There’s never going to be just one game of the year. No matter how hard we try, no matter what system we use, we will never be able to agree on what game is absolutely the best.
There's a difference between picking our favorite games and picking the best — the most innovative, best executed, most medium-enhancing — ones. No matter how hard we try, it's impossible to completely exorcise personal preference from the process. Despite the fact that every media outlet uses a different system and is voted on by different people with different tastes, their lists are always similar, especially at the top.
While there may often be logical arguments for ranking one great game over another, at the highest level, GOTY debates often devolve from discussions of one game is better into incompatible arguments about why each game is utterly fantastic.
With all that in mind, PXL8 is going to pick three best games of the year. Instead of picking which game comes in first, second, or third, let's just say that all three games are first, second, and third.
I first came up with the concept in 2009, back when I first started trying to write about video games. Like any strong-willed, aspiring critic, I thought I knew what the best game of the year was. Of course, as a fresh-faced aspiring critic, I craved validation. I wanted to know that my pick was on the money so, like an 8th grader leaving their chemistry final, I was fervently checking everyone else's answers.
Luckily, it seemed like I wasn't crazy. My pick was an upper-level GOTY contender, consistently making into top five lists, top three lists, and even holding the top spot in a couple of spots. When it wasn't at the top, though. It seemed like there were only one or two other games that were "in the same league." Though there was a long list of elite games, few were rated as highly as often. The universe had spoken, and at the end of 2009 there were just two-three logical picks for games of the year.
Uncharted II: Drake's Deception
Assassin's Creed II
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Without going into too much detail, the pattern kept coming year after year. Despite having hundreds of games to choose from, critics have ended up choosing one of three games as their favorite. Moreover, the factors that tipped the scales from outlet to outlet for certain games tended to be philosophical instead of technical. Some critics put a premium on excellent storytelling. Others can't ignore the immersion of an expansive open-world.
Over the next couple of weeks, there are going to be three GOTY posts. They will highlight each game, highlighting what makes them the best game of the year, but also why both of the others might be better than them.
Of course, I can't talk about the games without revealing what they are so, without further adieu, here is are three best games of 2012.
As you can see, these are three very different games. That's a big part of why picking one game is so hard. Believe it or not, creating a game that transcends genres and isn't actually an annual occurrence.
Video games, like any other form of art or entertainment, aren't all equal: These three are all excellent, better than the others, and that's as definitive as any person (or group of people) can reasonably be.