What Makes a ‘Game of the Year’?

With TheSpeedGamers’ Community Game of the Year voting underway, I’m taking the time to address an issue that has aggravated me with previous claims of “Game of the Year.” Some sites, news sources, awards shows and the like merely look at the sales figures and rationalize that the Game of the Year is merely the game that sold the most copies. Still more don’t know enough about games to decide for themselves, and just listen to the loudest, most obnoxious fans who demand that their favorite game be declared the winner.

Is it sales figures, the most dedicated fans or something more that should be weighed in for considering the Game of the Year? What I’m asking is, what makes a great game?

If it were simply the sales, Call of Duty: Black Ops would have won GotY in 2010 uncontested given it’s domination of sales charts. But instead, the awards were nearly split in half between Mass Effect II and Red Dead Redemption, with the latter only coming in 8th in global sales charts for the year and the former not even making it into the top thirty.

Games are comprised of many elements that, in instances of good games, come together to form an enjoyable playing experience. Wonderful writing is great, but if the gameplay in between is a chore, a player isn’t as likely to make it to the end of the game to get to the ending, as with Disney’s Epic Mickey and its difficult to control camera. Inversely, if the gameplay is enthralling but the story is phoned in, one might rush through to the end and forget the game soon after, like in Vanquish, whose story is unintentionally comedic but has some of the best gameplay in a shooter I’ve played in a long time. Either way, it’s hard to believe that one good element can compensate for another and lead to the whole game being more than just good.

Many can argue whether story, art design or the gameplay itself should be held paramount in judging a title, but that’s a matter of personal preference. What truly matters is how they come together, if the entire experience is more than the sum of its parts. A game worthy of the title of Game of the Year should be above average if not amazing in every aspect, be it writing, design, single player, multiplayer(if applicable), and most importantly in my eyes, its lasting appeal.

Neither Batman: Arkham Asylum or Uncharted 2: Among Thieves are games most people who’ve played them are likely to forget anytime soon, and for good reason. These 2009 Game of the Year winners still set the bar high for any other game played by anyone with these two in their collection, and it’s not going to lower anytime soon.

A game worthy of being considered as the best of a year filled with amazing titles like this should leave a lasting impression that the player will remember for years to come and likely never forget, with a great story, a soundtrack so good you’ll want to buy it on CD, and its every mode of gameplay a genuine pleasure to play.

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