar North
The Fullbright Company

Our Pick: Naughty Dog
Prediction: Rockstar North

First off, kudos to the nomination committee for giving The Fullbright Company a nomination. I’ve read almost solely great things about Gone Home so it’s nice to see the indies getting some love from the VGX panel.

That being said, I think that it’s down to Naughty Dog and Rockstar North this year. Naughty Dog put together just an otherworldly amazing game with The Last of Us that looked great and had an engrossing story. Rockstar’s GTA5 was no slouch in the gameplay department either but the scale of the game and all the new tricks they brought to the table may push them over the top and win them Studio of the Year. From a purely technical standpoint, I think those two studios did the best job in 2013. It’s just a matter of which technical aspects are more important to the voting panel.

Best Shooter
Battlefield 4
BioShock Infinite
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Metro: Last Light

Our Pick: Metro: Last Light
Prediction: BioShock Infinite

You know, this could be a legitimately tough genre group to call. Is the best shooter the game with the best shooting gameplay and mechanics or is it the best total package as a game? If you lean to the former, it would seem to favour Metro: Last Light, a critically acclaimed shooter that got a little lost in the shuffle come awards time. If you lean toward the complete package, the story and acting in BioShock Infinite would pick up the award.

I’d hazard that the award is likely to go to the more complete package of BioShock Infinite but if anything can pull an upset in a shooter category, I would put my money on Metro.

Best Action Adventure Game
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
Grand Theft Auto 5
The Last of Us
Tomb Raider

Our Pick: The Last of Us
Prediction: The Last of Us

You know, I don’t like the “action adventure” label. It feels like too much of a catch-all for games that aren’t in one very specific genre. It almost feels like it’s going to be a consolation award for one of the losing Game of the Year contenders.

If I’m wrong here, it’s probably an indication of who won Game of the Year. Since I’m predicting that GTA5 will win GOTY, I think TLOU will pick up this award (and Best PS Game) as a consolation prize. If GTA5 wins here, that could very well set us up for an unexpected GOTY announcement.

Best Sports Game
FIFA 14
MLB 13: The Show
NBA 2K14
NHL 14

Our Pick: MLB 13: The Show
Prediction: FIFA 14

Where’s WWE 2K14? I’m absolutely loving that game right now. I didn’t think that I’d have so much fun playing a wrestling game but the nostalgia combined with the sandbox-ish Universe mode and gameplay that’s significantly improved in the 10 years since I last played a wrestling game has made it one of my favourite games of 2013.

A quick look at the aggregated review scores eliminates NHL 14 off the bat. I’m opposed to FIFA winning the award because of EA’s cheap recycled cash grab of 3DS and Vita versions of the game. I think that you have to be able to stand up on all versions of the game not just the flagship version. If the handheld versions are just cynical cash grab roster updates, that should count against the game’s release as a whole. I guess that would eliminate NBA 2K14 from contention because of the PC version. By process of elimination, I’ll go with MLB 13: The Show. Sadly, I don’t think that the committee will use the opportunity to send a much-needed message to EA and 2K.

Best Independent Game
Gone Home
Kentucky Route Zero
Papers, Please
The Stanley Parable

Our Pick: Papers, Please
Prediction: Gone Home

I haven’t had a chance to play Gone Home yet but everything I’ve heard about it makes it sound like it absolutely deserves to win this award. The critics absolutely adore this game. That and developer The Fullbright Company was nominated for Studio of the Year so the VGX panel thinks very highly of the game. So while I think it’ll pick up the win, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Papers, Please, another fantastic game, or The Stanley Parable sneak in and steal the award.

I will admit that I’m very disappointed that Gunpoint didn’t make the list. That game was absolutely superb and it’s my current frontrunner for Game of the Year. Play it. Play it now!

Best RPG
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Pokemon X/Y

Our Pick: Pokemon X/Y
Prediction: Pokemon X/Y

Was this year really that bad for pure RPGs? Not that I’m saying that these are bad games but I’m just surprised that I can’t think of many more RPGs that didn’t make the cut. Considering how many games incorporate RPG elements nowadays, I suppose the pure RPG genre is a bit of a dying breed. That’s a shame considering how many classic games that we all loved growing up were RPGs.

Off the bat, let’s eliminate Final Fantasy XIV which was the lowest scored by critics. The other three all scored within a few points of each other. Fire Emblem was the highest scoring game but I’d be inclined to think that the more mainstream Pokemon X & Y is likely to pick up the win. That and Fire Emblem wasn’t nominated for best handheld which is odd considering that it was one of the better RPGs of the year. Still, Pokemon getting nominated in both categories is a good sign for its chances relative to Fire Emblem.

Best Fighting Game
Divekick
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Killer Instinct
Tekken Revolution

Our Pick: Injustice: Gods Among Us
Prediction: Injustice: Gods Among Us

I’m not a big fighting game fan and yet I’ve played two of the four games nominated this year. Out of Injustice and Divekick, the obvious choice is Injustice. It was just an all around better game. Even when you through Killer Instinct and Tekken Revolution into the mix, they can’t beat Injustice. Marvel might be the big hit at the box office but DC can still pick a little win here and there.

Best Driving Game
F1 2013
Grid 2
Forza Motorsport 5
Need for Speed Rivals

Our Pick: F1 2013
Prediction: Forza Motorsport 5

In keeping with the sports games category, I think the committee has an opportunity to teach a lesson here. NFS: Rivals should be eliminated from contention because of the terrible PC port. Forza 5’s inclusion on microtransactions should also be penalized by the voting panel because there shouldn’t be bloody microtransactions in a full-price retail game!

So that leaves me a pick ’em between F1 2013 and Grid 2. It’ll never actually happen because the committee will likely take the Xbox One flagship Forza. I’ll go with F1 because I’m a fan of the series and I love the idea of the classic cars and tracks that Codemasters has added to this edition. That and I prefer sim-style games, like the F1 series, over the more arcadey Grid series.

Best DLC
Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep
Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Mass Effect 3: Citadel

Our Pick: Mass Effect 3: Citadel
Prediction: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Hang on! Blood Dragon wasn’t what we would typically call DLC but a standalone release. If you were to ask me, that disqualifies it from this category. Sure it’s “downloadable content” but so is every game released on Steam, Origin, Uplay, PSN, Xbox Live and Desura and you don’t see the GOTY list repeated here.

The best of the bunch that is actually add-on content would have to be Citadel. It added several hours of content, had great writing and had some serious emotional weight. It’s exactly what we wanted from Mass Effect 3 in the first place and it was far and away the best piece of ME3 DLC. When people make a head canon substitution of Citadel DLC as the ending to ME3, you have a damn good DLC on your hands.

Best Xbox Game
BioShock Infinite
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Grand Theft Auto 5
Tomb Raider

Our Pick: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Prediction: Grand Theft Auto 5

Warning! Incoming rant!

What’s the point of having a Best Xbox Game category if all four nominees are multi-platform games? I realize that BioShock Infinite, GTA5 and Tomb Raider are all very good games and all VGX Game of the Year nominees but they have genre categories to pick up more awards. It just reeks of filling out the numbers. If there weren’t any good exclusive games worth nominating, drop the award! This award does nothing to celebrate the great games released solely on the Xbox consoles. Have a best multiplatform game award or best last-gen exclusive award if you want to hand out a consolation prize to the games that you can’t give GOTY.

Since Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was exclusive for a month, I’ll give it the award. I would guess that GTA5 is going to pick up the win but I think it’ll come down to how much of a bitter aftertaste was left by GTA Online’s launch troubles.

Best PlayStation Game
Grand Theft Auto 5
Rayman Legends
The Last of Us
Tomb Raider

Our Pick: The Last of Us
Prediction: The Last of Us

Now, rant with table flip. Was BioShock Infinite so terrible on PS3 that you had to replace it with Rayman Legends or was Legends so awful on 360 that you subbed in BioShock Infinite? It just makes no sense. It’s as if they’re making it up as they go along. And, of course, insert the same rant about not recognizing actual exclusive PlayStation games with this award. Why have a PlayStation award if you’re just going to nominate the same old crop of multiplatform games?

Seeing as The Last of Us is the only exclusive on this list, it should win. My question is where are the PSN, Vita and PS4 games? Aren’t they considered PlayStation games? If it’s going to be the Best PlayStation 3 Game award, just call it that. And don’t say anything about the release date of the consoles and games because Super Mario 3D World has a GOTY nomination and wasn’t out until well after nominations were announced.

Best Nintendo Game
Pikmin 3
Rayman Legends
Super Mario 3D World
The Wonderful 101

Our Pick: Super Mario 3D World
Prediction: Super Mario 3D World

At least the VGX committee got it a little bit more right with the Nintendo nominations. Three of the four are console exclusives and deserve to be on this list. Maybe I should go a little easier on Rayman because VGX has never heard of platformers as a genre.

Anyway, when it comes to genre/console awards, I have that rule that says GOTY nominees are clearly better than the genre/console crowd. That’s why they were nominated for Game of the Year. That’s why the universally praised Super Mario 3D World picks up the win for best Nintendo game.

And, like I said with the PlayStation category, why aren’t any of the handheld games nominated? They’re console games too. Imagine a category with SM3DW, Wonderful 101, Pokemon X/Y and Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. That’s a pretty impressive lineup that would have us questioning the common belief that Nintendo is in trouble.

Best PC Game
Battlefield 4
Gone Home
Papers, Please
The Stanley Parable

Our Pick: Papers, Please
Prediction: Gone Home

Multiplatform-ness knocks Battlefield 4 out of the running straight away if it were up to me. I guess that leaves us with three PC exclusive indie games to pick from in this category. I love how much love the indies are getting in major categories. Sure, the indies may not get the mainstream attention but damned if we don’t need these guys to make gaming better.

Considering that the Indie and PC nominees are so similar, it shouldn’t surprise you that my picks are the same. Once again, don’t be surprised if The Stanley Parable sneaks in to pick up the award. It’s definitely a three-horse race at the top of the indie class this year. Well, four if they remembered that Gunpoint was released in 2013.

Since I’m mentioning forgetting games, Far Cry 3, one of 2012’s best games, was released too late for nomination last year. Naturally, it doesn’t get any mention this year. They did that to Gran Turismo 5 and I reckon that Gran Turismo 6 is going to get jobbed out of a nomination in the same way.

Best Handheld Game
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Pokemon X/Y
Tearaway
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Our Pick: Pokemon X/Y
Prediction: Pokemon X/Y

You know, this is actually a very strong category. Each of these games has a strong claim to the crown. See, it’s not just the consoles or PCs that are getting all the good games. You can be a “core gamer” with a 3DS as your only gaming device.

I’d imagine that the casual nature of Animal Crossing might eliminate it from contention early. Of the remaining three, Zelda was the best reviewed but Pokemon nostalgia might carry the day for them. Okay, both games will lean on nostalgia but I think you can’t dismiss how many units that Pokemon moved in determining which is the best handheld game. The big seller in the handheld realm certainly was Pokemon X & Y.

And, as I mentioned up to, where’s Fire Emblem: Awakening? GameRankings has that as the #2 highest rated 3DS game of all-time and best 3DS game that wasn’t a N64 port. Somehow it makes Best RPG but not Best Handheld. Try figuring that one out.

Best Casual Game
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Disney Infinity
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time
Skylanders Swap Force

Our Pick: Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Prediction: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I think that “casual” might be a catch-all for games that appeal to people other than core gamers. I wouldn’t necessarily call any of these games “causal” since you can certainly invest time and money and require some skill to play them.

Based on how much time that it seemed to absorb, I would hazard that Animal Crossing would be the best casual game. However, Skylanders Swap Force wasn’t a shabby effort either as long as you don’t hold the business model against it. It would probably be the 1A choice in this category.

Best Voice Actor
Troy Baker as Joel in The Last of Us
Troy Baker as Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite
Steven Ogg as Trevor Philips in Grand Theft Auto 5
Willem Dafoe as Nathan Dawkins in Beyond: Two Souls

Our Pick: Steven Ogg
Prediction: Troy Baker (as Joel in The Last of Us)

I know Troy Baker is in everything and good at what he does (You guys seriously have to watch him on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop. He was fantastic.) but do you really need to give him two nominations? Isn’t there one other actor with a nomination worthy performance this year?

Since he has half the nominations, there’s a very good chance Baker could split his own vote and not win. I’d pick Steven Ogg as the criminally insane Trevor just because he was very much different than the three other nominated performances. Really, though, Baker’s going to win this and he deserves it for his turn in The Last of Us.

Best Voice Actress
Ashley Johnson as Ellie in The Last of Us
Courtnee Draper as Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite
Camilla Luddington as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
Ellen Page as Jodie Holmes in Beyond: Two Souls

Our Pick: Ashley Johnson
Prediction: Ashley Johnson

The best actress is the one category that I have never predicted correctly. Every year I’ve done this has resulted in a 100% failure rate. I really should pick Ellen Page since I think that’s a safe wrong choice. No one’s going to vote for Beyond: Two Souls. However, the Murray curse will strike Ashley Johnson. When she doesn’t win, you can blame me. So congrats to Courtnee Draper for a well deserved VGX acting win.

Best Soundtrack
BioShock Infinite
Grand Theft Auto 5
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
The Last of Us

Our Pick: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Prediction: Grand Theft Auto 5

Let me preface by saying that The Last of Us should win this award. I love the hauntingly quiet soundtrack that leans a lot on acoustic guitar to set the mood of the game. So, why did I pick Ni no Kuni? Because I’m an absolute mark for good JRPGs and great JRPG soundtracks. For example, I don’t care if Project Phoenix ends up being a terrible game because I get to listen to a Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack again. Anyway, I think Ni no Kuni has a fantastic soundtrack and is more than deserving of the honours.

Sometimes, though, quantity trumps relative quality. I’m not saying GTA5 has a bad soundtrack. I’m just saying that I don’t think that it’s as good as its competition. There was a lot of soundtrack to GTA5 (okay, there’s always a lot of music in GTA games) which I think will help its cause with the panel. That and Keighley says that there’s a GTA5 music performance for the show. I’m inclined to think that means a lot for GTA5’s chances at cleaning up a bunch of awards.

Best Song in a Game
“ADHD” by Kendrick Lamar (Grand Theft Auto 5)
“Sleepwalking” by The Chain Gang of 1974 (Grand Theft Auto 5)
“Survival” by Eminem (Call of Duty: Ghosts)
“Will the Circle be Unbroken” by Courtnee Draper & Troy Baker (BioShock Infinite)

Our Pick: “Will the Circle be Unbroken”
Prediction: “Will the Circle be Unbroken”

This category… Who thought this category was a good idea? There’s already a best soundtrack category. Isn’t that good enough? At least the Canadian Videogame Awards do this type of category right by allowing feature songs from games (instrumental or otherwise) to be nominated. The 2013’s CVAs Best Original Music category had Leaving Earth from Mass Effect 3 as the big winner in a category that included individual songs from Assassin’s Creed 3, Papo & Yo and Sound Shapes. That’s how this category should have been done.

Anyway, we have one song that properly belongs to a game and the rest that were songs in a game. I’m assuming this whole category was just dreamed up to give the award to BioShock Infinite. I know that Will the Circle Be Unbroken is a Christian hymn but it fits so well with the themes of the game and is actually performed by the lead actors of the game which should earn it bonus points. Basically, if any other song wins this award, it’s a travesty of justice.

Most Anticipated Game
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Destiny
Watch Dogs
Titanfall
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Our Pick: South Park: The Stick of Truth
Prediction: Titanfall

Wait. Wasn’t South Park on the most anticipated nomination list last year? Well, since the game has been delayed by over a year, it makes the list again. At this point, I’m actually expecting nothing great but I can’t help but get a little excited by the fact that Obsidian is developing this game and they’re pretty good at what they do.

As for the actual most anticipated game, it’s a toss-up between Titanfall, Destiny and Watch Dogs. I think that any of them could pick up the Most Anticipated Game award (if you can call it an award) but I think that EA’s first-person shooter will take the award thanks to the Watch Dogs delay.

Cross-posted from et geekera. For more from et geekera, follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr and RSS.

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