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!
It’s important to recognise the role of a publisher in the games industry. It has been a terrible year in the space with a lot of publishers being revealed to be absolutely horrible companies (hi, Activision and Ubisoft), but when publishing works, you get a company that is taking on all the financial risk to bring us wonderful games to play, and then making sure that the best games get seen by the people that will love them. Having dealt with a lot of indies that self-publish, the value that publishers bring to gaming shouldn’t be ignored, and so with this award we recognise the publishers doing good things in the industry.
It was looking like a relatively mild year for Square Enix this year. Bringing Yuffie to Final Fantasy VII Remake was a good thing, to be sure, and there was Braverly Default too, and some releases by the western studios. There were even some remasters of classic, beloved PlayStation 1 titles. But it was really the back half of the year where things really picked up, and Square Enix reminded us that, as big “AAA” publishers go, it is the one with the most creative soul.