This year's BAFTAs show games winning all round
13th Mar 2014 | 15:11
The games industry gives itself a hearty high-five
Perhaps it's the hour's sleep I'm running on, but I've come over all emotional. It's been a great year for gaming.
Last night, the BAFTA Games Awards celebrated some of the biggest and best titles of the last 12 months, and loaded honours on the teams that crunched hours and sacrificed blood, sweat, tears and divorce papers to bring each of them to life.
Highlights of the night included Hideo Kojima presenting a Fellowship Award to Rockstar ("This is the first time, as far as I know, that Bafta has given an award to 900 people," said the elusive Dan Houser during his heartfelt acceptance speech), and host Dara O'Briain getting into a cardboard box on stage in tribute to Metal Gear.
We also got Carol Vorderman telling us about her inability to jump in Rayman (try hitting the button on that thing you're holding, Caz), and Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Steven Moffat admitting that although he hadn't a clue how to write for games, he had no doubt that the industry would continue to go from strength to strength.
"It's extraordinarily rare to be around when a new art-form is being born," he said whilst bestowing The Last of Us with the award for Best Story. "Games are going to own the future. I am here chiefly to crawl to my new bosses."
Best and brightest
PlayStation-only titles The Last of Us and Tearaway were two big winners, but there were also a few pleasant surprises for Xbox. Xbox Live indie title Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons scooped up the award for Best Innovation – a huge achievement for its creative director and long-time filmmaker Josef Fares, who up until this title had never made a game before. Might be time to start thinking about a second.
Xbox One exclusive Forza Motorsport 5 was nominated for both Best Strategy and Simulation, and Best Sports game, but was pipped to the post by Papers, Please and FIFA 14, respectively. Grand Theft Auto 5, a game that's rarely been out of my Xbox 360 disc tray since its launch last September, picked up awards for Best Multiplayer, Best Game Design, and Best British Game.
It was also the first time in BAFTA's history that members of the public joined industry luminaries during the actual awards ceremony. The event, held at the Tobacco Docks in London, followed on from an inaugural games-focused open showcase held earlier that day - Inside Gaming.
This was a chance for enthusiasts and fans to come meet and attend Q&As led by industry insiders, as well as get a hands-on with some upcoming releases. The format - a far cry from the usual BAFTA behind-closed-doors pomp and black-tie dinners, was updated to reflect the ever-evolving nature of the games industry.
"This industry evolves faster than any other I've seen, and if we stuck with the old format, we'd just feel old," said Harvey Elliot, chair of BAFTA's Games committee when I spoke to him earlier this month. "It was very much right for its time, but I couldn't imagine having an industry sit-down dinner as our awards celebration this year, it just feels fundamentally wrong for where games are.
"Changing the format and involving the public and making it more as a celebration of games for anyone who's a passionate gamer feels like a better approach than having a few very lovely and important suits in a room having a nice dinner. The change is very right," he continued.
"We're all passionate about the same things, we all love great games, we all love great game experiences, so having gamers as a part of that event makes sense."
After all 18 awards were collected and the speeches were said and done, the ground floor of the Dock was transformed and the dance floor was torn up. Each of the titles nominated for Best Game had a themed cocktail (in case you're wondering, the award for best one goes to Papers Please, which was an espresso martini served in a paper cup) and pie, burritos and hot dogs were served to some of the industry's greatest living legends. It was a lot fancier than it sounds; the pies came in their own ridiculous individual copper saucepans.
It was our night, as gamers, to have our passion acknowledged, and it was inspiring to see so many talented developers and publishers celebrate one another's work. Whooping and cheering no less - behaviour oh-so unbecoming of the BAFTAs, or at least, it used to be. I definitely like this new format a lot better.
Aoife Wilson works for Official Xbox Magazine and insists that her blonde hair marks her out as House Targaryen. She's still awaiting a dragon companion.