Well, that's 2019 nicely wrapped up—and with it all of our Game of the Year Awards. But like the inevitable post-credit sequence in a Marvel movie, just because it's over doesn't mean it's over. Not until we load up a congratulatory blunderbuss with celebratory scattershot and haphazardly blast a few more awards at video games.
Our alternative awards don't work like our regular GOTYs—there's no voting or spreadsheets or discussion among the staff. It's a free-for-all, with uncontested picks marked for special recognition in 2019—not always in a good way—and these awards don't even have be awarded to video games.
Anyway, why am I still typing this? You've clearly already scrolled down to skim the Untitled 2019 Alternative PC Game Awards. Happy New Year!
Least tasteful gun: Gris
Happy anniversary to our friends over at @nomadastudiobcn! To celebrate, we’re giving the GRIS® weapon skin and charm to all our players who log in between now and Sunday, December 15th.Also congratulations on winning the #GameAwards Games For Impact award! pic.twitter.com/3TTxXcOfplDecember 13, 2019
"Gris is a 2D platforming mood piece about navigating grief," we wrote in our review. For its exploration of this personal subject, Gris won the Games for Impact Award at The Game Awards. And in the most awkward act of commemoration of the year, Ubisoft released a free gun skin for Rainbow Six Siege bearing Gris' logo and color scheme.
It was a strange way to celebrate a nonviolent game. It's fun to imagine what the ad copy could have been for this: You've explored her journey through sorrow. Now, shoot her gun. I'm forced to ponder a Gone Home CS:GO knife, or how it'd feel to pop off a "Mental Health Awareness" M4 styled after Celeste in Call of Duty. Ubi later clarified that the skin was meant to celebrate the work of the studio itself, Nomada, which was formed some by ex-Siege devs. But the lack of self-awareness was nevertheless jarring. Maybe just tweet "congrats" next time?—Evan Lahti
PR catastrophe of the year: THQ Nordic 8Chan AMA
"I personally agreed to this AMA without doing my proper due diligence to understand the history and the controversy of the site. I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form. (...)February 26, 2019
Given that I still need to Google whatever it is that THQ Nordic publishes, it's safe to say that we can confirm that all publicity is most definitely not good publicity. Way back in the mists of February, the publisher took the still utterly baffling decision to conduct an AMA about—*checks notes*—itself I guess, on 8Chan. Yes, the same 8Chan that is infamous as one of the internet's most wretched hives of scum and actual villainy. Which, given the state of the internet in 2019, was really say something. As we noted at the time, given that 8Chan has hosted boards "dedicated to pedophilia and fascism, and is known generally for racism, misogyny", the response was swift, furious, and prompted an apology within hours from THQ Nordic PR and marketing director Philipp Brock. He claimed not to have understood "the history and the controversy" of 8Chan before agreeing to the AMA, which even if true, is about as incompetent as looks come when you're main job is to improve public perception of your company and its product. All in all, an absolute hall-of-famer here, and a delight for connoisseurs of the corporate shuttle crash genre. Oh, and it also gave us the immortal "Shoutout to Mark", the now obligatory social media signoff for all such disasters.
Honorable mention: The Blitzchung Shit Show
Hey, you remember Blizzard right? Cuddly ol' Blizzard with the dragons, and the community focus, social responsibility, and irrepressible sense of mischief. Blitzchung remembers. Blizzard compounded the error a month later when president J. Allen Brack acknowledged it had mishandled the situation, but would not fully repeal the penalties it had imposed.
Best magic act: Randy Pitchford
There weren't many game industry magic acts this year, so unfortunately I have to give our award for best magic act to Randy Pitchford's "Borderlands Card Game Reveal Card Trick." It's an unconventional act, in that it includes over two minutes of Pitchford reading instructions and card descriptions, which has never been seen before in the typically tightly paced world of performance magic. Most magicians don't say "I'm a magician" before doing a trick, either, and to show just how unconventional he is, Pitchford's stunning conclusion won't leave you wondering at all. I hear they call him a 'magician's magician.'
Honorable mention: Randy Pitchford
Again, most game events don't include magic acts, so I'm afraid Randy Pitchford wins again for his trick, "Making Fun of Chad And Then Telling People Where To Stand And Then There Are Some Envelopes. "—Tyler Wilde
Worst moment to playfully swing a sword: this one
Best Use of Subtitles: Metro Exodus
Metro Exodus is everything I hoped it would be. 4A Games took a real risk moving it from the perfectly ruined underground world of the first two games to the great, wild outdoors, but it's brilliant, and I love it. Except for the voice acting, which I very definitely do not love. But shortly after Metro came out our man James shared some simple advice for getting around that—play it in Russian—and let me tell you something, it works. It's so much better without the distraction of high school drama class Russian accents being poured into my ears, and conversations feel so much more natural and organic because I can keep up with most of what's going on without actually paying attention to anyone talking to me. It's just like real life! Bozhe moi!
Honorable mention: Klaus
They're not really subtitles at all, but the text splashed throughout each of the levels in Klaus really adds to the mystique, and sometimes delivers a bit of practical advice, too.
Best way to die: Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium review: I kicked a mailbox and had a fatal heart attack 10/10 pic.twitter.com/U1Axjg2zmWOctober 17, 2019
As happens every year, we died many, many video game deaths in 2019. We were shot, stabbed, beaten, burned, blown up, eaten, electrocuted, drowned, asphyxiated, trampled, sucked into black holes, and killed in any number of other horrible ways. But one game took it up a notch by giving us a massive, fatal coronary if we chose to kick a mailbox for absolutely no reason while in poor health. Thanks, Disco Elysium. We know you gave us a choice between patting the mailbox and kicking it, and we clearly chose wrong.
Honorable mention: Also Disco Elysium
With such fragile health you can also die from looking in a mirror too intently, reaching for a tie, and even by sitting in an uncomfortable chair a little too long. That is one weak detective.—Chris Livingston
Streamer of the year: Gladd
Watching Sean "Gladd" Gallagher stream Destiny 2 on Twitch is like hanging out with a particularly cool barman. If you're into the game, it's mesmerising to watch him complete raid encounters which have been designed for six players either solo or with one of his equally capable Redeem clanmates. The crazy part is how patient and good humoured he remains while banging his head off the same wall for hours at a time. Gladd is one of those blokes who seems to be simultaneously possessed with manic energy whilst also being so chill as to be almost horizontal. Plus he has the best beard on Twitch, bar none. All these attributes were called upon during my favourite Gladd moment of the year, which was the culmination of what felt like 48-hours straight stuck inside the Niobe Labs puzzle. A puzzle which, thanks to a missing string of text, was all but impossible to solve, even with the collective brains trust over at r/raidsecrets on the case. Bungie finally caved and gave out an additional clue, after which Gladd's team got it done. But easily my favourite moment was not their eventual triumph, but his exasperated rant beforehand. It's the kind of surreal, stream-of-consciousnes, foul-mouthed, wildly-incestuous fury that's worthy of being the prelude to a "The Aristocrats!" punchline. Listen to that here (NSFW) and watch Gladd here.
Honorable mention: James "Firebat" Kostesich
Similar to Gladd, Firebat is the kind of relaxed but positive presence you just want to spend time with. His Hearthstone streams are the perfect mix of high-end gameplay and dumb dad jokes. Find him here.—Tim Clark
Most convincing response to being obnoxious: RDR2
19 times I burst through doors to startle people in Red Dead Redemption 2 https://t.co/gaSDQLw38w pic.twitter.com/hJUV8wQp0PNovember 7, 2019
It sorta sucks when you do something obnoxious in a game, like jump on an NPC's dinner table, bump into them, or deliberately block their path, and you don't get a reaction other than a blank stare. That's why it's so pleasing in Red Dead Redemption 2 when you crash through someone's door and they act legitimately startled. If that clip above isn't enough, I do it 19 different times in the video here and never get tired of it.
I haven't walked through a door like a normal person since I discovered the large variety of responses I get when running through it full-tilt. "Sweet jesus!" "Great lord above!" "Hol-eeee sheeit!" And if the room is a crowded one, every single person will turn around and stare at the maniac who just burst through the door. It's all we want. Someone to give us a little attention when we're acting like tools.—Chris Livingston
Most wholesome game: Kind Words
In Kind Words you write out your fears and worries and other players can respond with messages of support. A deer delivers your mail and your room is a cozy, inviting diorama—it’s all very reassuring and sweet. You can trade stickers, too, which you can then turn into toys for your room. So you get gifts, nice letters and can kick back and listen to some chill tunes—the perfect remedy for a shitty day.
Honourable mention: A Short Hike
Go for a wee walk up a mountain, making some friends along the way. A Short Hike is a cute, understated adventure that wraps up quickly but also gives you as much time as you want to explore and root around for treasure.—Fraser Brown
Most cheated self: Me
I started a meme and I'm very sorry. I'm not sorry I used cheats to beat the final boss in Sekiro though, which is still a load of bullshit and one of the worst finales in the FromSoftware library. But this isn't where I defend my stance. It can't stand up to the monster an innocuous lil blog created. I expected some blowback, but I thought it was worth exploring From's changing approach to difficulty in a way that brushed up against the accessibility options modding opens up on the PC. But the headline—I beat Sekiro's final boss with cheats and I feel fine—read as arrogant or insulting to the defensive 'git gud' crowd and it got dogpiled.
Things truly took off when some guy tweeted the infamous lines, which among all the threats and grimy emails I was getting, I found difficult to read as tongue-in-cheek. It didn't help that Polygon called my take "gloating" or that big outlets like the BBC only reached out to the meme guy and framed it all as good fun, or when multiple outlets reported that I was forced to leave Twitter when I just left because I was getting too many notifications and I hate having a little number to click on, I always want it blank, clean, free—anyway, the meme was borne how all memes are born: from chaos and stupidity.
The git-gudder's dopey response was a melodramatic reflection of the whole FromSoft difficulty-defender squad, a bunch that ignores measured design critiques in favor of unrelenting, unrefined virtual masochism. The tweet was screenshotted and shared on Reddit and all over Twitter, where some very clever people made clever videos that framed the difficulty-defenders argument as pretty damn silly. Then the voice actor for Liquid Snake read the tweet. Then the brands latched on and sucked it dry, though in retrospect it's some of the more palatable brand riffing I've seen. I can't be mad about the XCOM commander reading it aloud. We'll let this one go, brands. Please stop replying to each other on Twitter though.
pic.twitter.com/nCNBfi6hSPApril 9, 2019
It sure was interesting being on the other side of a meme, though. My piece was misconstrued and taken out of context as a result. Some YouTuber or big internet guy without the capacity to read spread the idea that I also reviewed Sekiro, so I got endless flak for that. Every full moon someone showed up in my mentions to remind me, but I've since left Twitter. I missed out on the fun because I was mostly annoyed by the whole ordeal. Endless emails telling me to kill myself and enage in other dangerous solo activities because I had an opinion about a ninja game that I otherwise like quite a lot—I figure 2020 is going to be a good year to log off more often, especially when Elden Ring comes out.—James Davenport