The Biggest Winners Helped This Year's VGAs Tell a Different Tale

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If the Video Game Awards are actually an awards show, and not just a keynote for promoting upcoming games, then the big news from last night was The Walking Dead: The Game. Eminently quotable analyst Michael Pachter said before the show that if this title, a downloadable self-published game, took home Game of the Year, he'd eat his hat. To his credit, Pachter later tweeted out a request for one, presumably to consume.

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But the surprises don't just stop there. The Walking Dead won Game of the Year coming out of the Best Adapted Game category. Except for 2003, the first year of the VGAs, when things were very different from today, only two adapted games have even been nominated for GOTY: Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, and neither won. This is a different time in games development, with publishers looking for games whose characters and stories they fully own.

Some might look to a licensed or adapted work and consider that the game derives its significance, or at least the attention given to it, because it draws on some other franchise in popular entertainment. So it's strange that a licensed, adapted work reminds us that story, and characters, and choices, and the memorable experiences they create, matters most.

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Here's another surprise nugget: The Walking Dead: The Game earned its makers five Video Game Awards. The next big winner? Journey, with three (including a nomination for Game of the Year.) Borderlands 2 also took home three awards, the best haul for a traditional boxed console game.

So if you're thinking this might have been a different Video Game Awards, in its 10th year, you're probably right. Had the show given more attention to that purpose—only a handful of these awards were actually presented in the broadcast—we might be pondering it as a landmark year. The VGAs are often accused of being an industry popularity contest, but maybe this year they acquired recognizable critical heft. We'll have to see what happens next year, and the year after.

So here are the 25 winners of the 2012 Video Game Awards, plus the Game of the Decade. Two fan-voted awards gave Character of the Year to Claptrap from Borderlands 2, and Most Anticipated Game to Grand Theft Auto V.

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Game of the Year

The Walking Dead: The Game

Telltale Games

Also nominated: Assassin's Creed III, Dishonored, Journey, Mass Effect 3

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Studio of the Year

Telltale Games

Also nominated: 343 Industries, Arkane Studios, Gearbox Software

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Best Xbox 360 Game

Halo 4

Microsoft Studios/343 Industries

Also nominated: Assassin's Creed III, Borderlands 2, Dishonored

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Best PS3 Game

Journey

Sony Computer Entertainment/thatgamecompany

Also nominated: Assassin's Creed III, Borderlands 2, Dishonored

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Best Wii/Wii U Game

New Super Mario Bros. U

Nintendo

Also nominated: The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, ZombiU

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Best PC Game

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

2K Games/Firaxis Games

Also nominated: Diablo III, Guild Wars 2, Torchlight II

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Best Shooter

Borderlands 2

2K Games/Gearbox Software

Also nominated: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Halo 4, Max Payne 3

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Best Action-Adventure Game

Dishonored

Bethesda Softworks/Arkane Studios

Also nominated: Assassin's Creed III, Darksiders II, Sleeping Dogs

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Best Role-Playing Game

Mass Effect 3

Electronic Arts/BioWare

Also nominated: Diablo III, Torchlight II, Xenoblade Chronicles

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Best Multiplayer Game

Borderlands 2

2K Games/Gearbox Software

Also nominated: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Guild Wars 2, Halo 4

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Best Individual Sports Game

SSX

Electronic Arts/EA Canada

Also nominated: Hot Shots Golf World Invitational, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, WWE '13

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Best Team Sports Game

NBA 2K13

2K Sports/Visual Concepts

Also nominated: FIFA 13, Madden NFL 13, NHL 13

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Best Driving Game

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Electronic Arts/Criterion Games

Also nominated: Dirt: Showdown, F1 2012, Forza Horizon

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Best Song in a Game

"Cities" (Beck) for Sound Shapes

Also nominated: "Castle of Glass" (Linkin Park for Medal of Honor: Warfighter); "I Was Born for This" (Austin Wintory for Journey); "Tears" (Health for Max Payne 3)

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Best Original Score

Journey

Sony Computer Entertainment/thatgamecompany

Also nominated: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Halo 4, Max Payne 3.

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Best Graphics

Halo 4

Microsoft Studios/343 Industries

Also nominated: Assassin's Creed III, Dishonored, Journey

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Best Independent Game

Journey

thatgamecompany

Also nominated: Dust: An Elysian Tail, Fez, Mark of the Ninja

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Best Fighting Game

Persona 4 Arena

Atlus/Arc System Works/Atlus

Also nominated: Dead or Alive 5, Street Fighter X Tekken, Tekken Tag Tournament 2

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Best Handheld/Mobile Game

Sound Shapes

Sony Computer Entertainment/Queasy Games

Also nominated: Gravity Rush, LittleBigPlanet (PS Vita), New Super Mario Bros 2

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Best Performance by a Human Female

Melissa Hutchison for The Walking Dead: The Game

Also nominated: Emma Stone for Sleeping Dogs; Jen Taylor for Halo 4; Jennifer Hale for Mass Effect 3

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Best Performance by a Human Male

Dameon Clark for Borderlands 2

Also nominated: Dave Fennoy for The Walking Dead: The Game; James McCaffrey for Max Payne 3; Nolan North for Spec Ops: The Line

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Best Adapted Video Game

The Walking Dead: The Game

Telltale Games

Also nominated: Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

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Best Downloadable Content

Dawnguard for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda Softworks/Bethesda Game Studios

Also nominated: Leviathan for Mass Effect 3; Mechromancer Pack for Borderlands 2; Perpetual Testing Initiative for Portal 2

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Best Downloadable Game

The Walking Dead: The Game

Telltale Games

Also nominated: Fez, Journey, Sound Shapes

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Best Social Game

You Don't Know Jack

Jellyvision Games

Also nominated: Draw Something, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, SimCity Social

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Game of the Decade

Half Life 2

Valve Corporation

Also nominated: Batman: Arkham City, BioShock, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Mass Effect 2, Portal, Red Dead Redemption, Shadow of the Colossus, Wii Sports, World of Warcraft

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DISCUSSION

The Game of the Decade category is a fucking joke. Some titles actually deserve to be on there, but Arkham City? Half Life 2? Bioshock?

Really? A game of the decade has to be something that is not only wildly innovative, but influences an entire genre of games that follow.

Arkham City is only on that list because people overhyped the first game because it managed to be one of the few Batman videogames. That's like nominating Sonic Colors because it was the first truly good Sonic game to come out in years. Half Life 2 was good, but I still think it's one of the most over praised games ever created. Yes it has good atmosphere and characterization, but the actual gameplay is just a linear shooter with a stumbling plot that never actually goes anywhere until the last hour or so. And Bioshock? I've already voiced my opinion on that game before, but it suffers from the same flaws I listed for HL2, but only a much greater level.

The only titles deserving to be on that list are probably Portal, Wii Sports (because it inspired an entire generations worth of motion control gimmicks) and World of Warcraft.