Though the traditions have slipped for music and movies, I'm keeping the faith for the old annual Newsvine Decides columns. For Gamevine, that means picking the best Games of the Year for 2009.
Sequels sequels sequels! The beloved and hated industry trend paid big dividends this year, as several key franchises came out swinging this year with anticipated and highly-paid follow-ups. The potential present in many first iterations was fulfilled in several games this year, which promises more new ideas to come.
And while 2009 was bursting with big games, one of the stories of the year is how full the start of 2010 already looks. Many games were pushed back, as publishers hoped for better a better financial outcome along with avoiding the freight train that is Modern Warfare 2.
Similar to our categories from the last few years, the awards this year will be separated by Genre along with several special categories. Below, all of the categories will be listed in the Comments. Any Newsviner can make as many nominations as they'd like, and from there votes will determine the winner of each category. Remember: nominate early, so your choice has a chance to get plenty of votes. If you're reaching for games to nominate, check out the Top Reviewed Games from Metacritic. At the very least it's a good place to mine ideas.
That said, there are a few ground rules:
- Any duplicate nominations will be deleted to avoid confusion and duplicate votes. Please check to make sure your nomination hasn't already been cast before you hit the Submit button.
- Make sure you cast your nomination under the correct category. This will also result in a deletion. I'll determine if a game is out of place, but feel free to chime in if you disagree.
- Talk about the votes below the main nomination threads. We encourage discussion, and you can even make a good argument for your nomination, but don't do it inside the nomination threads. Those will be deleted.
- If you disagree with a ruling, bring it up... respectfully. Long-time readers know this has been a problem in the past. I'm more than willing to listen to disagreement, and consider it, but once a ruling has been finalized, further discussion will be deleted.
- Feel free to recommend new categories! Many categories in this and past year's Newsvine Decides columns were due to users thinking of things I didn't. I always like seeing what the commenters come up with and opening a dialogue about those topics, so don't be shy.
- You can vote for as many in each category as you'd like! If you can't decide which game you want to win between two or three nominations, vote for all of them.
In two weeks, a results article will be posted, and in it each of the winners of the respective categories will be the nominees for Game of the Year. That poll will determine the winner of "Game of the Year" for Newsvine Decides 2009.
But, this year I'm bringing a twist. The highest-voted Genre game that didn't win any individual Genre categories will be included in the running as a Wildcard candidate. So if you're afraid of your favorite game being overshadowed, it could still make the running.
So with that said, the Genre categories are as follows: Action, Adventure, First-Person Shooter, Fighting, Platform, Puzzle, Racing, Rhythm/Music, Role-Playing, Sim, Sports, Strategy
As usual, we'll also hold several specialized categories:
Most Innovative - This is the game that you felt took "gaming" to the next level with its creativity.
Most Visually Stunning - This is the game that made your jaw drop with its gorgeous graphics. Verisimilitude isn't a requirement (there were some beautiful stylized games this year) but it helps.
Best Writing/Story - This is the game that made the most of its world and the characters in it through spectacular writing and storytelling.
Best Voice Acting - Voices in games were once a rarity, but now they're ubiquitous... and that's not always a good thing. Truly great voice acting can take a game to the next level.
Best Music/Sound Design - Music is a more subtle part of gaming, but it's certainly important. Distinct from Voice Acting, this is the category that adds ambiance. Avoid nominating "Music/Rhythm" games for this category, or else it will basically be the same award given out twice. Instead, we want to award the music or sound effects created specifically to add to a game's feel.
Best Cinematics - A well-produced cinema sequence can add layers to a game's story, and immerse the player in the experience even when they're not directly controlling the action on-screen. This category covers the game that made you feel like watching a great film.
Best Multiplayer - This category is the best to enjoy with your friends, be it a party game, an online mode, or a game purely built for multiplayer enjoyment.
Best Kid/Teen Friendly Game - This category goes to the games that are best to play with the younger ones around. To qualify, it must be rated between EC (Early Childhood) and T (Teen). No M-rated games allowed.
Best Downloadable Content - This is the only category open to games that weren't necessarily released this year. What DLC kept you invested in a game after its release the most this year? Remember that this could be for a game released this year, or prior.
Best Game (Short Work) - Picture this category like the Oscars one of the same name. This is any game that is intentionally shorter than other games, meant to be a bite-sized piece of gameplay. It can be episodic or just a brief bit of game.
Best Game (Arcade/Network/WiiWare) - This category covers new ground for games, the small experiences. These are games designed specifically to be sold through online networks at a lower price than retail. Note that this category does not include ports of older titles such as the Wii Virtual Console, remastered Arcade titles on Xbox Live, or PS1 games sold through the PlayStation Network. Now that full games 360/PS3 games are being sold through their respective systems, keep in mind that this category does not include them either.
Best Game (Remake) - With older games gaining respect, they're more frequently being remastered and released on newer consoles. That's where this category comes in, for the best old title that's been given a facelift or new features. Note that this category also does not include pure ports of older titles. To be a remake, it must include significant additions to the original.
Best Handheld Game - It's taken a while for developers to understand, but handheld games are a different animal entirely. They need to be easy to pick up, learn, and put down again. Pick out which handheld game took your thumbs by storm this year.
Best System - The sum of its parts and perhaps more, this category goes to show how you feel about the systems in general this year. Which won your hearts and minds?
Best Developer - Developers sometimes crank out one or two huge titles in a year, but the impact can be startling. This requires you to look behind your favorite games to who made them and reward consistent quality among the creators.
Best New Character - Establishing new IP is hard, but we saw some launch this year that have the potential to last for years. Which new character do you think has the legs to star in several more games?
Biggest Surprise - This award can refer to any piece of news in the games world that shocked you this year; it doesn't have to be a game itself, but it can be.
Most Anticipated of 2010 - It's early yet, but which game of the upcoming year has you most excited?
So now that you're aware of the categories, what do you do? Nominate, vote, and watch out for the winner. I'll be making a thread below for each of the categories up for awards. If you have a game in mind that you want recognized, find the appropriate category and reply within that comment thread with your pick if it's not already there. Make sure you vote for your own nomination! As usual, I'll wait a few days before contributing any nominations or comments myself.
Happy voting, and game on.