The 2010-2011 Video Game Awards Season

Beginning with the Spike TV Video Game Awards in early December and culminating with last night’s BAFTA Games Awards, the 2010-2011 “video game awards season” has come to a close. And after four months of awards, acceptance speeches and arguments, we have a clearer picture of what really were the best games of the year.

The snobbier segments of the game community love to decry the Spike TV Video Game Awards as an embarrassment and not representative of the feelings of “real” gamers. Typically, the show’s world premiere trailers overshadow the actual awards themselves. But the event is spearheaded by Geoff Keighley of GameTrailers TV and the winners are voted on by a well-respected contingent of game journalists, so I guess it could be worse.

That said, this year’s Spike TV Video Game Awards “Game of the Year” was awarded to Rockstar’s epic western Red Dead Redemption. Keighley and company spread the love as the remaining major awards all went to other games: “Best PC Game” StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty; “Best PS3 Game” God of War III; “Best Wii Game” Super Mario Galaxy 2; “Best Xbox 360 Game” Halo: Reach; “Best Handheld Game” God of War: Ghost of Sparta; and “Best Downloadable Game” Costume Quest.

If Spike TV’s annual awards attempt to reach the mainstream, Time Magazine‘s top ten is the polar opposite, reaching into corners of the gaming world that are often ignored. This year’s selections are no different, including Alan Wake being awarded the #1 spot with iOS phenomenon Angry Birds at #2. The rest of the list was pretty typical, but the lack of Alan Wake’s spiritual twin, Heavy Rain, was the baffling part. Also, Limbo received its first love of the year-end awards with a sixth-place selection.

The first end-of-the-year awards from a major game site came a week later when IGN named their “Best of 2010.” “Game of the Year” honors went to Mass Effect 2, which was also a part of Time’s top ten. BioWare’s RPG sequel would also take the top prize as the “Best Xbox 360 Game” but lost “Best PC Game” to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. Super Mario Galaxy 2 took home its second “Best Wii Game” trophy while Heavy Rain won its first as “Best PS3 Game.” For the handheld platforms, IGN honored Chair’s graphically impressive Infinity Blade (“Best iPhone Game”), Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (“Best PSP Game”) and WayForward’s Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (“Best DS Game”). And that last one was given it’s award with the explanation “Yeah, we gave a DSiWare game the DS Game of the Year.”

The other half of the big two, GameSpot, posted their “Best of” awards on December 20. Aligning with the Spike TV Video Game Awards, the website cited Red Dead Redemption as “Game of the Year.” As expected, the game also took home “Best PS3 Game” and “Best Xbox 360 Game” honors. The lone new name in our awards roundup was GameSpot’s “Best DS Game,” which went to Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. The remainder of their GOTYs went to previous award winners as Super Mario Galaxy 2 was named “Best Wii Game,” StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty received “Best PC Game” and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was given “Best PSP Game.”

In between these two juggernauts, the first of the big game blogs handed out their Game of the Year trophy. Destructoid‘s selection for “Game of the Year” was Super Mario Galaxy 2. Hailed as “the prime example of why videogames are so much fun” and “timeless” by the Dtoid editors, Mario’s latest adventure beat out Limbo, Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption and Super Meat Boy.

Chris Kohler, the editor of Wired Game|Life, is another name in game criticism that is not averse to making baffling choices in his year-end awards. And so was the case in 2010 as the polarizing Metroid: Other M was included at #12 in their top 20 countdown. But Wired was also the first publication to honor Minecraft (#5), Donkey Kong Country Returns (#6) and Bayonetta (#7). However, their top three still included the much more lauded Red Dead Redemption (#3), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (#2) and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (#1).

After a few defeats, Commander Shepard and his merry band of space adventurers came roaring back as Mass Effect 2 came out on top in Joystiq‘s “Top 10 of 2010.” BioWare’s game squeaked out a win in the final GOTY awards of 2010 over Red Dead Redemption (#2) and Alan Wake (#3). Reality TV racer Split/Second‘s 7th place showing was a surprise to many.

The Escapist is known for their literary take on game criticism and their “Game of the Year” award came down to 12 finalists including Halo: Reach, Heavy Rain, Super Mario Galaxy, Mass Effect 2 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. But in the end, the home of Zero Punctuation honored Red Dead Redemption as their “Game of the Year.”

MetaCritic takes a different tack in honoring the best games of the year. At the end of January 26, the review aggregator locked the aggregate scores of games released in 2010. Through the company’s weighted average system, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was named the “Best Videogame of 2010” with a 97 average critic’s score. Naturally, the title’s outstanding reviews earned it “Wii Game of the Year” as well. Without Mario to compete with, Mass Effect 2 scored a 94 to earn “PC Game of the Year” and a 95 to earn “Xbox 360 Game of the Year.” That same score ensured Red Dead Redemption came away with the “PS3 Game of the Year” award. On the handheld platforms, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge was awarded “DS Game of the Year” (maybe IGN was on to something) with a 92 average while Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable earned “PSP Game of the Year.”

With the awards season winding down, gaming industry insiders honored their own with the Interactive Achievement Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards. The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences has handed out the IAAs for 14 years and this year the “Game of the Year” was given to Mass Effect 2. While BioWare’s RPG was considered the best game of 2010, Red Dead Redemption took the prize in five categories, making it the most honored game of the night. Angry Birds notched its second trophy of the awards season by winning “Casual Game of the Year.” But it was not the “Portable Game of the Year”; that award went to God of War: Ghost of Sparta.

Red Dead Redemption would have its revenge at the Game Developers Choice Awards, where it won in more categories than any other game, including “Game of the Year.” It had to share the spotlight with Minecraft, which captivated gamers in 2010, but was sorely underrepresented in the end of year voting. It was named “Best Downloadable Game” at the GDCAs and won both the “Innovation Award” and “Best Debut.” The unlikely Cut the Rope cut into this dance as “Best Handheld Game.”

However, Red Dead Redemption would not be present at the final show of the video game awards season. The BAFTA Games Awards (AKA “the British Oscars”) were held last night and John Marston’s Wild West tale wasn’t submitted for consideration by Rockstar. But the show must go on and the British Academy gave “Best Game” honors to Mass Effect 2. It was the RPG’s only win of the night as Heavy Rain took home three technical awards. Meanwhile, Cut the Rope came on strong again with another “Best Handheld Game” award.

And the Ultimate Game of the Year Is…

Gamers! Hackneyed, I know, but this list proves there was a bevy of amazing titles released in 2010 and all of them were honored in some way during the 2010-2011 video game awards season. In 2009, Uncharted 2 ran away with nearly every “best of” award and while Naughty Dog now has a room full of (well deserved) trophies, it was a bit boring to watch.

Red Dead Redemption clearly won more awards than any other game in 2010 and the game’s rise from “Grand Theft Horse” to bona fide masterpiece in the minds of gamers was an amazing feat by Rockstar San Diego. But Mass Effect 2 resonated with many gamers too, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 also won its fair share of awards (in addition to capturing the black hearts of the Destructoid editorial team) as well.

Even the Heavy Rain/Alan Wake showdown ended in a virtual tie. Truly, everyone won in 2010.

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John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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