This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee goes to GDC: a special presentation of Yahtzee's Developer's Choice Awards Videos from GDC 2008.
Welcome to the 2008 Game Developer's Choice Awards. My name is Yahtzee, and I claim responsibility for The Escapist's Zero Punctuation feature when I'm not gabbing off at awards ceremonies. Having been very politely requested to not be involved in the voting and to stop throwing rocks at your cars, I've taken the opportunity to present a personal retrospective of 2007 in my trademark psychotic manner. Take it away, myself.
The Year's Best Faceless Voiceless Nameless Dork
Ever since the Doom marine first grimaced his way up Satan's arse, first-person shooters have been defined by the faceless, voiceless dorks that tread on their first-aid kits. One could almost say that each era of gaming is defined by its anonymous taciturn underdogs, if one wanted to sound like a twat. I'd like to take a moment to name 2007's best gun-toting stoic.
Honourable mention goes to old hand Gordon Freeman, sadly disqualified for having a face and a name, who reappeared this year in Half-Life 2, Episode 2 (Millwall 1) - a scientist using a magical suit of armour to fight an Orwellian regime in a ruined city controlled by another evil scientist who sometimes seems to be channelling Alec Guinness.
This is not to be confused with our runner-up, the faceless, voiceless, nameless dork from TimeShift - a scientist using a magical suit of armour to fight an Orwellian regime in a ruined city controlled by another evil scientist who sometimes seems to be channeling Mahatma Gandhi. But the TimeShift scientist is different because he can slow down time. So he's not ripping off Gordon Freeman; he's just ripping off everyone else.
But the winner of the 2007 Best Invisible Dumbfounded Prick Award is none other than the main guy from 2K's steampunk Objectivist philsophyfest BioShock. Now, there's a lot of criticism that can be levelled at him: he's a bitch, he's an alcoholic, he has some very strange ideas of how to treat small children. But all of this is countered by the fact that he has a magical hand that shoots bees. And that's why he takes the prize. Because no matter who you are, the moment you're compared to a magical hand that shoots bees you're going to fucking lose.
Realizing the Rock Star Fantasy
All games are about realizing a fantasy, whether it be the fantasy of being a courageous war hero or the fantasy of being a future space adventurer or, in the case of some Japanese games, the fantasy of possessing eight prehensile dicks. 2007 was a good year for fantasists who spend their pubescence stage-diving off their bed while jerking off the end of a tennis racket.
The popularity of the Guitar Hero series has proved that it's possible to recreate the feeling of rock glory even when the experience is cut down to its underpants. It seems as long as we've got the music and the roar of the crowd, we're prepared to overlook the fact that we're standing in our living rooms holding moulded plastic ukuleles, pressing colourful buttons like a laboratory chimp with a head full of electrodes. And the release of Rock Band allowed friends to grow closer by giving them the chance to totally humiliate themselves together. It seems that these days, even the most talentless, brick-headed, rhythm-deficient drool dispenser can know what it's like to be in a rock band as something other than the drummer.
Part of me wonders if, like how the invention of realistic virtual sex will wipe out the human race within one generation, simulated rocking will kill the real life music industry. Now that it's no longer necessary to actually learn how to play an instrument, show up for gigs, stay up all night snorting drugs off people's body parts and still be alert enough the following day to dodge casually thrown beer bottles, bright young fellows with rock potential will instead use up their talent learning how to press buttons in the right order. Admittedly, you don't get the benefits of constant sex or embarrassingly large amounts of cash, but you also don't have to drop dead at the age of 35 from a combination of exhaustion, drug abuse, and bullets.
2007 was a significant year in gaming, which is disappointing because it's such a dorky number. I mean, 2000 you could respect, 2010, 2005 at a pinch, but 2007 just sounds like a year with red hair and huge plastic-framed spectacles who wonders why women don't seem to be impressed by his limited-edition Big Daddy figurine.
The year kicked off by the release of World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade in January, further cementing 2007 as the year of the hopeless shut-in, offering new and interesting ways for the client base to continue sabotaging their own lives. It was also a year for pretenders to the MMORPG throne, with the release of Lord of the Rings Online, Tabula Rasa, Hellgate: London, and Fury. But nothing could make a dent in WoW's monolithic market share, because if I took every opportunity to acquire World of Warcraft free trial CDs, I'd have enough to make an attractive, fashionable cape and perhaps a matching hat.
Meanwhile, on the console battlefield, it was a significant year for the PS3 more than any other. At the start of the year, she'd been freshly kicked out onto the stage to nervously dance for our amusement, and it was hard to shake the feeling that she wasn't quite ready for prime time. Her shows were too expensive, and she only knew two songs. But over the last year, the girl's been exercising and eating properly, and I think it's fair to say she's become a decent rival to her peers, the Wii, who only knows 4 or 5 songs; and the Xbox 360, who frequently comes onto stage drunk. Perhaps now there's decent competition we'll have some decent concerts in 2008, and perhaps I should stop labouring this analogy before its tits fall off.
It was also a year for mascots, with Mario as usual working off his tight, little Mediterranean arse in 10 new releases (17, counting Virtual Console), but the significance of this year is that it marked the point in which Mario buried the hatchet with old nemesis Sonic the Hedgehog in order to compete in a friendly sporting competition and presumably beat the living shit out of each other this year in Smash Bros. Brawl. Personally, if it comes down to a fight between two guys who make a living jumping on people, then my money's on the one with spikes growing out of his flesh.
But what could have been a better closing moment for 2007 than the release of a new Duke Nukem Forever teaser. Yes, it seems that 3D Realms have been doing something other than giving each other piggy-back rides for the last ten years. In a stroke, all the anticipation we haven't felt since 1998 returned like a taser gun to the base of the spine. I just hope that 3D Realms understands that if this game doesn't turn out to be history's greatest contribution to human culture and a cure for at least one type of cancer, then I and every other reviewer on Earth are going to saw its bollocks off.
Sir Not Actually Appearing at These Awards: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw