This is a curious year for the Steam Awards.
For one, it feels like there haven’t been as many notable games launching this year, compared to other years. I presume something called a pandemic may have had something to do with that.
For another, a portion of those notable games have been coming out on different platforms and are thus not eligible for the Steam awards. The Final Fantasy 7 Remake immediately popped into mind, as well as the more recent and presumably relatively popular Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as another example.
Then there was Animal Crossing: New Horizons taking over peoples’ lives in the early part of the year, and totally not on Steam as well.
Add to that the strange weirdness of the ridiculously popular Among Us, which definitely became something of a zeitgeist in 2020 (of which I felt like the only lone hermit who did not partake), being quite ineligible as well. Apparently, it released in 2018 and was only re-discovered and re-hyped by streamers this year.
So we end up with a smaller than usual list, whittled down even further by the necessities of having a Steam release date of 2020.
And oh, did I mention I am a patient gamer who only buys things on heavy discount and have thusly played a grand total of zero big popular games released in 2020?
Steam wound up suggesting eligible “games you’ve played in 2020” like Fae Tactics and Metal Unit – which came in one Humble Bundle or another, which I taste tested for an hour or so. Nothing against either game (although Metal Unit is distinctly still in early access), but they are eminently small fry and would not even make a blip on the radar of awards that are meant to consolidate collective popular opinion.
Yep, definitely an extra special interesting year for the Steam Award nominations.
To add salt into the wound, Warframe is no longer eligible for the Labor of Love award, having swept up that category for goodness knows how many years running. So I went for the other obvious standby.
Arguably, Terraria may be another popular contender for this category, having had one big final update that even got me revving up the game for some time. But then, “This game, to this day, is still getting new content after all these years” and a -final-, journey’s end update don’t exactly mix, do they?
Next, we have the standard dilemma of overlapping games that can easily qualify for multiple awards, and attempting to partition them out in some way.
Popular multiplayer game fads this year that came to mind as things streamers were jumping on: Fall Guys, Among Us (mentioned above), and Phasmophobia. Nearly all multiplayer games are, by definition, “Better With Friends.”
(I mean, is there really such a thing as a multiplayer game better with enemies or people you severely dislike? Sea of Thieves? Eve Online? A MOBA? Neptune’s Pride / Solium Infernum? But but.. the joy comes in backstabbing people you know, right? Not strangers. But I digress..)
After a brief period of self-debate, I passed it off to the more light-hearted Fall Guys, for the sheer -quantity- of friends it allows in a game.
Phasmophobia also, I felt, deserved a highlight for breaking an innovation boundary of successfully bringing in and using voice chat / voice recognition as a significant part of its gameplay. (Other games have tried before this, but did not quite make it to being this popular.)
The other super obvious game that would -have- to make it on some kind of category was Hades.
The game seemed to have taken over the consciousness of pretty much every gamer in existence. There are only 1.1% negative reviews on Steam. If that is not close to being universally appealing, I don’t know what is.
Holding out being a patient gamer for this game has been hard. (Maybe in the winter/Christmas sale it might get to 33% off. Let’s see if I can wait till 50% off.)
Game of the Year contender? Definitely. Soundtrack? Possibly. Game You Suck At? Most Likely. It’s a roguelike after all, it’s built into the design.
But I ultimately gave it this category:
It is undeniably a stand out in how it looks. Most Supergiant games are. They are visually distinct and drip, nay, gush with style and panache.
The other visual style contender was Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The play of light and color in that game’s screenshots are riveting.
But then, as I juggled listening to the soundtracks of Hades, Ori and Doom Eternal on Youtube, there was only one soundtrack I would definitely be willing to sit through for all 3 hours and then put on repeat loop.
Moving into the “I’m running dry, let’s abuse Steam release dates since they’re already so unfair anyway” territory, I spied Factorio on the list of -ostensibly- released in 2020.
That was easy. Have you seen my spaghetti base way back in 2019? (And I was pretty late to the Factorio party.) Some day, when I wrastle up enough courage, I’ll try again.
Story-Rich Game was hard. So hard. Final Fantasy 7 remake was the obvious contender, but you know, console exclusive. The ever so polarizing Last of Us 2? Yep, you know what.
(Ghost of Tsushima would not exactly be my first choice for story game per se, but hey, it’s a popular game released in 2020 – also moot for the same reason.)
I briefly stared at Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York (which I did taste test as part of a Humble Bundle, and found it “meh” aka decent, but not earthshaking). Then I read the Steam page for Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest, which seemed to be more positive review-wise, but didn’t strike me as something I could vote for sight unseen.
Finally, I decided to just abuse Steam release dates some more and go with something I played on the PS4 and know has a solid emotional story.
Come to think of it, if we’re sitting around abusing Steam release dates for PS4 games, another obvious contender for story-rich game has just come to mind as I write this blog. Detroit: Become Human. But come on, it’s released on the PS4, then it released on Epic last year, and then finally on Steam. It’s tough to consider it ‘new’ at this point. (At least HZD released at the same time on both Epic and Steam, making it somewhat questionably ‘new’ for the PC.)
I saved the Sit Back and Relax Award for an indie I have been patiently waiting for and craving. I love coffee and the cafe culture. It seems right up my alley. Just got to #patientgamer a little more – it might bundle at some point!
VR Game? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m still waiting on building a PC with Windows 10. Covid spanner into 2020 plans and all that. Who has the spare cash for a VR headset? Who would keep track of VR games without owning a VR headset?
What’s that, you say? I need to vote for all categories in order to complete this meaningless little task checkbox so that I can get a meaningless (but shiny) award/badge/xp?
*heads to the VR section of Steam in the hopes of finding something that pops out*
No worries, Valve. I understand shilling for your platform.
(It’s apparently quite good. I wouldn’t know.)
And of course, finally, in another rehash of abusing Steam release dates for PS4 games, comes the final contender that was busy duking it out with Hades for Game of the Year, and was also being considered for Innovative Gameplay and maybe, but not quite, Story-Rich Game.
Let’s face it. From what I understand of it, Hades is a gamer’s game. It seems to be technically perfect from an execution standpoint, of fast hitting action, of challenge, of repetition, of being visually outstanding and tying in gameplay mechanics to its story and design. It excels in execution.
But in vision? In innovation and breaking boundaries? Of being that sort of classic that polarizes and confuses some people for being just a little too forwardly thinking out there?
Let’s put it this way. I’m willing to build a PC to get Windows 10 going in order to play Death Stranding. I don’t think I would go through the same effort for Hades. I’d get to it when I get to it.
My threshold price for Hades is probably 33-50% off. If I had a computer capable of playing Death Stranding, I would have bought it immediately at launch price.
Then there’s the whole creepy synchronization between the themes of Death Stranding – isolation and connection, the working class and those being delivered to, life and death and the apocalypse with the entirety of real world 2020.
When we look at it that way, how could it not be Game of the Year?