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Sorrel’s Side Quests: We need to talk about categories at The Game Awards

The biggest awards show in gaming is back. The nominees have been announced, something of an annual tradition, and a few things are annoying me. 

To name a few, Jen Taylor's snub in the Best Performance category for her career-defining turn as The Weapon in "Halo Infinite," the predictably AAA-heavy lineup for Game of the Year and the decision to nominate the notoriously predatory "Diablo Immortal" for Best Mobile Game. However, one thing has stood out to me this year: The Game Awards' categories don't make any sense at all.

On a fundamental level, The Game Awards categories are not good. Award categories are either split into genres (e.g., Best Fighting Game), target audience (e.g., Best Family Game), budget size (e.g., Best Indie Game) or specific elements of games (e.g., Innovation in Accessibility). Some awards, like Content Creator of the Year, are handed to people who had no hand in producing the games. Other awards, like Games For Impact, seem to mean nothing, and fewer than five awards are focused on esports. It's a hodgepodge of nonsense that's never made much sense. In 2022, it is the worst it's ever been.

Many of the games nominated for various Game Awards have been completely miscategorized. "Sifu," a reasonably well-regarded single-player action brawler, has been nominated for Best Fighting Game despite having none of the hallmarks of a "fighting game." It has no multiplayer to speak of, RPG leveling systems, and only one playable character. "Sifu" was also nominated for Best Action Game (a separate but almost identical category to Best Action/Adventure Game), but it almost certainly doesn't count as a fighting game. It's worth noting that The Game Awards has never been particularly forthcoming about the criteria it follows for nominations.

Likewise, the brilliant "Neon White" was nominated for Best Debut Indie Game. This is a bizarre choice given that much of "Neon White's" marketing specifically focused on its lead designer, Ben Esposito, who has worked on over a dozen games, and who directed the indie darling "Donut County" just a few years ago. While "Neon White" is the first game from Esposito's new studio, Angel Matrix, it's far from a Debut Indie Game.

"Elden Ring," a game with nearly no narrative to speak of, was puzzlingly nominated for Best Narrative, presumably a nod to its involved worldbuilding. It bears pointing out that a well-built world is not a well-built story and, for all its strengths, "Elden Ring" barely has any story, much less a well-built one. 

"Overwatch 2" was nominated for Best Multiplayer Game despite being near-universally derided as a so-so update to a game that came out in 2016. "I Was A Teenage Exocolonist," a nominee for Games For Impact, was incorrectly listed as "I Was A Teenage Exorcist" when its voting page opened (and I'm still no closer to knowing what "Games For Impact" means).

The Game Awards have always been a bit messy, but the show's latest iteration has shown a stunningly poor understanding of how its own already-broken categories ought to work. It's difficult to take any of these awards even remotely seriously as a sign of prestige when the people organizing and voting on these games aren't certain of which games are eligible for which categories or what those categories are meant to represent.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung is a sophomore studying virtual reality game development at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Sorrel by tweeting her at @sorrelkj.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung

Opinion Writer

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