Update: This story has been adjusted for accuracy and clarity.
The Game Awards 2016 officially revealed its list of nominees today, including a brand new “Best VR Game” category. However, the list has a noticeable lack of VR content, even in that category, as the only games nominated are available on PlayStation VR. While two of the five games did appear on other headsets as launch titles, those launch windows were over 6 months ago and the other three titles are all PS VR exclusives.
The PlayStation VR launched last month in mid-October to help kickstart mainstream adoption of this new immersive medium, but the Samsung Gear VR put mobile virtual reality into the hands of consumers almost two full years prior and earlier this year both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive released, although they require beefy PCs to run experiences.
You probably already know that though, as did I of course, which is why I had such a puzzled look on my face while reading through my inbox this morning. I received an email about nominees for The Game Awards 2016 — the annual awards show for the video game industry — and was treated to the first-ever “Best VR Game” category with an initial feeling of validation and excitement. That was soon replaced with confusion and disbelief when I noticed the omissions.
The Game Awards has had more success in recent years, rectifying its early image issues and finding its identity after moving away from the old Spike TV format. This year will feature the world premiere of official gameplay footage from Bioware’s anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda, as well as more exclusives and reveals. While the game industry is still searching for its de facto awards show, Th Game Awards has been making a stronger argument with each passing year.
This year is aiming to continue the improved show from last year and it’s even going to be available for streaming in VR for the first time, with a new Next VR partnership.
Here is the list of games nominated for “Best VR Game” at The Game Awards 2016:
- Batman: Arkham VR (Rocksteady Studios/WBIE) [Review: 5/10]
- EVE: Valkyrie (CCP Games) [Review: 9/10]
- Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs) [Review: 8/10]
- Rez Infinite (Enhance Games) [Review: 8/10]
- Thumper (Drool) [Review: 9/10]
To be clear, I do not mean to undermine the quality of the games and developers nominated here, or the quality of The Game Awards and its committee of judges. Each of these titles are great in their own ways.
In fact, both Job Simulator and EVE: Valkyrie will both be available on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift either already or by end of year. But holistically it’s a list that I simply don’t think captures the full VR ecosystem, which is the real shame. To get an idea for what’s missing, here are our lists of the best Rift games, best Vive games, and best Gear VR games.
In a press release sent to UploadVR, Geoff Keighley, producer and host of the awards show, had the following to say:
“The Game Awards is all about celebrating the state of video game art. In just a few short weeks we will recognize the most outstanding games of 2016 in unexpected ways, and preview the most anticipated games of 2017 and beyond with the longest, most in-depth world premieres we’ve ever attempted — including surprises and new game announcements.”
I have no doubt that the list was curated with the best of intentions, and the credibility of the show is not being called into question, but this abbreviated snapshot fails to celebrate the true “state of video game art” in my opinion.
We already have a more robust and dedicated awards show for VR — The Proto Awards did a great job this year — but The Game Awards was a chance to debut on an even larger stage.
Despite the year that VR had, The Game Awards 2016 appears to only be interested in recognizing the industry’s past month, rather than the entirety of 2016. It feels like a poor representation of what’s available, undercuts the progress we’ve made as an industry, and fails to recognize the hard work and creativity of developers that chose to release their games only on the Rift, Vive, Gear, or any other platform that isn’t supported by a home video game console.
The Game Awards 2016 will be available for viewing live on December 1st, 2016, through the official website, Facebook, PlayStation Network, Twitch, YouTube, and essentially every other device and screen under the sun, including VR devices with Next VR.