It is safe to say that 2014 has been a good year for games. It’s not just that we’ve seen spectacular blockbusters released almost from the start of the year, across all game consoles; 2014 has been a spectacular year for game creativity as we’ve seen indies and arthouse titles find real success courtesy of download platforms.
Our awards this year have been the most popular that we’ve ever seen on the site, with well over 1,000 people voting for their favourite games across 16 categories. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be listing the two highly commendeds (second and third place) and winner of each category, one per day.
Finally this week we’re highlighting the Arthouse Game of the Year award. To qualify for this award, a game needed to have some kind of intellectual depth to it, beyond as a piece of entertainment.
Valiant Hearts stands as a stunning exploration of the human side of war, and does so in a completely different manner to most art works that explore war – there’s very little violence in the game, and the characters you control kill almost no one personally. It’s a fascinating way to deconstruct ideas of what war is and the impact that it has, without allowing people to get distracted by the violence that often desensitises us to the underlying story. As a result, Valiant Hearts doesn’t have a visceral impact on players, but it more than compensates for that by creating an emotional bond between player and character, even for the majority of players that haven’t fought in war before.
On first appearances, Entwined is a simple little arcade game that tests a player’s ability to co-ordinate two separate objects at the same time. Very quickly though, the game reveals itself to be much more than that, with a broad narrative around human relationships and emotions playing out within its simple structures. The way the game emulates conflict and passion, separation and togetherness within its highly abstracted form makes it a fascinating project indeed.
There’s almost no end to the depth of analysis that you can apply to Danganronpa. The game is like a cooking pot of philosophies, from game theory through to the panopticon, from Schrodinger’s cat through to a discussion on relativist morality. It manages to throw so many ideas and concepts at players, while remaining both cohesive and entertaining, that Danganronpa is easily the ultimate example of the narrative potential of visual novels.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld