As they have been for the past two years, the 2016 Game Awards streamed exclusively live online last night, and they were a strange mixed-bag of spectacular highs and bizarre lows. As has become the norm with these kinds of events, there were some high-profile reveals and a few genuine, heartfelt moments sandwiched between jarring product placements and awkward, out-of-place presenters. As for the awards themselves, well, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking they were more a sideshow. Like the Spike Video Game Awards shows that preceded it, the main event at The Game Awards is the stuff that happens between when trophies are handed out – the big reveals, trailers, and demos that portend the year to come in gaming. All the games that won were worthy, but here's the best and worst of what we saw last night.
Multiplayer-only games tend to have a rough time during awards season – and especially at big productions like The Game Awards – but Overwatch may have ushered in a new day. Blizzard's blockbuster team-based shooter took home four awards last night, including the big one: it's The Game Awards' Game of the Year. It also won Best Multiplayer Game, and Best Esports game, plus Blizzard took home Best Direction largely due to its success with Overwatch. Does it have the trend toward games with enduring, long-term engagement to thank for this success? Or was it the way that Blizzard managed to inject an engrossing, tangible lore into a game without a hint of single-player? Who knows. Probably both. Either way, Overwatch certainly deserves the accolades.
You know things are weird when a trailer for a game from the creator of Metal Gear Solid – a game series not known for going light on the batshit crazy – that features a baby being carried in a futuristic camping flask by Guillermo Del Toro – is only marginally stranger than what happens on stage beforehand. After calling out Hideo Kojima’s former employer, Konami last year for preventing the just-fired game designer from attending the Game Awards, at this year’s show Geoff Keighley delivered a weird mix of best man’s speech and eulogy to a seated, slightly perplexed-looking Kojima before presenting him, tearfully, with the Industry Icon award. In that moment, Geoff was just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.
What followed was the trailer for Death Stranding, courtesy of the newly-independent Kojima Productions. Last year, the reveal trailer was about Norman Reedus standing on beach, naked, with a baby in his arms. This year, we got more dead crabs, some tanks, zombie-like soldiers, Guillermo Del Toro hiding under a bridge and the introduction of what we’re assuming is the principal villain, played by the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen – looking like he just lost a very tough fight with a very large tube of mascara. As ever with Kojima games, the more you see, the more questions you have. Kojima has already admitted this one is addressing environmental destruction and the oil-like black goo, zombies and preservation (albeit in a glass bottle) of what could be the last uncontaminated human baby all points to precisely that.
Schick's Hydrobot probably seemed like a good idea in a glossy boardroom but became something from a fever nightmare the minute a man-sized object with multiple blades was wandering around a darkened room, leering – as much as something with no eyes or mouth can leer – at the lustrous beards that are the pride of so many game creators and fans. Every time we began to relax he would loom into frame again – the deformed child of a loveless commercial union.