It’s that time of year again, everyone, where we celebrate the best games of the year. Despite being a heavily disrupted year thanks to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, 2021 produced some incredible games, almost from day one, and as a result, our awards this year has the most variety of games ever – almost 50 different titles got at least one award, and as you’ll see as we announce each category, it really is an endless stream of incredible experiences.
This year we had a special, expanded judging panel, with the entire DDNet team participating, but we also invited some prominent people from independent game publications outside the Website to participate, so we could get a broader range of insights and thoughts into the winners from each category. Our additional judges this year included Pete Davison from Rice Digital, Thomas Knight of Nook Gaming, Robert Allen of Tech-Gaming, Matt Ryan from Shindig, and academic and freelancer, @TsuChanJohnson on Twitter. The total judging pool for the awards was ten people this year around, and there was some heated discussion about the worthiest titles in each category indeed!
The games industry has diversified a great deal in recent years, and these days we have such a range of games and experiences that defy the common definition of a “game.” Often people look down on these experiences as being somehow inferior because they don’t fit the nice, neat checklist and don’t settle into an easy genre. Of course, it’s this little corner of game development where some of the most creative and artful ideas flourish, and that’s what we’re celebrating with this awards category!
It’s quite clear that right from the outset Essays On Empathy isn’t designed to be a game in the traditional sense of the term. For one thing, it’s structured as a series of half-hour vignettes, when conventional wisdom is that a video game needs to be hours long before it has any worth, and secondly, once you start playing you realise that the gameplay bits play a distant secondary role to the themes and narrative. Essays On Empathy has more in common with Aesops Fables than Call of Duty, Fortnite or Smash Bros.