In London tonight a great many people who make, sell, market, and write about in a way that is probably also not marketing or selling (if you overlook the Doritos), will be meeting up to applaud the worthy winners of this year's Video Games BAFTAs. Well, we got there first.
Yes, using the BAFTA nominations, we went to the belly of the SPOnG Underwater Magic Flying Castle and voted on what should actually be the winners tonight. Like the real BAFTA panels, there was shouting, preening, weeping, fighting, Diva-ish behaviour, exhaustion and finally resolution. See the fallout below:
The panel who perused the Noms and turned those into the inaugural SPOnGy Awards were:
David Turner - Joypod Host and ace reviewer. Svend Joscelyne - Chief SPOnG writer. Mark Johnson - SPOnG's top content manager. Adam Cooper - Super freelance reviewer. Tim Smith - Editor.
And... the BAFTA 2013 Video Game nominations AKA The SPOnGys are...
Action • Borderlands 2 Adam Cooper - I’ll be rooting for Borderlands 2 to win something and this category might be its best chance, though it’s probably a long shot over Far Cry, Halo and CoD. Svend Joscelyne - There's been no other game that has commanded my attention longer than this one, and it's because the action, shooting and looting is just so damn addictive!
• Mass Effect 3 David Turner - The ending doesn't detract from the fantastic squad-based combat that drives the narrative forward.
Other Nominees Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Far Cry 3 Halo 4 Hitman: Absolution
Artistic Achievement • Borderlands 2 Mark Johnson - Some of the screenshots look pretty.
• Halo 4 David Turner - Just when you thought that the Xbox's hardware couldn't be pushed any further, 343 Industries pushes its visual capabilities even further. Breathtaking stuff.
• Journey Tim Smith - No idea what 'Artistic Achievement' means in this context, I assume they mean "Prettiest looking" - that's Journey. Svend Joscelyne - Visually stunning and an absolutely breathtaking experience.
Other Nominees The Room Dear Esther Far Cry 3
Audio Achievement • Journey David Turner - Journey's use of synths and and electronic sounds played a massive part in the emotional impact that this little gem has to offer.
• Beat Sneak Bandit Svend Joscelyne - A funky rhythm action game that rivals Nintendo's own Rhythm Heaven for inventive use of sound (it's not a wacky as Nintendo's offering, though!).
Other Nominees Assassin's Creed III Dear Esther Far Cry 3 Halo 4
Best Game • Dishonored Mark Johnson - One of the standout games of this generation.
• Far Cry 3 Tim Smith - The fact sites as full of their own self-importance as Polygon and Kotaku agreed this game was "pointless" and "dumb" meant that it was a game of fun. The fact that lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem was such a twit also made me enjoy it.
• The Walking Dead David Turner - Takes narrative gameplay to the next level. Superb writing meant that every character was one to care about. Adam Cooper - I could see this easily going to Journey or The Walking Dead, or maybe Dishonoured. I was definitely all for Mass Effect 2 winning Best Game a few years ago, but ME 3 doesn’t have the same swagger. Put a gun to my head and I guess I’ll go with The Walking Dead Svend Joscelyne - Hands down, the most gripping and engaging game I played last year.
Other Nominees FIFA 13 Journey Mass Effect 3
British Game • Dear Esther Mark Johnson - It looked kind of atmospheric.
• Super Hexagon David Turner - Simple, yet unique. Arcade gaming at its very best. Svend Joscelyne - It's a great example of British gaming innovation - devilish gameplay, wrapped in a layer of sheer simplicity. Utterly addictive.
• The Room Tim Smith - Seriously, the only reason I'm even commenting here is because of the absurdity of regionalism when it comes to making things to play with... then again, it is BAFTA. Also, the lads from Criterion are nice. So, yeah, The Room.
Other Nominees Forza Horizon LEGO: The Lord of the Rings Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Debut Game • The Unfinished Swan David Turner - Completely underrated. The Unfinished Swan is packed with unique ideas that are never relied on and expertly paced. Adam Cooper - The Unfinished Swan for looking beautiful. Why no Artistic Achievement nomination? Tim Smith - What Adam said. Svend Joscelyne - Agreed with David - criminally underrated, and deserving of praise for its brilliant game mechanics. Mark Johnson - Because this what I think people want me to say.
Other Nominees Deadlight Dear Esther Forza Horizon Proteus The Room
Game Design • Dishonored Adam Cooper - I think it probably goes without saying that Journey’s a strong contender for any category it’s in. in the interest of variety I’d rather it didn’t win everything though so I’m going to go with Dishonoured David Turner - One that is so well designed that it caters to every possible approach to each mission. Mark Johnson - I like Dishonored. I liked the design of it. It was pleasantly creepy.
• Journey Tim Smith - So? I am boring in my choices. This game isn't. Svend Joscelyne - The fact that you have no clear objective, yet you are able to easily understand both your surroundings and how to progress, proves thatgamecompany is truly adept at game design in its purest form.
Other Nominees Borderlands 2 Far Cry 3 The Walking Dead XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Family • LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes David Turner - Kids and grownups love it so. I haven't met one father son gaming partnership that doesn't enjoy playing these games together and [i]LEGO Batman 2[i] continues the series' great form. Mark Johnson - The LEGO games finally took a step forward with this one, and it was well worth it. Svend Joscelyne - Never mind father and son, this is the perfect action game of choice between my girlfriend and I. A fantastic creative use of the DC license, and harmless fun for everyone. Also, you gotta love open-world LEGO Gotham City!
• Skylanders Giants Adam Cooper - I’m a big Lego games fan so I’ll be happy with a win for either of them here. If I had more disposable income and less willpower I’d be all over Skylanders though. Those are some cute little toys.
Other Nominees Clay Jam Just Dance 4 LEGO The Lord of the Rings Minecraft: XBOX 360 Edition
Game Innovation • The Unfinished Swan David Turner - In a world where games keep getting better looking, The Unfinished Swan has proven sometimes less can be so much more. Svend Joscelyne - From the very first ink blob, The Unfinished Swan absolutely stuns with its innovative take on the first-person adventure game. There were at least three occasions where I jumped out of my seat in complete wonder. Delightfully surprising.
• Wonderbook: Books of Spells Tim Smith - Oh go on then. In a year of abjection in innovation. This. Also this should have been nominated in the Family category too.
Other Nominees Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Tim Smith - Seriously BAFTA, CoD? In 2013?) Fez (Tim Smith - Seriously BAFTA, Fez? In 2013?) Journey (Tim Smith - Ssssh, obviously this gets a vote too) Kinect Sesame Street TV
Mobile & Handheld • New Star Soccer David Turner - It's taken over lives, and doesn't rely on cheap tactics to do so.
• The Walking Dead Tim Smith - Honestly? I read a bit of the comic, watched a bit of the TV series and played a lot of the iPad game. The iPad game won. If you have absolutely got to have something to do with the turge of the zombie infecting everything, the game is the way to go.
• LittleBigPlanet (Vita) Svend Joscelyne - It might be 'just' a portable version of LittleBigPlanet, but to dismiss it as that really undermines the impact that the PS3 series has had in our gaming lives. Sackboy on the go - in a conversion that does the franchise justice - is brilliant.
Other Nominees Incoboto The Room Super Monsters Ate My Condo The Walking Dead
Online - Browser • Amateur Surgeon Hospital Tim Smith - I had to play a lot of browser-based games this year and last year and the year before, and this one makes me most least unhappy.
• The Settlers Online Adam Cooper - Eh, I’ll go with the Settlers out of nostalgic memories of the series’ past. Svend Joscelyne - A classic RTS series, reborn in a F2P fashion that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out.
Other Nominees Dick and Dom's HOOPLA! Merlin: The Game Runescape SongPop
Online - Multiplayer • Borderlands 2 Adam Cooper - My apathy towards most of these contenders means I’m not terribly bothered who wins. I’ll root for Borderlands 2 to get away with whatever it can, but its multiplayer is best experienced with friends I think. Svend Joscelyne - Everything about this game screams multiplayer. The fun and carnage ramps up with each additional person to your team. Plus, I can punch you in the face and duel you for that awesome weapon you have.
• Halo 4 David Turner - Rock solid battlefield of endless fun.
• Journey Tim Smith - Well, d'uh. I didn't realise I was playing multiplayer, which is the biggest compliment that I can give. I am nearly 50 for gods' sakes. I don't like meeting new people, especially online. New people scare me.
Other Nominees Assassin's Creed III Call of Duty: Black Ops II Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Original Music • The Walking Dead David Turner - Put it this way, I'm pretty sure if you played me one of the songs from this game I'd break down in tears.
• Thomas Was Alone Tim Smith - I bloody loved this. I honestly thought the actual game was hugely manipulative and masively hipster-rated, but I did like the tunes.
• Journey Adam Cooper - Although in this case none of the competition really do much for me. Svend Joscelyne - The score that accompanies Journey perfectly complements the gameplay to create a feeling of sheer wonder and discovery.
Other Nominees Assassin's Creed III Diablo III The Unfinished Swan
Thomas was Alone
Performer • Dave Fennoy (Lee Everett) - The Walking Dead David Turner - The Walking Dead Part of the success of the game was down to its voice acting and Dave Fennoy's performance was the pick of the bunch.
• Danny Wallace (The Narrator) - Thomas Was Alone Tim Smith - Danny used to make me tea when I worked on SEGA Power.
• Nolan North (Nathan Drake) - Uncharted: Golden Abyss Adam Cooper - Going to go with Nolan North because I do usually like his work and he does so much stuff I’m surprised he’s only nominated once.
• Melissa Hutchison (Clementine) - The Walking Dead Mark Johnson - Girls are under-represented in video games. Svend Joscelyne - It's incredibly difficult to perform the voice of a child as it is. To do so with the kind of dramatic authenticity that really makes you feel connected to Clementine in The Walking Dead, is a mark of Hutchison's great talent.
Other Nominees Adrian Hough (Haytham) - Assassin's Creed III Nigel Carrington (The Narrator) - Dear Esther
Sports/Fitness • FIFA 13 David Turner - Still offers some of the best value for money of any game. FIFA 13 is huge and has something for everyone.
• Trials Evolution Tim Smith - This is a sport? Of course it is. It's a bloody good (if old) game too. And I am rubbish at it, but I still enjoy it. Mark Johnson - This is the purest form of sport there is. Svend Joscelyne - I don't really like sports. But then I saw Trials Evolution, and remembered that motorsport exists. And then I realised, I kind of do like sports after all. As long as they're manly ones like muddy dirt biking. None of that 'football' nonsense.
Other Nominees F1 2012 Forza Horizon New Star Soccer Nike+ Kinect Training
Story • The Walking Dead David Turner - Questionably the best video game story ever told. Adam Cooper - It’s a story that’s being told over three different medium at this point, it’s got to have something going for it. Svend Joscelyne - Adventure games live or die on a good story. The Walking Dead doesn't just have a good story, it has perhaps the best story I've seen in a video game.
• Journey Tim Smith - Given that I don't like "story" interfering with play, Journey comes to the closest to making the unnecessary bearable. Frankly, Unfinished Swan takes a more honest approach.
• Dishonored Mark Johnson - It felt like it should fit into a genre that has 'punk' in the name, but I didn't know which one. It's exciting.
Other Nominees Far Cry 3 Mass Effect 3 Thomas was Alone
Strategy • Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Adam Cooper - I’ll root for Dark Souls here, even though it’s probably the only big RPG release last year that I didn’t play. Sorry Dark Souls, hope this makes up for it!
• XCOM: Enemy Unknown Tim Smith - It had some complexity and reminded me a bit of older games from gentler times. It didn't sell as well as some old (AaaaaHaaliens) nonsense I could mention, which is a shame. Svend Joscelyne - A perfect example of how to both modernise and honour a classic franchise.
• Total War Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai Mark Johnson - Samurai are under-represented in video games.
Other Nominees Diablo III Football Manager 2013 Great Big War Game
BAFTA Ones to Watch Award in association with Dare to Be Digital • Pixel Story Adam Cooper - Ok, I’ll admit I don’t know what any of these are. Pixel Story’s a cute name, I’ll go with that. Svend Joscelyne - The 8-bit style graphics are hitting the right buttons for me, but it's the way Pixel Story is re-interpreting retro gaming conventions to build an interesting new platformer that's got me keeping an eye on this.
• Project Thanatos Tim Smith - Its Freudian title suggests more than just horror. I have high hopes for this young team of designers at Raptor in Stafford.