Belated Thoughts on the 2017 DICE Awards

This past week had the 2017 DICE Awards. I have a few thoughts on the awards.

On the one hand, the DICE Awards, being a juried award similar to the Academy Awards (but one where alcohol is served like the Golden Globes), didn’t have any particularly cringe-worthy stunts or overly crass attempts of humor like, for example, the VGAs and The Game Awards have had.

On the other hand, we had two MCs, Greg Miller and Vanessa Chobot who had no chemistry, with Vanessa taking the awards with what felt like the appropriate amount gravitas, and Greg feeling like he was hosting The Game Awards.

The rest of the presentation of the awards are what you would expect if watching an awards show, particularly an awards show put on by people who aren’t entertainers. The presentation for the awards is much more variable than your conventional awards show, with some presenters, like Matt & Erin Bozan (the head and art director of Waypoint Games, developers of the Shantae games) being incredibly entertaining, and others (Randy Pitchford in particular) being rather grating.

Several awards were announced in video packages. Unlike these compilation packages at at the Game Awards, all of the nominees get mentioned, rather than just mentioning the winners.

To get the nominees and winners out of the way (winners are in italics):

  • Best Action Game: Doom, Battlefield One, Overwatch, Gears 4, Titanfall 2.
  • Family Game of the Year: Dragon Quest Builders, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rachet and Clank, Rock Band Rivals, Super Mario Maker (3DS).
  • Outstanding Achievement in Character: Call of Duty – Infinite Warfare (Nick Reyes), Firewatch (Delilah & Henry), The Last Guardian (Trico), Uncharted IV (Nathan Drake).
  • Outstanding Achievement in Story: Firewatch; Inside; Oxenfree; That Dragon, Cancer; Uncharted 4.
  • Hall of Fame: Todd Howard of Bethesda
  • Outstanding Achievement in Animation: Inside (focus in package is on death animations), The Last Guardian, Overwatch, Street Fighter V, Uncharted 4.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: Battlefield 1, Firewatch, Inside, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay: Battlefield 1, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, The Division.
  • Outstanding Technical Achievement: Battlefield 1, No Man’s Sky, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, Uncharted 4.
  • Best Handheld Game: Dragon Quest Builders, Fire Emblem Fates, Kirby Planet Robobot, Pokemon Sun & Moon, Severed.
  • Best Mobile Game: Clash Royale, Crashlands, Gardenscapes – New Acres, Pokemon Go, Reigns.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Abzu, Battlefield 1, Doom, The Last Guardian, Titanfall 2.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Battlefield 1, Inside, The Last Guardian, Quantum Break, Uncharted 4.
  • Best Strategy/Simulation Game: The Banner Saga 2, Deus Ex Go, Fire Emblem Fates, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, X-Com 2.
  • Best RPG/MMO: Dark Souls 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Hyper Light Drifter, The Division, WoW: Legion.
  • Immersive Reality Technical Achievement: Eagle Flight, I Expect You To Die, Job Simulator the 2050 Archives, Superhot VR, Tilt Brush.
  • Best Immersive Reality Game: Eagle Flight, I Expect You To Die, Job Simulator, The Lab, Superhot VR.
  • Best Sports Game: FIFA 17, Madden 17, MLB The Show 16, NBA 2K17, Steep. Winner: Steep.
  • Best Racing Game: Driveclub VR, Forza Horizon 3.
  • Fighting Game of the Year: UFC 2, Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-, Killer Instinct Season 3, Pokken Tournament, Street Fighter V.
  • Best Adventure Game: Firewatch, Inside, King’s Quest, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4.
  • DICE Sprite Award for Independent Games: 1979 Revolution – Black Friday, Firewatch, Inside, Superhot, That Dragon – Cancer.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Game Design: I Expect You To Die, Inside, Overwatch, Owlboy, Uncharted 4.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction: 1979 Revolution – Black Friday (I need to play that game), Battlefield 1, Inside, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4.
  • Game of the Year: Battlefield 1, Inside, Overwatch, Pokemon Go, Uncharted 4.

The video package for Inside in the Outstanding Achievement in Animation category put a particular focus on the death animations, which makes sense, since as with Limbo, they were noted for their brutality.

Most of the nominees I couldn’t particularly disagree with, though there were some exceptions. The selection of nominees for Best Racing game felt really thin, with Driveclub VR feeling like it was nominated because they had to nominate something else in that category. It feels like perhaps that category should have been placed on hold for a year.

I also have problems with the lineup of nominees for Fighting Game of the Year, considering the state that Street Fighter V was in for much of the year, the step down in quality that UFC 2 was compared to the first installment, and the fact that Nitroplus Blasterz Heroines Infinite Duel was not nominated at all.

It was surprising to see That Dragon, Cancer leave the show empty handed. On the one hand, when it won Best Indy Game at the Game Awards, Inside wasn’t out yet. On the other hand, the power of the story that game tells was enough that documentary filmmakers made films about the making of the game.

That said, this is a juried award. As John Scalzi pointed out earlier this week when the Nebula Award nominees were released, there are no such thing as an automated award nomination, and my favorite games not getting nominated doesn’t mean that they were slubbed. I can be surprised by choices, and I can disagree with choices, in some cases strongly as far as Street Fighter V is concerned, but that doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy against Anime-influenced fighting games. Considering Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- made the list, that’s clearly not the case. It’s not that the nominees are objectively wrong.

With perhaps one exception – The Best Racing category should have taken a break. When you have to add a game with some dramatic issues like Driveclub VR (watch Giant Bomb’s VRodeo on Driveclub VR to see that) to the list just to make sure you have a second choice, then you don’t have enough nominees to make it worth having as a category that year.