The Golden Joystick Awards 2009: Reflection

GJPHThe Golden Joystick Awards have now been officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the “World’s most Popular Video Game Awards”. To put things into perspective the event polled a whopping 1,223,646 votes this year with a 47% surge in voting. There is a strong argument that the general public should not be allowed to vote for anything if shows like Big Brother, X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and the awful “Song of the Year” show on ITV, where Westlife won year in and year out, are anything to go by, but we are not here to discuss such inane TV shows.

I was somewhat surprised at this being the 27th Golden Joystick Awards. If I am truly honest I never realised that Jetpac had the accolade of winning the first Game of the Year way back in 1982, which appeared on machines from my gaming past such as the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro and the Vic-20. For purists the game is even available on the Xbox Live Arcade. This shows just how far gaming has come especially considering that video game sales now eclipse that of music and films alongside the fact the cash-strapped UK consumers alone spent £2.7 billion on gaming in the last 12 months.

The Golden Joysticks are widely becoming known as the “Gaming Oscars” and this year arrived at the same time as the Eurogamer Expo, at a time when everyone is excited about games and the big Christmas releases.

As a gamer it is quite disappointing to see a huge amount of sequels dominating most of the categories, which many will feel stifles creativity and innovation for future games, which has traditionally been essential to what makes a game great.

The fairly annoying Alan Dedicoat, voice of the National lottery, began the proceedings and in my head I was expecting him to come out with award stats in that lottery style; “Call of Duty… won 6 awards last year” etc… Sean Lock took to the stage with “It’s Sean Lock!”. “Lovely to be here. When I first heard I was hosting the Golden Joysticks I was super excited, like a tramp with a fiver”, he declared.

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Thanks for coming, I’m here all week

“When I took this gig they said I didn’t have to make any jokes about videogames, which was a big f***ing relief to be honest. I often buy PlayStation magazines. I read them on the train when I want nobody to talk to me”.

The awards themselves were fast and furious, with a few surprises along the way, and the awards went to the following (complete with Neil’s Deals Links).
 

Family game of the Year: Littlebigplanet
Handheld game of the Year: Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars
Retailer of the year: GAME
Mobile game of the year: Metal Gear Solid Touch
Nintendo game of the year: Call of Duty: World at War
Multiplayer game of the year: Call of Duty: World at War
Soundtrack of the year: Guitar Hero: World Tour
Xbox 360 game of the year: Gears of War 2
PC Game of the year: Fallout 3
UK Developer of the year: Jagex
Playstation game of the year: Killzone 2
Publisher of the year: Activision Blizzard
Online game of the year: Left 4 Dead
One to watch: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Ultimate game of the year: Fallout 3.

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Ultimate Game Of The Year: Fallout 3

Not many people will argue with a game in which you can easily lose yourself for hundreds of hours like Fallout 3 being named as ultimate game of the year, but the behemoth that is Call of Duty continues to dominate even on the Nintendo Wii. Although clearly a great game, many would love to see fresher, more unique titles winning a few awards. It’s important to remember that with the exception of the “One To Watch Award”, only games released between 22nd May 2008 and 22nd May 2009 were eligible for inclusion in the main categories of this year’s awards, which is the reason for the lack of newer (some will say better) titles.

The One to Watch Award going to Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 left us feeling like Coldplay and U2 had been battling for Best Newcomer Award at the Brits. It just didn’t seem right, especially as the world will be watching it anyway.  Possibly the biggest disappointment and waste of an award was that Guitar Hero: World Tour won the trophy for Best Game Soundtrack. As fellow games journalist, Alan Boiston, quite rightly pointed it’s about an ability to license tracks, not creating something new. There have been countless games in the last 12 months with dedicated musical scores and judging by the reactions from the rest of the digital media representatives, most people will agree.

As I run Neil’s Deals to help save gamers money, it will also come as no surprise that Game winning retailer of the year is also a huge disappointment for me. My main gripe with them is they prey on families who know very little about games going in around Christmas time with lists of presents to buy, and not only are they handed games that are very often much more expensive than elsewhere, they are then up-sold other items too. Recently I had to say “no” five times to Forza 3 Ultimate edition at £54.99. Of course I said no, but what would confused Aunty Mable do at Christmas?

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Left 4 Dead: Online Game Of The Year

Judging by the excitement at the Eurogamer Expo this week for Left 4 Dead 2, it was also no surprise to see crowd favourite Left 4 Dead pick up the online game of the year award, although I was left scratching my head at Gears of War 2 picking up Best Xbox 360 game.

For me, one of the much deserved awards went to Jagex for UK Developer of the year. During the initial voting process the CVG servers crashed several times due to the overwhelming amount of votes for them and their passion is simple; they love creating games. For those of you are not aware of this UK team, who beat both Rockstar North and Lionhead to the award, they are the guys behind the enormously popular free-to-play MMO Runescape and have recently been announced as one of the fastest-growing private technology companies in the UK.

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Jagex are the real ones to watch, you heard it here first.

Overall it was rather interesting that most of the winners had massive advertising coverage on TV, which proves just how much the public can be swayed by what they see in the media. There are many publications losing readers as they continue to please advertisers rather than their readership. This by contrast sends them turn to independent websites that tell it like it is, rather than be spoon-fed sugar coated information straight from heavily contrived press releases from the head of marketing for the product in question.

The Rupert Murdoch’s of this world also seem to misunderstand the power of the internet and are arrogant enough to think that the masses will eventually pay for the news they provide. Rather amusingly, and some would say scary, that Murdoch himself seems intent on becoming a satirised version of James Bond villain Elliot Carver from the film Tomorrow Never Dies.

However rather refreshingly, Future Publishing UK seem to be embracing this change and acknowledge that many independent websites are trusted by hardcore fans more than the mainstream media, and can also turn around articles much quicker due to having much less restraint and political red tape to contend with.

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Will others follow Future’s lead?

Essentially what Future have done for this years Golden Joystick Awards is buck the trend by not ignoring the independent websites, but actually recognising that the two can work together as opposed to against, by inviting them along to the show. This has turned out to be a master stroke by them and probably gained more publicity and following of the awards because of it. For instance our very own live feed from the event received far more comments than the CVG website’s equivalent.

The day was a huge success for us in many respects, and we made many friends from similar websites to ourselves, but there does seem to be a rather worrying difference between the hardcore gamers out there that we met at the Eurogamer Expo, and our new friends we met at the Digital Media section of the event when compared with a few people we met at the after show party. Charles Cecil recently said at the Eurogamer Expo that within two years he would expect that the games industry would be much more corporate, but what we saw today would suggest it will be less than that.

As with all aspects of the entertainment industry many artists will avoid the after show parties as they are full of blaggers and arrogant arseholes who are just there for the party, but actually have no place being there. It would appear that there were a few people there that had never played a game in their life and were generally unpleasant with more than a little arrogance. Saying that, we did have to rescue comedian Danny Wallace from being bored to death by a rather drunk developer of a well known game.

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Hey scenesters, hey hey scenesters!

Have no fear, there is a huge message of hope out there, and for me this can came in the form of a guy who will remain nameless from Jagex. Obviously he was very happy at their big win of the day but said to me with a huge amount of heart-on-the-sleeve passion; “I hate bullshit, business cards and all the shit that goes with it, I simply want to make f**king games”. He was reminiscent of Lars Ulrich from Metallica in the documentary “Some Kind of Monster”, who was just wanted to play in a rock band and was not interested in the other stuff. He captured the essence of what gamers are and restored my faith so I took the unprecedented step of saluting him which seemed to go down quite well.

I would like to say at this point that Future did a fantastic job of looking after us all throughout the day, and ensured we had access to everything that we needed. It was quite inspiring to seem them embracing change and the benefits that will hopefully come with it.

There is a good argument that the general public should never be allowed to vote, and that the games industry is becoming too corporate, but the most positive thing to come out of the event was that everyone’s opinion was represented on the big day live as it happened, minute by minute from mainstream media to small independent websites. We have to thank Future UK for that. There is a change in the air, and today proved it works.

A wise man once said that there is no right and wrong, only opinion. Possibly, the most important part of this event is that despite the difference in opinions we may all have, we are all talking passionately about games. So what are your thoughts?

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