Chris Burke is... The Editor
Chris ponders what exactly it means to choose a ‘best’ game
I just got back from the Golden Joysticks awards, which are kind of the Oscars for videogames, if the Oscars downgraded to a draughty tent in rainy London and they made George Clooney travel there by dirty bus. This is where the great and the good of videogaming business gather to drink copious amounts of complimentary Faketinis and console each other that The Crunch was worth it for a heavy, gold-ish, Joystickshaped paperweight.
Only joking, of course. The Joysticks are a valuable and important recognition of excellence. I was there to present one. Not receive one – a scandalous example of oversight as there is no award for Best Games Magazine Focused Solely On Xbox, for which I like to think we’d be a shoe-in. Still, I was privileged to be able to hand one of those aforementioned goldish trophies to the lovely chaps from Playground Games, deservedly picking up an award after Forza Horizon 4 was voted Top Xbox Game by you, the reader. Great stuff, congrats again Playground.
But it did get me thinking, as I basked in the glory of my 20 seconds up on stage: what is a ‘Best’ game anyway? At the Joysticks, it would depend on who you asked. Overall, the Best Game award went to Fortnite, as voted by the public. Us games journos, who decided on the Critics Choice Award, went for Red Dead
Redemption II. And it’s pretty obvious why, right? No one would really argue with either as sound choices for a Game Of The Year. Fortnite’s enjoyed the kind of popularity that used to be reserved for breathing; Red Dead II’s a technical marvel with superior storytelling and horse pile-ups. But is either going to be ‘best’ for everyone, necessarily? At that point I stopped worrying about it as another bottle of fizzy pop was handed to me by the lovely guys from Rare, and things mostly stopped being worrying for the rest of the night.
Back at OXM Towers, it’s that time of year when Old Father Time rocks up with his curved stabby stick and ushers in a new, miserably cold month, and we magazine journos like to look back on the year we have had and raise our Faketinis to all the stuff we already wrote about.
So you’ll find, in this very issue, our Games Of The Year, which is basically us saying, there you go, you played it, we played it, we said it was good, you agreed, let’s close the door on this before something gets out.
But selecting those games was actually hard work. Some of the games in our final reckoning were only originally given an 8 out of 10 by OXM reviewers. Now 8 is of course a very good score, but time itself has lent some extra credit to some of those titles, particularly in these days of games-as-service. Now we’ve taken the time to really get into the game, they’ve somehow stayed in our Xbox’s disc tray and now feel like a well-worn, favourite pair of jeans.
What crazy science goes into deciding on ‘best’ games? Is a game good just because it’s popular? If so, Fortnite must be amazing. Is a game good because it’s ludicrously challenging, and therefore is only for the ‘real’ gamers?
Dark Souls would win every time. Do we go on technical things like frame-rates and teraflops and, um, framey-wamey floppy-flops – the kind of tech-pushing performance that dazzles and amazes? Do we look for great storytelling and superior narrative beats? Well, it’s all of the above, but filtered through a fine gauze of whatever-floats-your-boat and distilled into a beaker of suit-yourself.
All of which is to say that this Best Game thing’s all just a bit of fun. So when the trolls and goblins are taking to social media to rubbish our choices for Game Of The Year, don’t come crying to me. Yes, there’s no definitive right or wrong, it’s all subjective. Let’s all just have a gamer love-in here and agree there are no good games and there are no bad games. Oh wait. Except those games we voted as ‘Worst’. They were definitely awful. n
“Is a game good because it’s ludicrously challenging?”