The most anticipated awards ceremony of the year is almost upon us… No no, not that ceremony, filled with pomp and glitter and a bunch of contestants no one’s ever heard of. There are no designer clothes, no red carpet, no yawn-inducing acceptance speeches in this production.
I’m speaking, of course, of the first annual “Aggie” Awards from Adventure Gamers!
That’s right, for the first time in the site’s history, this year we’ll be recognizing the top games across a variety of categories. We’ve resisted in the past, not out of disinterest, but simply for practical considerations, as it’s difficult to fairly measure games against each other without playing everything released. And to be sure, none of us individually has played every single game from the past year. Nevertheless, with enough staff participation ensured, we’ve finally been able to settle on a process not involving coins, blindfolds, or dartboards, and feel confident that our selections do indeed represent the best the genre had to offer in 2008.
The award winners have yet to be determined, so stay tuned for the envelope opening over the course of three days, from February 18-20th. In the meantime, we are pleased to announce the finalists still in contention. And if you’re already prepared to tell us how wrong we are, you’ll soon get your chance! A “Reader’s Choice” poll will be posted shortly, giving you the opportunity to vote for your favourites. Those will also be tallied up and announced along with the official Aggie winners.
For a list of all games eligible this year, along with a few basic rules and regulations used in determining the winners, scroll down past the nominations. But without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen… we give you the nominations for the 2008 Aggies.
One of the core components of any adventure, the game’s narrative must engage the player’s interest and imagination. Entertaining in its own right, a good story also immerses the player in a believable game world and serves as motivation to overcome the challenges presented. While often accompanied by quality writing, the plot is a distinct feature that may or may not be ably supported by the actual dialogue.
Best Writing – Comedy
Arguably the hardest genre to write well, comedy done right has the ability both to humour and uplift, finding amusement in the ordinary and laughter in the unexpected. Often dismissed for not being “serious writing” (oh, the irony!), comedy has long been a beloved genre staple and deserves appropriate recognition.
Best Writing – Drama
If comedy lifts the soul, then drama explores and challenges it. Though sometimes misrepresented as dry and boring or overly theatrical, a gripping drama simply engages players on a deeper emotional level. Quality writing is essential in maintaining the player’s connection to the characters, game world, and the story unfolding.
Puzzles are an integral aspect of adventure gameplay, but not the only one. Good pacing, rich exploration, and variety of activities are all factors in player enjoyment as well, each suitably integrated into the storyline. The best games seek the right balance of these elements for the most rewarding gameplay experience.
A somewhat ambiguous category meant to highlight any unusual, distinctive element. A creative concept can run the gamut from story premise to game mechanics, from stylistic choice to technical innovation. It doesn’t even need to have been successfully implemented, as it’s the idea itself that deserves the acknowledgement in a genre renowned for its conservative approach.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (special ability to perceive lies through body language)
Overclocked: A History of Violence (reverse chronology of events through hypnosis)
The Experiment (indirect player control via computer console)
With so many “been there, done that” games in the genre, some adventures dare taking us to memorable places we’ve never been before, including those we never even imagined. This category can refer to an overall game world or even a single environment in a given game so long as it’s a relevant location.
Best Graphic Design
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this category speaks volumes. Regardless of style, this category denotes games that are not only visually attractive but stylistically distinctive. One look at a screenshot should elicit a “Wow!” followed by “Hey, that’s from…” Includes both game world and character design, but not cinematics. (Note: four finalists the result of a nominations tie.)
From “bustling” city streets that look deserted to clouds that never move, animation is rarely a genre strong suit, often the victim of budget constraints. But richly animated adventures add so much to player immersion that any game that goes the extra mile in this area is deserving of appreciation. This category includes in-game character and ambient animations, plus cinematic cutscenes.
As a supporting element playing in the background, often a game’s soundtrack is noticeable only when it becomes intrusive, but a strong score and attention to pacing can add so much to the game’s ambience. A catchy theme song can likewise make game music memorable, and an in-game musical number even moreso. Whatever its particular strengths, the rare game that excels musically deserves its accolades.
Best Voice Acting
Often under-valued by publishers but never by gamers, quality voice acting can enhance the player’s investment in characters as surely as poor acting can ruin it. With so much international localization, voiceovers can be difficult to skillfully oversee, but any game benefits greatly from proper direction and believable acting. This category refers to the overall quality of vocal roles in a game, not to individual characters.
Best Sound Design
As with music, sound effects are frequently given short shrift in adventures, but effective use of audio adds a vital layer of ambience. You may not be able to put your finger on the reason, but some games make you feel like you’re really there, and often the atmospheric sounds have drawn you in subliminally.