DICE Awards recap: The Last of Us mops up at gaming's Oscars
VEGAS—We're sitting in one of Las Vegas's many oversized cocktail lounges waiting for the man on stage to figure out how to tear open an envelope. It's a little bit too quiet. A little bit too awkward.
He finally manages to pry it apart. "And the winner is..." The man pauses. I brace myself. The lights wiggle around in half-hearted anticipation.
"I bet it's The Last of Us," says someone at our table.
"The Last of Us!" the man confirms a second later. Our whole table groans.
Welcome to the seventeenth annual DICE Awards—maybe the closest thing the video games industry has to the Oscars. And just like the Oscars, nobody is ever satisfied.
Don't get me wrong: The Last of Us is an incredible game, and made it (sort of) onto our Game of the Year list. But like a certain avian-themed team beating up on an equestrian one during last week's big football game, after a certain point it's no fun to watch even if you're rooting for the winner.
The night kicked off with Adventure Game of the Year which went to—you guessed it—The Last of Us, a PlayStation 3 exclusive.
It didn't stop there. Naughty Dog's game kept racking up accolades, eventually winning ten awards. Ten. Out of twenty-five awards total—and many of the categories it didn't win were genre-specific categories The Last of Us was ineligible for.
The list of awards now bedecking Naughty Dog's walls include Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Story, Adventure Game of the Year, and Outstanding Innovation in Gaming. That last one was especially shocking, seeing as it beat out independent favorites The Stanley Parable and Papers, Please.
In fact, indie representation at the DICE awards was slim. And by slim I mean "basically nonexistent."
Even the ambiguously-titled "Downloadable Game of the Year" category was won by Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, a game developed by the "that's-not-what-we-mean-by-indie-though-yes-the-term-is-slightly-meaningless" Starbreeze Studios. Mobile Game of the Year went to EA's Plants Versus Zombies 2—which came under fire upon release for its predatory monetization scheme—instead of Apple Design Award winner Ridiculous Fishing.
And then there were the awards that made me wonder whether I'd fallen asleep in the DeLorean again. Role Playing Game of the Year went to Diablo III, which came out in 2012, and Online GOTY went to World of Tanks, a game from 2011.
Meanwhile, critically acclaimed indie games like the aforementioned Stanley Parable and PCWorld Game of the Year Papers, Please, took home zero awards. The amazing Gone Home also whiffed. PC gaming fans will be happy to hear that the stellar XCOM: Enemy Within won strategy game of the year, though Firaxis is no indie studio.
The DICE Awards are voted on by members of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and the International Game Developer's Association.
A bit of polish
But in terms of presentation, the DICE Awards did fairly well. It was nowhere near the clockwork machinery of the Oscars, but it also wasn't nearly as painful as Spike TV's VGX Awards.
Leslie Benzies, Sam Houser, and Dan Houser, creators of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, were inducted into the Academy's Hall of Fame for their work at Rockstar Games. Eugene Jarvis, who created the arcade classics Robotron: 2084, Defender, and Smash TV was honored as the Academy's sixth Pioneer Award recipient.
The entire awards show was streamed on Twitch.tv, which is a suitable replacement for a live TV broadcast, and hosts Freddie Wong and Felicia Day made the most of a sometimes-questionable script.
As for a few other bumps in the road—microphones left on backstage, awkward pauses between category announcements, haphazard volume levels—well, it wouldn't be an awards show without plenty to talk about on Twitter, right?
Here's the full list of awards:
- Adventure Game of the Year - The Last of Us
- Downloadable Game of the Year - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
- Mobile Game of the Year - Plants VS Zombies 2
- Handheld Game of the Year - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
- Outstanding Achievement in Animation - The Last of Us
- Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction - The Last of Us
- Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering - The Last of Us
- Outstanding Achievement in Gameplay Engineering - Grand Theft Auto V
- Hall of Fame Induction - Leslie Benzies, Dan Houser, Sam Houser (Rockstar Games)
- Casual Game of the Year - Plants VS Zombies 2
- Family Game of the Year - Super Mario 3D World
- Role Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year - Diablo III
- Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year - XCOM: Enemy Within
- Outstanding Innovation in Gaming - The Last of Us
- Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition - BioShock Infinite
- Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design - The Last of Us
- Outstanding Achievement in Story - The Last of Us
- Outstanding Character Performance - The Last of Us (Ellie)
- Pioneer Award - Eugene Jarvis (Robotron: 2084, Defender, Smash TV)
- Sports Game of the Year - FIFA 14
- Online Game of the Year - World of Tanks
- Racing Game of the Year - Forza Motorsport 5
- Fighting Game of the Year - Injustice: Gods Among Us
- Action Game of the Year - BioShock Infinite
- Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction - The Last of Us
- Game of the Year - The Last of Us