The 2016 Game Awards aired last night, and in a surprise Game of the Year went to Blizzard’s team-based first-person shooter, Overwatch. That means it beat out standard FPSs Doom and Titanfall 2, puzzle-platformer Inside, and action game Uncharted 4. While Overwatch is certainly popular, the win was an upset by many fans who felt that the Blizzard product wasn’t worthy.
I’m here to suggest differently: Overwatch deserves the accolades.
The biggest complaint is that Overwatch has no story, although it would be more accurate to say it has no story mode. There is a story behind the game, a very rich world full of interesting characters and events. Blizzard has given us videos, comics, media blurbs, etc. that draw players in… far more than other team-based games.
The fans are correct, however, in that what makes Overwatch stand apart from the other nominees is a lack of any campaign mode. There is no single-player storyline for people to participate in; the story is all background and dressing. Some would argue this disqualifies the game from being “the best” of the year.
That’s where I disagree.
A game’s overall quality is not dependent on single-player story but on a variety of factors. Gameplay, graphics, design, support, etc. are all important. Overwatch didn’t just win GotY; it also won the awards for Best Multiplayer, eSports, and Game Direction. Blizzard’s team developed an incredible vision for the game, even more astounding when you consider its tumultuous origins. They executed those ideas with near-perfection, from aesthetics to mechanics. Even despite some pitfalls and criticisms, including from yours truly, they have supported the game and helped expand it at a regular pace. Overwatch hits all the right spots on just about every front, even if it may not fit every gamer’s preferences.
Not to mention, there’s one other category people seem to forget when figuring out the “best” game: Fun. I’m not saying the other games weren’t enjoyable or that Overwatch was the most, but there is no doubt the game is entertaining on multiple levels. Overwatch fans are enthusiastic, and they’re not just your typical FPS players; the game draws people who may suck at those games (like me!) because of other mechanics, or who simply love the design and story.
Now, I’ve seen some people who loathe the concept a game might win because of numbers. “It’s not a popularity contest!” they cry, but once more I’m going to disagree. When it comes to fun, it most definitely is a popularity contest. I’m all for the artistic side of gaming, but to focus solely on that concept (which is entirely subjective) over actual entertainment? That’s why the Oscars are often so stuffy, and armchair critics blast movies that turn out to be enjoyable. What about just having fun?
Overwatch is that and more: entertaining, aesthetically pleasing, interesting backstory, good gameplay, excellent mechanics, well-supported, etc. While it may not be top in any particular category, it excels in almost all of them. To me, that more than qualifies it as “Game of the Year”, because it is the best overall game in 2016.
As a famous Brasilian once said: I’m on top of the world!