In any field of endeavour, it’s human nature to celebrate those who achieve something notable by throwing an oddly shaped perspex plaque at them. Or a lovingly sculpted golden trophy. There’s a range, is what we’re saying. Video games are no exception, and whether it’s your favourite local gaming site publishing an article of its writers’ careful thoughts, or Geoff Keighley’s glamorous The Game Awards, there’s a range there, too.
But what do communities think? Geoff has his players’ voice category, which is great, but as a community site we wanted to give our members even more free rein, celebrating not only what games won in 2023 in multiple categories, but what they won for. And so we put it to our Just About Video Games community to think up their own category ideas and suggest their theoretical winners.
The results range from the sincere to the more light-hearted, but make terrific reading in every case. Dare we say that Geoff could learn a thing or two for next year? I think we dare.
Best boss encounter
Winner: Bahamut in Final Fantasy XVI
Let’s ease in with a category that we genuinely see all over the internet on places that take these things very seriously. We’re surprised that this isn’t already a category in The Game Awards; there’s a special craft to enemy and encounter design, and an epic boss fight can be the thing that defines a game.
This category was put forward by @lanah_tyra; friends of the Just About platform won’t be surprised to learn which series she chose as her winner, but none would say it’s not a worthy one. Final Fantasy has had many phenomenal boss fights over the years, and you can see in Lanah’s video that its latest entry takes this legacy to new heights.
“This fight just blew my mind and really set my expectations high for any future games. The complexity, the different stages, the forms you get to fight in, the music; everything about this fight is just top tier! Here’s a video of it from someone who is actually good at the game, unlike me - I only have a recording of my very first attempt where I died twice before I figured out how to control it properly.”
Skip to 1:34 if you want to get straight to the action, and let us know in the comments which boss fight has really stood out for you this year.
Winner: The Mortuary Assistant
A jump scare is a sudden audiovisual event intended to scare the audience through shock and surprise, typically heightened by contrast with a moment of quiet, often accompanied with a loud, jarring sound, and widely used in horror games and movies. This probably explains why @Schadsquatch included the exclamation mark, and why we’re keeping it. Boo!
“I love horror games. The best atmosphere, suspense, and jumpscares I’ve had this year were all from The Mortuary Assistant. Being stuck in a claustrophobic room with a dead body and the horrors running amidst the mortuary had my skin crawling the entire time. A close second would have to be Amnesia: The Bunker. That damn dog and his buddies the rats still haunt me to this day.”
Top tip: If those pesky rats are bothering you too, take away their food source! I’ve played some horror games in my time, but the jump scare that I’ll never forget was a hidden one in Bioshock. Coffee was spilled. What was yours?
Best water effects
Winner: Alan Wake 2
There’s something uniquely calming about being near a body of water. Year after year, games get better at capturing that soothing magic. My jaw hit the floor when I saw how your horse’s hooves splashed through the rippling rivers of Red Dead Redemption 2, and I for one, think that this would be a fantastic category. Here’s @scrbzy, who suggested it:
“I’m a sucker for quality water graphics, and they get better by the year. This suggestion is kind of a joke, but at the same time I think it’s something that takes a lot of work! My winner for this year would have to be Alan Wake 2. The intro scene in particular was very impressive."
Comeback of the year
Winner: No Man’s Sky
This one’s a tough sell for a ‘serious’ awards show, as it implicitly acknowledges an awkward phenomenon that’s becoming all-too common: uncontrolled hype and punishing production schedules push major games to release too early, whereupon they fall short of expectations that were probably unrealistic even if the devs had had the time they really needed anyway. However, some studios are given the chance by their publisher, or are able to take it for themselves, to keep working after release and deliver on their vision.
@MaxGrauer suggested this category and a worthy winner: although No Man’s Sky’s comeback has been lauded for several years now, Hello Games has continued to produce excellent new content for it in 2023. So definitive has been its turnaround that ‘doing a No Man’s Sky’ has become a byword for post-launch redemption stories - it’s not just the gaming comeback of 2023, but of the century.
“We already have GOTY, which celebrates the best game of the year. It’s time to have COTY. Let’s celebrate the games that flop on release but by December recover and become beloved. The first nominee would be No Man’s Sky.”
@KAZOAR had a more tongue-in-cheek approach to this category. If COTY is what a game gets when it turns itself around, what does it get before the comeback starts?
“Since it’s now pretty common, I suggest ‘The Most Unfinished Game of the Year’ - an award that would target games full of bugs or lie in their advertisements and release as a big flop. We all know this from No Man’s Sky and Cyberpunk 2077 - games that got good a year or two after release. This would be an award to avoid.”
Best screenshot generator
Winner: No Man’s Sky
Games have been throwing around the descriptor ‘photo-realistic graphics’ for a decade, but only in the last year has that promise started to become reality. As a result, in-game photography has rocketed in popularity, to the cusp of broad recognition as a respectable artistic pursuit. Over at Just About EVE Online, we’re constantly marvelling at the sci-fi captures of Razorien, not to mention the mesmerising screenshots shared by our community members. James Webb, eat your heart out. @tyrannosaur suggested this category, and awarded it to a consistently gorgeous sci-fi gem.
“This category would be won by my favourite game: No Man’s Sky. You can activate photo mode whenever you like and set your camera angle, zoom, lighting, and filters to whatever you want them to be. You can make beautiful, wallpaper-quality screenshots of space, planetary landscapes, ships, fauna, your avatar, or whatever you want. You can really get creative with bases and terrain manipulation to set scenes just how you like them. I’ve literally taken thousands of screenshots in No Man’s Sky. It’s beautiful!”
Best in a blue moon
Winner: Counter-Strike 2
While Call of Duty and many sports games get new iterations every single year, some studios really take their time and concentrate on delivering something exceptional after years of radio silence. I think we all know who the winner of this excellently named category would be in 2025 - cough GTA 6 cough - but for @DamienMason, who suggested it, 2023’s winner is Counter-Strike 2. Yes, Larian took six years between its latest major releases, but Baldur’s Gate 3 has won enough awards, ok?
“This award would be for developers who so rarely release games that they need a specific category to highlight them. It would go to the games that make you wait a decade between releases.”
Most motivational sidekick
Winner: High on Life
We’ll leave you with a fun one from @MURRRAAAAY that we love. Because no matter how dark the dungeon and how sinister the foe, having a plucky, chipper pal at your side will see you through. This one is for the Claptrap, Diddy, and Luigi lovers out there. Let’s-a-go! (We know High on Life released in 2022, but in mid-December. Close enough.)
“The award for the most motivational sidekick in a video game 2023 goes to…drumroll please…Knifey from High on Life! He just loves doing his job! If you’ve played this awesome game you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
Which of those categories do you think that The Game Awards should adopt? Can you think of any alternative nominees? Do you have an idea for a fun new category? Let us know in the comments!
Some text has been amended for brevity. You can find the original wording at the bounty post.