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Game Award Categories Continue to Evolve

Award categories can be at times as controversial as the winners of those awards. That is perhaps even more true with video games, where the artistry and creation of video games continue to evolve along with the awards that strive to honor them.

The categories for awards shows, including video games, often help define not just the show but also the sorts of television, film or games that will be highlighted during it. In the case of the Game Awards, there are nearly two dozen categories along with another half-dozen or so special awards for esports.

While traditionally a variety of video-game awards mostly focused on awarding the best game by platform or by genre, the Game Awards mostly steered clear of that with categories including games for impact, student game and debut indie game. There’s even a category for the content creator of the year. The show also, importantly, is very open to changing its categories year to year to best reflect the evolving industry it seeks to honor.

Matt Booty, corporate vice president of Microsoft, which had “Forza Horizon 4” nominated in two categories this year, would like to see video-game awards spend less time on what he terms as the “best-of” lists, often created by focusing simply on genres.

“It could be interesting to base awards more on the audience and players that the game reaches or perhaps based on the kinds of teams that make them,” he tells Variety. “Categories like best core game, best casual game, most widely played game, best game made by one person, best game made by more than 1,000 people.”

Tony Key, senior VP of marketing and consumer experience at Ubisoft, which had “Far Cry 5,” “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” and “Starlink: Battle for Atlas” nominated this year, says flexibility from year to year is important to capture the shifting complexity of the industry and its fans.

He also thinks that since categories in video-game awards tend to be, and should be, more flexible, they can be used not just to honor the best in the game industry, but also to help shape it in a way.

“For example, best accessible game developed for those who may have traditional gameplay limitations or best new kids game,” he says.

Francois Alliott, creator of “Reigns: Game of Thrones,” which was nominated for mobile game, pointed out that video games have the extra challenge of identifying whom to honor when it comes to the creation of a title because often so many people are involved in almost every step of the process.

“TV or film awards are generally individual awards because the production of film and TV depends a lot on a few headliners like best actor, best supporting actor, best director, best producer,” he says. “The production of a video game is a far more anonymous endeavor. Most people will have a hard time giving you the name of one game designer they know.”

As award shows such as the Game Awards seek to find their voice, one strongest when not relying on the example set by television and film awards, Booty hopes the show creators remember how unique video games are.

“Games are unique in how they’re made, how they tell stories and how they engage and entertain people,” he says. “Let’s lean in on some categories that can only exist in the realm of video games.”

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