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Friday, December 9, 2016

The DDNet Awards! Arthouse Game of the Year


Welcome to the DDNet Awards, our annual celebration of the best and brightest games that we've been playing throughout the year.

It has been a really good year for games in 2016, with great examples of every genre popping up through the year. Across 15 categories over the next three weeks, we look at the winner, runner up and three bronze medalists for each category.

In order to qualify for selection, a game needed to have been released for the first time on a new platform, between the first of December 2015 and the end of November 2016.

Let us know what you think of the award winners in the comments!

Arthouse Game of the Year

There are more and more games being made every year that put being works of "art" on a level pegging, if not more important, than being pieces of entertainment. Much like you've got the arthouse scene in cinema, and literature in novel writing, there's an emerging sector of game developer that aims to get the audience thinking and feeling, and not just playing. This award recognises those games that are part of this emergent tier of development; they are rarely the most popular and lauded games because they tend to put ideas ahead of gameplay, but they are often the most rewarding games that you'll play.

Bronze


Jonathan Blow's follow-up to the much-loved Braid was a long time in the making, but very much worth the wait. The Witness is, on a basic level, a puzzle game, and an open world one at that, in which players can tackle the game's challenges in whatever order they might like. But the real puzzle is the game's narrative, which is a philosophical puzzle to figure out all by itself.

You can read our review of the game here.



ABZÛ is a truly beautiful game, that much is obvious the moment you look at a screenshot or see it in motion. But the real artistry of the game only becomes evident as you dive deeper into it (pardon the pun). This is a game that is deeply meditative and reflective, where you're meant to let the experience wash over you, as though the tides of the ocean, and then reflect on what you've just witnesses, and what that means to you. The serenity and calmness that the game works hard to create is such an effective foil to the high action and tension experiences that are almost the default in this industry, making ABZÛ a potent, and important, foil to mainstream development.

You can read our review of the game here.




It's rare for a game developer to attempt to recreate a particularly political loaded period in history as a game. It's even more rare for the game developer to do so in a way that honestly reflects what went on in that period of history, without being exploitative and revisionist in its rhetoric. Based on the Islamic revolution in Iran, 1979 Revolution manages to take a period of history that has been poorly communicated to the mainstream, both in the west and back in Iran, and give it an insightful treatment. This is the kind of game that everyone with an interest in how games can be used as tools for education and communication should play.

You can read our review here.


Silver


You would never think that EA could publish something truly arthouse, but that's indeed what it did when it took ColdWood Interactive's Unravel and thrust it into the mainstream by virtue of it being an "EA game." Unravel is a masterpiece of sentimental storytelling, Focused on the retelling of memories from the point of view of someone at the end of their life, Unravel is touching and heartbreaking, sweet and yet so very complex, sad and yet nostalgic. It's good to see EA use some of the revenue from its big blockbusters to discover and publish games like this.

You can read our review here.



Gold


Plastic Studio's Bound is the exact kind of game that we think about when we think about "arthouse" games. Abstract and surreal, it's a game that is beautiful, but not in the traditional sense of the word, and everything about the game is just packed with meaning. Bound isn't meant to be entertaining, in the typical sense. Instead, it's meant to be reflective and impactful, and get its players to think. It certainly excels at that, being both a story of innocence lost and a celebration of dance. This is a very special game indeed.

You can read our review here.


The DDNet Awards! Arthouse Game of the Year
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