Last night was probably the biggest awards event in the British video games industry, the BAFTA Video Games Awards. There wasn’t one in 2008 for some reason, so this one had an odd amalgam of 2007 and 2008 games in it’s shortlists, which was slightly unfair to more recent games I think - I mean, who really has much of a chance against Super Mario Galaxy (which is one of the very few games it’s worth owning a Wii for)?
What puzzled me is that, although the awards got a little 3-minute slot on BBC news where Peter Molyneux and Charlie Brooker got a few words in, no-one seemed to be covering them on TV. I would have happily watched them if they’d been on, but I certainly couldn’t find them on terrestrial or Sky, and even YouTube doesn’t have very much. It’s refreshing that the few short interviews I saw on the news with people there were devoid of the sort of pretentious, glitzy nonsense that tends to blight film awards - but maybe that’s also one reason why game awards aren’t nearly as popular as those for film.
Anyway, of the winners I’ve actually played, they were very worthy in my book - SMG got the overall award, Left4Dead well deserved the multiplayer award (it would either be that, Rock Band or Gears2 for me), Fable II for action / adventure, Professor Layton for handhelds, LBP for art direction (there really should be an ‘innovation’ category for this one), Boom Blox for casual. All very good games and deserving of recognition.
I finally picked up Fallout 3 this week, which was nominated heavily but lost out last night. Despite all the good reviews, I hadn’t bought it before because I was concerned that they might have trampled over my deeply treasured memories of the original games (1997/8’s Fallout & Fallout 2 that is, not the sub-standard Tactics). Oblivion made it worse - developed by the same company, that game was rated super-highly too, but I couldn’t stand it - a sprawling world filled with poorly acted NPCs handing out a thousand quests, most of which were so derivative and uninteresting I really couldn’t give a damn whether the whole world imploded on itself by the 5th hour - in fact it might have been a relief had it done so. It just felt like the most cookie-cutter fantasy world you could have come up with, just magnified to a colossal size. Size isn’t everything - it really doesn’t matter how big a world is if you don’t give a damn about anything in it, and that’s certainly how I felt - I think I spent about 3-4 evenings with it before deciding I had far better things to do with my time.
So far, Fallout 3 has been much better; the atmosphere is surprisingly close to the originals (even the opening sequence is strikingly similar), and thankfully they appear to have kept the characteristics that made the originals so good - interesting, morally grey characters and quests, good dialogue, toungue-in-cheek references to 1950’s futurism. I’m actually interested in what goes on in the world rather than being bored by it like in Oblivion, so that’s a good sign. As a single-player game, I probably won’t get a ton of time with it (most of my 360 time is co-op these days), but I’ll certainly keep chipping away at it.