Event of the year: Bioshock Infinite

Welcome to the PC Gamer Game of the Year Awards 2013. For an explanation of how the awards were decided, a round-up of all the awards and the list of judges, check here .

Sometimes great games are released to the silent enjoyment of millions, others are lightning rods for discussion. They're talked about, turned over and examined for months, even years after release. Love it or hate it, Bioshock Infinite is one of those games, a shooter with too many ideas for its own good. Confusing, spectacular, controversial, its scope and absurdity ensure that it will linger in the popular imagination longer than its competitors. What better candidate for our Event of the Year award.

CHRIS Infinite is spectacular, grotesque, violent and sentimental. It's a shooting game about racism, America, grappling hooks, time travel and gospel music. Its schizophrenia is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness – I admire for it for its spectacular nonsense as much as I understand why people have a problem with it. There's been nothing like it this year, and I'm glad to have taken the journey.

CORY Whether or not you enjoyed exploring Columbia and its mysteries, you were certainly talking about it. Infinite's explorations of racism and religion angered some, but I still believe they were necessary to build a world that was beautiful on the surface but ugly underneath. I know some of us found the combat to be vapid, but I loved soaring over a Handyman's head on a skyrail, firing rockets and opening rifts that brought turrets to life.

ANDY Actually, I found the combat in Infinite a bit of a chore, but I still love it for taking me somewhere so wonderfully different. Emerging into that plaza for the first time after the church scene, and hearing Garry Schyman's beautiful 'Lighter Than Air', was a magical, transporting moment. Columbia is one of the most memorable places I've ever explored, and the anachronistic music one of many neat touches that punctuated the wonder with a feeling of unease; a sense of something sinister lurking beneath those cerulean skies. As a game it has a lot of problems, but as an experience it's unforgettable. And I liked the ending.

BEN Without wanting to sound overly dramatic, stepping into Columbia for the first time felt like entering heaven – both kingdoms of white and gold hanging like jewels in piercing blue skies (both, incidentally, ruled by crazy old white guys with beards). Irrational's world is a monumental achievement, from its foundations to its fiction. Whether I was watching families enjoying lazy picnics on the grass, poking at oddities and antiquities in shops, or bashing the crap out of terrorists using a hook hand, BioShock Infinite took me somewhere I had never been before.

TOM What spell was I under, to think that BioShock Infinite made a lick of sense? It was wonderful nonsense, though, a moshpit of ideas that provided ammunition for lengthy, excitable discussion. In the week that followed its release, we would talk in strange code to avoid spilling spoilers. “Have you reached THAT bit?” one of us would ask, with an odd eyebrow waggle. “Oh you mean the bit with the THING?” the other would reply, forming their hands into a flapping bird shape. The imagination behind Infinite's glorious, beautiful world proved infectious, and for all its incoherence, it's a million miles away from the mundane shooters we've grown used to.

TONY As soon as I finished, I started again. Not for myself but so that I could plonk my non-game-playing girlfriend down beside me and show her the incredible sights. The colour-saturated, carnival atmosphere of early Columbia. The terrifying attack on Elizabeth's statue. A female NPC who didn't wear hotpants or carry a gun. No other game this year made me so excited to say “look at what games can be now!”


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