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Does GameSpot's GotY 2013 Selection Send A Certain Message?

And if it does send a certain message, what does that message say?

If you haven't noticed, GameSpot has handed out their illustrious award for this year's overall Game of the Year. It went to the Nintendo 3DS game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Because I haven't played the game (I don't even own a 3DS, but I kinda want one now), I was interested to see it in action, and to hear the staff's reasoning behind the pick. But above all else, I started to wonder if this was precisely the message the video game industry needed. For the record, I'm not saying GameSpot purposely sent this message; it's just a healthy, positive byproduct of their choice.

Let me explain-

The world of gaming has changed so rapidly and so abruptly over the course of several decades, that it's sometimes difficult to fathom. It wasn't that long ago that a game like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past ruled the world. Nor was it that long ago when video games, despite not having the technical prowess of today, revolved around one primary premise: Fun. I hate to use that word because it implies that older games were more entertaining than newer games and really, that's not what I mean. It's tough to accurately describe what I mean, but I think most know what I'm talking about. They know it in their gut.

These days, gaming really does seem to take itself way too seriously. Perhaps it's a side effect of developers pushing gaming to grow up, to leave its "toy" days behind, to legitimize the industry and prove to everyone that video games really aren't just for kids anymore. And I do applaud that push because it's the only way to kill deeply entrenched stereotypes. That's why I will praise Quantic Dream no end for their ambition, and I will praise Naughty Dog for finally delivering an experience that really does feel like playing an action movie. But there's always a part of me that feels as if the balance is off, and it has been off for years.

It's not that we don't have great, family-friendly games. It's just that these aren't the games that seem to be pushing the industry forward any longer. The games that push the envelope are, for the most part, M-rated. All our effort appears to be going toward bigger, better and more realistic. Or rather, more realistic is, somehow, automatically better. Furthermore, the games like A Link Between Worlds get virtually zero attention when compared to the aforementioned "big boy" blockbusters; from 2013, that would include The Last Of Us, Bioshock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Tomb Raider, etc. Nowadays, it's almost surprising to see a "kiddie" 3DS game get any headlines at all.

To see one win overall Game of the Year from one of the industry's leading sources does send a distinct message. It's a reminder, really. It reminds us that despite the ridiculous speed and appreciated forward progress of the industry, despite the obvious advancements and newfound technical superiority, we've sort of adopted a form of tunnel vision. In other words, if a game is going to be more realistic, it's automatically better and furthermore, that reality needs to include adult content. If it doesn't, gaming will still be seen as a kid's hobby and we're sick of that. I understand the concept. I really do. In many ways, I embrace it as well because I can't stand the stereotypes, either.

But there's a reason why smaller indie games in the digital space have started to broaden our scope again, why the puzzlers and platformers and adventure-type games have once again found a place in this industry. It's because those titles are seeking to restore the balance, and that's precisely what I think this award for A Link Between Worlds does: It's a reminder that excellence can be found in small packages, that wonderful interactive experiences can be colorful and silly (really, it's still allowed), and that when we say "fun," we often refer to two very distinct types of fun. The first has you riveted, sometimes with whitened knuckles and other times with your jaw on the floor. The second has you grinning like a kid without a care in the world; life is that much rosier.

Both impart very different feelings of pleasure. So, why not have both?

Tags: legend of zelda a link to the past, gamespot game of the year 2013, video game industry

12/19/2013 11:12:15 AM Ben Dutka

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (33 posts)

Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 11:49:27 AM

This seems to be the bog problem of video games. Too much reality. Too many bells and whistles. used to be 5 people making a game. Now 55. Every game needs a full orchastra for music. Used to be just 2 guys with kazooes. Everybodys' obsessed with graphics. Yes, pretty pictures are nice, but there's more to life than realistic games. Nintendo might not always have the best looking games, but they innovate like mad. Imagine a world without Nintendo. There'd be less innovation. Would we really have the Kinect if not for the Wiimote? Nintendo always knew the importance of motion control. Even with the ridiculous Power Glove. They were trying. They have the ideas (if not always executed properly. IE E-Reader for Game Boy Advance). And this push for realism, is also why games keep increasing. Got to pay the workers for their work, after all. Work not always needed. And that's the problem.

Make a realisitic game if it makes sense to. Not because everyone is, or you're expected to. Makers aren't having fun anymore. Sure, everybody sees Nintendo as dying out, but they're not. For every misstep, they hit on something good, something fun, something new. They remember the fun of silly, goofy, not realistic. And that's why they still survive. We need both. Not just one.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 12:14:47 PM

I think Nintendo should release some of its big titles on PS4 or Xbox one i mean i would love to play a new metroid but i wouldnt buy a wii u just to play it the fact is most people prefer the xbox one or ps4 so its going to be tough to compete on a console level.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 2:06:10 PM

Actually, even in the NES days, real composers with degrees in music were writing music for video games. They assigned various midi pre-sets to represent various instruments. It was somewhat crude and limited, but it was real work and many musicians were excited at the concept of someday being able to bring real music to the medium.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 4:39:27 PM

i can live... pretty damn well without motion controls really. i like playing them from time to time but theres only one reason skyward sword remains unbeaten for me. it sure as hell not because its a bad game.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 4:43:46 PM


You said:
..They remember the fun of silly, goofy, not realistic...

For me, unfortunately, that "silly and goofy" seems to me to be the ONLY kind of output from Nintendo - e.g Mario, Mario, Mario, Zelda, Zelda, Zelda, with the odd Donkey Kong & Pikmin thrown in. Sure they tinker with the mechanics in each game, but on the surface, it seems... I don't know, samey, to ME.

It's good that Nintendo are experimentative, but, in my opinion, they also need to experiment with the aesthetics in their games, not just the mechanics.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 11:55:39 AM

Interesting im not as interested in the small games like Zelda but i guess the game must be quite fun lol. But still my GOTY its a tie between the Last of us and bioschock infinite those games had all i wanted on a game in a single player the stories were fantastic. Gta V although a great game i never finished it and is not as memorable to me . In multiplayer i would choose BF4 on ps4 that games looks fantastic on there ^_^

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 12:06:27 PM

I applaud this decision.

Games can be great despite not having ultra realistic graphics and physics, or violence, or having ridiculously fast gameplay. or being open world, etc. Nintendo has always reminded me of this, although the Wii U's failure to release a variety of exclusive quality games until now has kind of made the Big N stumble.

I do hope we keep seeing more things like these. I don't know if Gamestop's award was for all consoles in general, but if so, I would say that TLoU not winning seems kind of fishy. I haven't played this Zelda iteration, so I guess playing it would change my mind.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 3:25:15 PM

TLoU still got recognition as the best ps3 game.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 12:10:27 PM

It's tough since the new generation didn't actually grow up with Link to the Past and even know how much unadulterated fun those games can be. They only know the photo-realism that's been pushed in the last gen.

So when they look at games such as this goty winner, it's not necessarily the connection with the immature stereotype. Instead I think many of them see the visuals, gameplay, and overall presentation archaic. They rashly believe there's no merit in 'outdated' experiences.

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slow and smart
Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 12:28:38 PM

every winner of best games that isn't a action- action- action- game with wow graphics [poor gameplay] is Always a good sign.
i'm not against actiongames,i play them myself sometimes,but nowaday's there's way to much actiongames,yeah the graphics are great but the gameplay is very poor.For me gameplay is the most important factor in most games.
But there is a way to big group of gamers who like the mindles actiongames with the great graphics
so i think it will only get worse ,the number of good gameplay type of games will get smaller and smaller

Last edited by slow and smart on 12/19/2013 12:30:20 PM

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 12:51:21 PM

I miss Nintendo. I haven't owned a Nintendo console since the Gamecube. Makes me regret selling my DSi

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 1:52:32 PM

I actually feel like this is backwards thinking. This game (from what I hear) is excellent. But the problem is it was put on a handheld device decreasing it's capabilites. Furthermore GoTY to me is not about fun, or reminescing. It's about a complete package and overall excellence. The fact that this game was on the 3ds doesn't allow it to stand up to games on the PS3-4 or xbox's. Not only in graphics but gameplay for sure. There's a reason there's more buttons on a controller. So in reality all this is saying is the review scoring system is bunk. If games such as this are going to be viewed as equals things need to be changed. Because right now it's being reviewed based on its system then put up against the others when in its achievements are far less than say a Bioshock or The Last of Us.

I'm all for that too. I have no problem with a 3DS game winning GOTY. I do however have a problem with it getting that title over a game like TLOU which clearly were not scored directly against each other because if they were well... I think the outcome is more clear.

I'm not trying to be narrow minded and it's nothing against this game. But GoTY represents MORE!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 3:34:06 PM

That's extremely presumptuous that none of their committee made any serious comparisons between this game and other major titles simply because their final choice doesn't line up with yours.

I also believe you should indeed play it. It now certainly has my attention.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 8:45:15 PM

Huh? I'm not saying it's a bad choice nor did I say I wasn't interested in it. If I had a 3DS I would have played it I love Zelda. And this has nothing to do with Game spots choice.

All I'm implying is the way games are reviewed should change if a 3DS game is going to be considered goty. Thats it.

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Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 4:50:53 AM

Game of the Year should include only two factors: 1) it be a GAME and 2) it be released/sold in that YEAR. To discount every game simply because you don't feel the platform is worthy is ridiculous. So Chess became a worse game because Football was invented? Or Poker became less because Skiing was invented? I don't agree with any of the games brought up in this debate (clearly Pokemon X/Y is GotY based on what it accomplishes that NO OTHER game does IMO) but if the voters included all applicable games and took all factors into account then this is a valid choice. It doesn't have to meet anyone else's opinion and especially not because it was released on a platform that doesn't do something another platform does.

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Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 7:36:01 PM

I didn't like it. I like the original on the snes but this game really didn't change much. If it was closer to ocarina of time it would have easily gotten game of the year to me. It wasn't. I think the last of us and wonderful 101 are better games compared to the new 3ds Zelda iteration.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 2:22:42 PM

Am I the only one excited for the new Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart games? I find the games that Nintendo publishes a lot more fun and rewarding than let's say... Call of Duty, Battlefield and most of those first person shooters out there.

That's just me but I don't hold a grudge against Gamespot, they look beyond what most gamers would like to be GoTy. Look at a couple years ago... Who would have thought Demon's Souls was going to get GoTy at Gamespot? Probably no one.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 3:36:51 PM

Yeah, I too think there's a place for more family-friendly rated games and not hard rated M titles.

I consider most of PS's exclusive franchises very welcome to my collection (focusing here only E, E10+ and maybe one mentioned of the following is a T) such as LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper and Jak & Daxter to name a few; it's too bad though Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games closer in style to it's roots are MIA. LBP is probably closest to Super Mario in terms of style, recognition and charm in relation to the PS3, and LBP Karting akin to Mario Kart (as is ModNation Racers, though with a lots of customization features, but less in the way of differing playstyles.) I was thinking, though I really like the traditional LBP games it would be cool to have a LBP game like Mario 64, and even the newest Mario World 3D, anyone else think so? Oh and I happen to also to have and very much like PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale as well, obviously akin to Super Smash Bros. (which I've never owned because I haven't owned any Nintendo console but the original, and in handhelds GameBoy Advance (which I still have, along with a few games), to the utmost respect Nintendo as well as it's loyal fans of course, just saying what I had/have relating to the Nintendo brand.

But yeah, overall I agree that both types are welcome and necessary in my personal opinion. I think there should be plenty of options of games spanning "Rated E-M" and different types with those ratings for every age group as well as type of player/moods people happen to be (in). :)

Last edited by H8WL3R on 12/19/2013 3:42:16 PM

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 3:50:14 PM

I've said it once and I will say it again, Game of the Year should be about FUN! Fun should be THE DEFACTO REASON a game is to even be considered GOTY! Good call by Gamespot.

Dragon's Crown should be GOTY imo.

End of Line.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 4:20:34 PM

What is considered fun to you might not be considered fun to others. I personally did not like Dragon's Crown but I respect your opinion on what you think should be game of the year.

I think a lot of gamers do not understand that you do not have to be a "kid" to enjoy something like Zelda, Mario or even Ni No Kuni. It takes an open minded person/gamer to enjoy something different. Just look at all the comments posted over at Gamespot and you'll read a lot of immature comments critizing the Zelda as franchise.

We as humans tend be afraid of change whether it's conciously or subconciously.

Last edited by MRSUCCESS on 12/19/2013 4:26:27 PM

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 4:47:12 PM

then we'll have game of the year versions of crap overall quality games. it has to be based on overall quality. i know from the past here people enjoy alot of different games even though overall game quality isnt on par.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 4:19:45 PM

I'm boring GTA V is my GOTY

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Remo Williams
Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 4:39:19 PM

I actually just picked up a 3DS mainly for this game, Fire Emblem, and the upcoming Bravely Default. Between the 3DS and the Vita, I feel overwhelmed with choices, especially of the JRPG variety (I never owned a PSP or a DS). ALBW is, BTW, a fantastic experience and one I can see myself replaying just like its SNES prequel.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 5:46:19 PM

So who has it? I enjoyed the first game on my Supernes, should I buy this sequel?

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 6:14:23 PM

I think we're going to see a wide variety of GotY winners this year. It seems critics are going off in various directions in what they believe is most significant.
The VGX guys gave it to GTA V. Their panel likely consisting of esteemed representatives from various popular web sites.
And here's Gamespot's GotY with Zelda.
I'm sure we'll also see The Last of Us taking a number of awards from various outlets across the landscape.
This reminds me of last year with Journey, The Walking Dead, and Dishonored gobbling up the majority of the top spots (wasn't Borderlands 2 a part of that as well? can't remember)
Anyway, at least Gamespot appears consistent with their appraisals this year. Look at their line up of PC goty candidates. A whole lot of those look intrinsic to PC gaming culture and aren't your typical "for the masses" productions and defy the generic candidates. Remember, they gave it to Journey last year. and some years back they gave it to Demon's Souls over Uncharted 2.
In consideration of their track record this Zelda pick doesn't really surprise me. They seem to pat themselves on the back for games that buck the trend. But in knowing this, I have to take their opinion, like everyone's on the matter, with a grain a salt.

EDIT: All of this supports the notion I have that there'll continue to be a divide between what's most popular and what rates the best. Similar to movies, I feel a day will come when game critics will exist in their own little bubble, where their opinion will matter most to those who can be likened unto themselves. While most everyone else just buys the stuff on word of mouth and their gut.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/19/2013 6:18:47 PM

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Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 11:52:03 PM

A Link Between Worlds is my GOTY choice as well. All the shooters and sequels have burnt me out on just about all the big name franchises this year. It was nice to go back to a classic style game and enjoy a game without being flooding with all the latest graphics and what not. Graphics really are beginning to get on my nerves more and more as developers concentrate more on that, then the actual games themselves. None of the blockbusters of this year really impressed me in any way. Zelda was just greatness in every facet of the game. Of course it's a follow-up to arguably the best Zelda game every released as well, which doesn't hurt.

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Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 12:24:30 AM

Well, Gamespot is yet another gaming site where its editors must be strung out on crack continuously, much like Polygon and a few others.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 3:12:15 AM

I would doubt that their sending of any message is intentional, but I don't see why anyone would argue against Gamespot's selection here. By all accounts, A Link to the Past is truly fantastic; whether it matches up to The Last of Us or GTA V or anything else according to some arbitrary barometers is an irrelevant consideration. Apparently, it was a well-rounded package that deserved to win, according to those who were involved in the process.

As for the idea itself... there is certainly some merit in it. I think that people too often forget to have fun while playing games as they think more about the quality of the mechanics and the graphics and the narrative and rah-rah-rah. I know that I'm guilty of doing so, and having that in the back of my mind has spoiled my enjoyment of certain games in the past. Puppeteer and my first playthrough of Ratchet: Nexus being the most recent examples. I think it's good that a well-respected site has made this move to remind people that fun should be paramount in something called a video GAME, whether they meant to or not.

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Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 6:22:54 AM

I don't have a problem with this. They are usually pretty fair with their GOTY awards. Demons Souls and Journey have been two of the best games this generation. Well deserved past winners. Looking at the list of contenders I saw a lot to be positive about. A good mix of genres and games for all tastes. Some of the PC contenders for example, were good, adult and intelligent games.

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Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 9:12:22 AM

I bought this game for the 3DS first day buy.
It uses the original Link to the past world, but things are not quite the same. I love the mechanics and controls. They are so Fluid! It is also one of the tightest 3D effects of all the 3DS games I own.
It is worth full price admission for sure.

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Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 8:58:40 PM

I bought a 3DS for the game and I have o say that I am enjoying Tearaway and the Vita much more. While I do like the game, it is the same as every other Zelda game which is not bad, but it is not impressive or groundbreaking as it is predictable. I am glad that they went with a different game just like Amazon other than GTA5.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013 @ 9:34:54 PM

i was kinda disappointed that it wasn't TLOU but it does look like a gud game even by me and aven't ever played a zelda game in my life so yeah i think i deserves some merit.

happy gaming =)

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Monday, December 23, 2013 @ 1:28:42 PM

i actually have to agree with this choice graphics shouldn't decide a GOTY
Fun is a main deciding factor but the biggest factor is the people who actually Vote

contrary to the popular belief the 3DS top selling game has over 8 million sales
so if thei8 million copies sold of 1 game that means theirs a big audience who owns the 3ds

so 3ds games should be included in GOTY choices

i get people have their preferences and they will clash but isn't that GOTY is about
the Best Fan chosen games clashing to see what is the most popular among them

it shouldn't be limited to 1 platform or 2 platforms
the reason why COD never gets GOTY is because its not a great game despite its sales

also just cause a game is an AAA game doesn't guarantee it will be good
and AAA doesn't mean it should be GOTY

to me AAA means alot of money was put into it nothing more nothing less

I don't look at a game by the developer or if its an AAA game anymore
i look to see if i like the gameplay which is my first priority everything else comes after

My Goty for 2013 well its Drakengard 3 JP release NA release is 2014

Last edited by Lunar_Miyuki on 12/23/2013 1:31:16 PM

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