Everyone is playing Angry Birds, but was it Game of the Year? While many video game pundits have given that accolade to Mass Effect 2 or Red Dead Redemption, one awards show has Angry Birds nominated. A voter defends:
"I think it's one of the best games of the year, hands down," David Jaffe tells Kotaku. He's an unexpected defender. Jaffe is best known in gaming circles for having created the original blockbuster God of War game, a violent PlayStation 2 epic, the kind of game that seems distant from the likes of the simple, cute Angry Birds, the kind of game grandmas and kids don't play at supermarket checkout lines. (His next is Twisted Metal, a car combat sequel slated for the PlayStation 3 this year.)
"I'm not saying the reason it deserves to be nominated is because it was talked about on Jimmy Kimmel....I'm saying the reason it was talked about on Jimmy Kimmel is that it was such an engaging piece of interactivity."
Jaffe was one of the many game developers who nominated Angry Birds HD, a 2010 update to the 2009 iPhone blockbuster as Game of the Year for the February-scheduled Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, one of the contenders for being an Oscars or Golden Globes of video games. Other games nominated include Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption and even the latest Call of Duty. It's the inclusion of Angry Birds that sparked debate, gamers blaring "what the fock" [sic] on the Internet, and so on.
"Out of all the games this year it was really the only one that was able to captivate a huge percentage of the American public," Jaffe said, "and not just people who consider themselves gamers who are going to look at new releases every Tuesday and who are reading Kotaku and IGN."
He likens Angry Birds to Pac-Man and Tetris for its cross-over appeal, but he also loves it because of how capably it stands up against those more expensive, more visually spectacular games it is nominated against: "They managed to show that it doesn't take much presentation if your interactivity is solid and strong to engage the mind. And ultimately that's what a great game does, whether you're talking about Go or Chess or whether you're talking about Killzone 3. Angry Birds is such a great expression of the power of the medium because it can basically stand above all of these other super-expensive, super-technological, super-graphical games and still be as, if not more engaging, than the others."
To those who say Angry Birds — a glorified Flash game! an iPad game! — doesn't deserve a nomination because it's not a real gamer's game, well, David Jaffe is a man unafraid to respond. Detecting some snobbery in the criticism he says, "Anybody out there who actually is a gamer who can't handle the fact that there are also casual games has a little too much f-cking time on their hands.
"I make room in my movie-going diet for Michael Bay's latest explosive circus and I also make time for Winter's Bone and The King's Speech. They're games. To act as if that doesn't deserve it is an absurd concept. It really just reflects a lack of understanding and ultimately a lack of appreciation about the medium of interactivity to begin with. You're so blinded by the graphics and so blinded by the visual that you really don't appreciate what makes this medium special, which is interactivity."
To Jaffe, Angry Birds is the real deal. It's a great video game. And he denies that he was wowed by its crossover success. He says today he'll do better than have nominated it. He's going to vote for it as Game of the Year. The top one!
"I'm not saying the reason it deserves to be nominated is because it was talked about on Jimmy Kimmel," he says. "I'm saying the reason it was talked about on Jimmy Kimmel is that it was such an engaging piece of interactivity that it engaged the public well beyond a hardcore gamer at such a level that a mainstream comedian who has to be very careful about what he fills on a very expensive timeslot and what jokes he speaks to to make sure his audience gets them is willing to speak to that, because it has clearly permeated culture."
Angry Birds, David Jaffe says, was just that good.
The AIAS awards ceremony will be held next week near Las Vegas as part of the DICE 2011 summit. We'll be there and let you know whether Angry Birds wins.