Around this time of year every news consortium is compiling their list of the best games of 2009. Now most of these lists are going to feature great games like Uncharted 2, Borderlands, and even Dragon Age: Origins, but they will also feature games that weren’t so hot like Modern Warfare 2, and Halo 3: ODST. Why would these games receive nominations for the best games of 2009 when they weren’t very well received? Simply put, it’s the hype machine.
Gamers like you and I spend months, if not years, reading features, watching videos and generating buzz for a game that we’re expecting to be amazing. And because of that it’s not hard for people to convince themselves that a game that is only “so-so” is the greatest thing they’ve ever played. To make matters worse, psychologically speaking, in order to justify their $60 purchase, they will defend these mediocre games to their last dying breath.
And some of these disillusioned gamers actually like to call themselves “game journalists.” Having been on the inside of three of the biggest gaming news networks I can tell you that game of the year votes are not placed in the hands of experts. For every gamer who has played every title on the nominee list, there are a dozen who have only played one. Yet their votes are weighted equally. And to that I’ll add the console bias. When Metal Gear Solid 4 came out it seemed like a lock for game of the year. But since it was during a time when the Playstation 3 was still insanely expensive, and it was still considered cool to hate the PS3, bias found its way into the voting booths. I spoke with a staff member of a gaming site, and when I say spoke I actually mean he yelled at me because I was saying that my experiences with the PSN “weren’t that bad,” and he told me that if he had his way no PS3 game would ever win an award. I would never be callous enough to say that this was why any one particular game won or lose the award, but it was something that I witnessed personally and was immediately disgusted over.
In order for a vote to be cast for an Academy Award a voter has to prove that they have seen every movie in that particular category. Why is the same level of scrutiny not forced unto the video game journalism industry? Why are interns who have never played a single RPG allowed to vote for the best one of the year? Why are show hosts who don’t own a single current gen console allowed to have a voice?
You won’t find the answers you’re looking for anywhere, because the system is what it is. Until a site or network is able to prove that they have been able to remove all bias from their voting, I recommend that we as a gaming community stop caring about an award as silly as “Game of the Year” and start making up our own minds about what games we liked the best.