Where is FIFA: Game of the Year Edition
At the end of December, it was that time of year once again, time for various gaming media outlets to hand out their annual Game of the Year award, a great opportunity to recognise the remarkable work by the various developers which have provided such great experiences over the 12 months. So there I was, on New Year’s Eve with the football on TV. I was browsing the internet, looking at who had won Game of the Year from different outlets when it hit me. Why has nobody voted for Pro Evolution Soccer 2017?
Every year, a new iteration of FIFA and Pro Evo is released, bringing with it new features in gameplay, aesthetic and presentation with the aim of being the finest football title. In 2016, both FIFA and PES drew great critical acclaim with FIFA 17 and PES 2017, the latter of which was even lauded by some as the greatest football game ever made. The former was praised for introducing its own story mode in ‘The Journey’ which was even appreciated by casual and non football fans. Basically, it was another superb year for football games. So my question is this; why oh why were neither of these games awarded Game of the Year? Or to put it more broadly, why don’t any sports titles ever win overall Game of the Year?
If you think about it, try to remember any year in which a sports game was named Game of the Year by a major games publication or website. If you can, please let me know, but even if one has, it is about as common as England winning a penalty shoot out. Most gaming websites and magazines have a specific sports award, but for me, that isn’t enough. Sporting entries should be seriously considered for the ultimate gong.
It is fair to say that FIFA 17, for example, doesn’t appeal to everyone due to it being a football game. If I look at a few examples of what has won Game of the Year awards in 2016, such as Overwatch, Trackmania Turbo or Dishonored 2, it is fair to say that all of them have a broader reach than FIFA 17 (even though the sales numbers suggest otherwise) in that they appeal to anyone with an interest in shooting, racing or immersive games. But even taking this into account, sports titles should be judged on the same terms as every other game. Video games are judged on gameplay, narrative, graphical quality and sound. Some may not include all of these due to the nature of the experience, but sports games do, especially now with the inclusion of story modes. Furthermore, sports games have some of the deepest gameplay systems in video games; period.
What is the underlying issue here as to why sports always tend to be fighting relegation as opposed to for the title when it comes to ultimate award of the year? I don’t think there is any kind of underlying ulterior motive on behalf of the gaming press at all. Of course ,the actual quality of the sports titles released in those 12 months may be more mid table than Champions League, but this has not been the case every year. It could just be that there aren’t many sports fans in the positions of voting power in both a media and public sense, so those that do vote for a sports game are simply outvoted. I think that is the most likely explanation. It would be very interesting to find out whether any non football fan journalists played PES 2017 this year as part of their research into the Game of the Year award features they were involved in. I could understand if not, as I would not relish the prospect of playing a horror game for example, no matter how critically acclaimed it might have been.
Despite these reasons though, the future needs to hold a reality in which a sports title winning Game of the Year is not as rare as Leicester City winning a Premier League. This is definitely achievable, not through FIFA handing out some brown envelopes, but through changes to the process by which the Game of the Year is selected, perhaps through greater acknowledgement of the gameplay systems in effect in the sports genre, a weighting structure in the voting process or something else entirely. It would be interesting to read any of your possible solutions in the responses below.
These games deserve the recognition they deserve beyond just their astronomical sales figures, I want to walk into my local independent games shop and see FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer Game of the Year edition lined up on the shelf. If a title like Dead Island (albeit not the worst game ever made) can earn its own Game of the Year edition, then surely FIFA 17 edition isn’t too farfetched?