UK outlet Edge has declared that Bungie's mega-blockbuster Halo 3 "does most to further the creative culture of gaming" by awarding it the Edge Award for Interactive Innovation at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival today. The Xbox 360 game beat out Grand Theft Auto IV, Portal, Rock Band, Super Mario Galaxy and Wii Fit to secure the honor, with Edge writing that it's "the integration and coherence of Halo 3's online content that makes the game stand apart." "Space marines? Again?! Innovative?!?" you may be thinking. Edge obviously responds "Yes!" declaring that the sci-fi first person shooter demonstrates an "unparalleled understanding of the potential for console online play." Should you need further justification to help calm your nerves, Edge has 'em. Whether you'll agree... well, that's up to you. Halo 3 Scoops Edge Award for Interactive Innovation [Edge]
On pure impulse and nothing else, I too was thinking that Edge's choice was atrociously bad. Upon careful analysis though, I realized that there wasn't as much of a reason to dislike the result as I thought there was. Perhaps the issue is that the selection of games available for them to choose from wasn't one particularly filled to the brim with innovation to begin with.
We hand out this accolade to the title released in the last 12 months that does most to further the creative culture of gaming - in other words, to mark out new directions for the form.
That is how Edge defines the criteria for receiving the Interactive Innovation award. I'm a bit conflicted about which game really meets that criteria.
GTA IV really only improved substantially upon previous games in that it had a more developed story. The gameplay was simply a refined version of what they had used in the past with a cover system added and little to no "new directions" in the game.
Halo 3 had a very highly refined gameplay experience, but was essentially the same as Halo 2 with a few added weapons and tweaked statistics. The best features, as Edge points out, come with the online game - the Forge and the movie maker are great features that expand the amount of content others can use online, but things like those have been done before in plenty of other games. There were a lot of quality features, yes, but none of them were new directions, though they did aid creativity.
On the other hand, if we're looking for games purely for their creative potential, then the selection of games in the shortlist was terribly off.
Portal was a great game that had a great method for telling the narrative and some very refreshing puzzles based on the portal gun gameplay mechanic. Past these highlights, which do make a great game, there's nothing that really defines the game as providing a new direction or furthers "the creative culture of gaming".
Rock Band did a nice job of expanding the scope of the already existing rhythm-based game genre. It added a lot of online support, tremendous amounts of downloadable content and a good amount of customization. Once again, this game provided little in the way of creativity or original ideas.
Mario Galaxy was a lot like Portal and GTA IV in that it added a few new gameplay mechanics (like the portal gun) but still retained a lot of elements from other Mario games (GTA series). A little innovative, but nothing new in terms of directions for games as a whole.
And don't get me started on Wii Fit - it's a minigame compilation with a special peripheral controller. It's been done before, just not on a mainstream game console.