The highlights from both the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards at GDC 2017.
The Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards was an opportunity for the industry to honor the best works of 2016 during the 2017 Game Developers Conference. This is a highlight of the event from the hosts to the biggest surprises of the night and the industry leaders who were honored.
Nina Freeman and Tim Schafer were the perfect hosts for the night as they each brought their unique charm to event. Freeman brought that off-beat charm when honoring the best indie titles while Schafer attempted to play the role of the “corporate fat cat” but with enough jest that one could tell he has not abandoned his roots.
Politics and Current Events
As with every major award ceremony this year, the current political climate was a subject during the night. Some saw their win as a victory against the growing bigotry in politics and took the time to speak for the most vulnerable in these times. Most of it was focused on opposition to the Muslim ban, the attack on women’s rights and the set backs being made to the civil rights of the LGBT community.
The Achievement Awards
The night was dedicated to honoring several pioneers that help revolutionize the gaming industry.
Mark DeLoura was honored with the Ambassador Award for his work in making game development more accessible. DeLoura has worked to make the industry more connected with the audience while helping to educate the next generation of developers. He also worked as a Senior Advisor for Digital Media to President Barack Obama.
Tim Sweeney was honored with the Life Time Achievement Award for his long career in the gaming world. Sweeney help establish Epic Games and was also the creator of the Unreal series. His biggest contribution to gaming was his work as the architect of the Unreal Engine, the most popular game engine in the industry.
Jordan Mechner was honored with the Pioneer Award for his work in helping to establish the industry. He is best known for creating the Prince of Persia series along with working with Ubisoft to reboot the series in 2003.
The biggest surprise of the night had to be Inside winning Best Audio and Best Visual Art while No Man’s Sky won the Innovative Award.
Inside was a very impressive title but failed to win any award when competing against other indie titles. However, it was able to walk away with an award when competing against AAA titles like Overwatch and Battlefield 1. Given the nature of the competition, this was an impressive victory for the little guys.
No Man’s Sky was an ambitious project that fell victim to hype train but what it tried to achieve was appreciated by the industry. Despite the controversy that still plagues it, the team was honored with the Innovation Award. Sadly, no one from Hello Games was present to accept the award.
Special episodes of Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’?
Two special episodes of Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’? were shown during the night with one returning to classic story. The first episode has Ashley Burch once again take on the role of Bobby Kotick trying to make Call of Duty popular again. The second was nod to the progressive themes of several indie titles that were up for a major award.
Game of the Year
Overwatch was honored with the title of Game of the Year at Game Developers Choice Award. This came as no surprise since it already won the same award during the 2017 D.I.C.E. Awards last week. Many at GDC had already expected the acclaimed multiplayer shooter to win this award.
The Overall Winners
Independent Games Festival Award Winners
Best Student Game – Un Pas Fragile
Excellence in Visual Art – Hyper Light Drifter
Excellence in Audio – GoNNER
Nuovo Award – Oikospiel, Book 1
Excellence in Design – Quadrilateral Cowboy
Excellence in Narrative – Ladykiller in a Bind
alt.ctrl.GDC Award – Fear Sphere
Seumas McNally Prize – Quadrilateral Cowboy
Game Developers Choice Awards
Best Debut – Campo Santo
Best Audio – Inside
Innovative Award – No Man’s Sky
Best Technology – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Best VR – Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
Best Visual Arts – Inside
Best Narrative – Firewatch
Best Design – Inside
Best Mobile / Handheld Game – Pokemon Go
Audience Award – Battlefield 1
Game of the Year – Overwatch