The Video Game Awards have concluded (awkwardly), rounding out a year of new games with new awards for Best Narrative. Here’s a quick summary of the nominees and winners, and a look at some discussion and other awards.
The 2022 Nominees for Best Narrative are Ragnarok, Elden Ring, Forbidden West, A Plague Tale: Requiem, and Immortality. It seems the contest came down to two very popular games with very different narrative styles.
The Game Awards flirts with Holywood. There’s frequent inclusion (irrelevant?) of Holywood actors on stage, and an emphasis on musical scores that resemble the ones from Holywood. It’s not so surpising then that its award for best narrative was given to perhaps the most cinematic game of the bunch.
Elden Ring, by contrast, is sometimes criticized for its narrative style being too loose, too open, perhaps even inscrutable or absent.
For a primer on an interesting, ongoing debate about narrative in video games, try “ What’s Up With the Game Awards Best Narrative Category? ” on Destructoid.
…fans are really excited to see Elden Ring getting praise for its nonlinear, worldbuilding-focused storytelling. Many are citing that they’re used to only seeing games that are very on-rails and cutscene heavy in the Best Narrative category, so they’re glad to see some variety in the category for once.
In that post, its author Noelle Warner goes on to propose some alternative nominees and considers:
it’s hard to discern what “Best Narrative” is really supposed to entail in the first place. It’s not really clear whether the award is supposed to be commending the game’s story itself in terms of the quality of the narrative that is being told in the first place, or commending how that story is part of the game through its narrative design and innovations in storytelling-focused game mechanics. Stories are already so subjective to begin with, having what makes a good interactive narrative be a moving target only muddles the consensus even more.
It’s a great point. If I could, I would run an awards show with awards only for the writing and narrative, with prizes for things like: “best dialogue”, “best character development”, “most interesting setting”, “best non-linear story” or “most suprising ending”. I might have to settle for a poll.
I love the awards for best narrative, because to me they’re an indicator of what kind of game I might like to start playing. By the end of the year, the rewards are in, the awards are given, and hopefully the game’s bugs are fixed, so that’s when I like to decide what to play. I am very happy to stay out of the launch-hype phase of a game’s release. Besides, I’m picky. I want games with good stories, and I try to avoid playing the so-called “murder simulator” games, so the awards are helpful.
Luckily, there’s more than just the video game awards.
BAFTA gave their 2022 award for narrative to a game called Unpacking: a zen puzzle game about unpacking a life. In this game, the puzzle consists of everyday objects and the story develops from there.
The other BAFTA nominees were It Takes Two, Life is Strange: True Colors, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Psychonauts 2, and Returnal
Even more narrative games were nominated for a prize by The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Their 2022 award is called “Outstanding Achievement in Story” but it seems to be an award for setting, or so-called worldbuilding.
“Presented to the individual or team whose work has furthered the interactive experience through the creation of a game world – whether an original creation, one adapted from previously existing material or an extension of an existing property which best exemplifies the coalescence of setting, characters and plot.”
The 2022 winner was Guardians of the Galaxy, with nominations for Before Your Eyes, Inscryption, Psychonauts 2, The Forgotten City. Notably, they also give an award for “Outstanding Achievement in Character” which seems to consider character design, character story development, and voice acting.
With all these games to choose from, nominated or awarded for best narrative, which will I choose to play? I think I would start with Immortality. It’s an interactive Film. Netflix was involved, and I loved the other interactive film that Netflix has been involved with . I expect to like this one, too.