Game Night: Videogame Critics Huddle for Second Annual Awards

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Zombie killers, warriors, carjackers and puzzle solvers gathered last week  for the ultimate nerd summit: the 2nd Annual New York Videogame Critics Circle Awards.

The event, held at the Pfizer Auditorium at the NYU Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, was well attended by bald men in thick-framed glasses and suit jackets, plus serious male and female gamers of all ages, some of whom tapped away at handheld games while they waited for the ceremony to begin.

The night kicked off with a panel discussion moderated by Harold Goldberg, who founded the NYVGCC three and a half years ago after seeing a need for community among videogame critics.

“I think, generally, critics as a whole are kind of a solitary bunch,” Mr. Goldberg, who is a former music critic, told the Transom. “We get together and talk about games [and] about nerd stuff.”

During the discussion, the members of the prestigious Circle, game critics from publications including CNET, Time, AOL Games and No Sleep Geeks spoke with conviction about the best and worst games released in 2012.

The Circle then honored the creators of the last year’s top games with 10 awards, including the A Train Award for Best Mobile/iOS Game, the Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game and the coveted Big Apple Award for Best Game. The winners, some of whom traveled from Canada and Europe to attend the ceremony, took home gold joystick trophies.

Daniel Radosh, a staff writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, played host for the evening. He spoke about the importance of games being recognized as art and the industry getting the credit it deserves.

“Trust me, Assassin’s Creed III is every bit as historically accurate as the movie about Lincoln…The one where he hunts vampires,” Mr.  Radosh told the crowd.

No award show is complete without a moment to remember departed members of an artistic community. The NYVGCC honored the deceased with a farcical memorial montage—a series of video game stills depicting chainsaw beheadings, bloody massacres and bodies exploding in balls of fires as “The Way We Were” played softly in the background.

The audience was also treated to performances by “nerd core” rappers Schaffer the Darklord and MC Frontalot.

In the end, the creators of The Walking Dead, a narrative zombie apocalypse thriller based on a comic book series of the same name, took home four awards, including the Big Apple Award.

“I think what happened with The Walking Dead was the narrative was so emotionally engaging that we all felt moved when we played it,” Mr. Goldberg told the Transom. “It’s not the highest quality graphics, but the writing is very good and the acting is very good, and you are kind of emotionally in it.”

Sam Kaplan, a techie from New York said critics’ opinions are important in his gaming decisions.

“It’s like any other critic system,” Mr. Kaplan said. “I follow two different critics who have two different opinions about games. People tend to find a personality they like and that kind of reflects their tastes and they’ll decide whether or not they should buy the game based on that.”

Tina Amini, a member of the Circle and a game critic at Kotaku, believes videogame criticism will gain more recognition in the future.

“In general the industry isn’t as respected,” she said. “It just comes with the territory. For now, it’s super internal. If you look around, everybody’s a very dedicated gamer. But you have to start somewhere, so hopefully it starts gaining traction. It’s a slow, uphill climb.”

Game Night: Videogame Critics Huddle for Second Annual Awards