2016 has drawn to a close, and considering the bleak political climate and hefty number of celebrity deaths, some of you may be breathing a sigh of relief. Though things aren't all bad if you're looking for respite from the outside world—if you love video games that is.
We're celebrating another year of blockbuster #VideoGames here, some of which were hits, while others equally impressive misses and a whole lot of trash being added to Steam in-between. It's the time of year we hold award ceremonies and declare our 'Game of the Year' (GOTY). Yet some are more deserving than others...
Overwatch: Is It Okay For A Game With No Story To Be 'Game Of The Year'?
I'm not adverse to the idea of a story-less GOTY, though admittedly I'm a little more liberal with the term since I'd happily give it to League of Legends most years—the sheer number of changes the game goes through and how much I enjoy it makes it a yearly contender in my heart.
But personal bias aside, #Overwatch was the game on everyone's lips in 2016. It's received numerous awards, including our Creators Choice runner-up, and for good reason too; its colorful take on the class-based shooter has been a runaway hit.
Whilst most Blizzard properties can stand on the clout of their brand alone, Overwatch enamored players for a variety of different reasons. The characters are a fantastic representation of different races, body types and sexualities. They're also distinctly unique in playstyle and balanced around numerous objectives on a variety of maps that require co-ordination, teamwork and occasionally switching to a healer to achieve victory.
Yet we can glean very little from the gameplay alone, unless we title the story, "How Tracer, McCree, Junkrat, Mei, Zarya and Widowmaker managed to escort the payload." The in-game skins give us a little look into a character's backstory—think Ana's 'Captain Amari' or 'Horus' skins, the young Ana skins—but if you really want to know more about Overwatch you need to look outside of the game.
Blizzard have put a lot of effort in developing the story outside the game world through a mix of animations, origin stories and comics—the latter of which has been a bastion (get it) for some of us.
These are detailed enough to set the scene, but vague enough to encourage fans to fill in the blanks. It's an approach that ignited an unstoppable fervor in the fan base, whether they're discussing their favorite character pairings or coming up with plausible explanations for some of the character interactions in-game.
It also allows Blizzard to easily add to the lore as they see fit, something the summoner framework used in League of Legends simply wouldn't allow and the reason they've had to retcon a significant part of their lore. The ambiguous nature of Overwatch's narrative not only avoids this pitfall but has become a key discussion point for fans, turning it into a global phenomenon.
Despite how lavishly I'm standing up for Overwatch, it's not my personal game of the year, though neither is League of Legends—hooray for personal development. Blizzard have achieved a lot and their game stands out among the best because of the nuanced gameplay it offers.
It's the same reason I struggle to count Pokemon GO as a contender for the mobile GOTY award. Whilst there's no doubt it was a cultural phenomenon, its gameplay is incredibly basic, relying more on the brand than cultivating a lasting and engaging experience.
Regardless of what I think, the gaming landscape is continuously evolving and as it does we have to adapt what we consider a game. For now, Overwatch has earned all the accolades it's been awarded.
Does Overwatch deserve a Game Of The Year Award? Was it your personal favorite?