It’s that “Game of the Year” time again, and you know what that means: games that were generally well-received months ago will now be scrutinized within an inch of their virtual lives and found lacking. It happens every year, and this is why GotY is bullshit.
I remember in 2011 when Skyrim, which had largely favorable reviews at release in November, was a terrible game come late December. Don’t get me wrong, Skyrim is not flawless, nor was it my GotY for 2011 (that honor goes to Dark Souls). Still, the mid-to-late December decision to suddenly hate on a game just seems silly.
This year, the popularly unpopular opinion is that BioShock: Infinite is a shit game. While it’s not my GotY, it is in my top 5. Although I’m not sure why I feel the need to defend it (I’m certainly not being paid to do so), I’ll argue that it’s nowhere near as bad as the majority of AAA dogshit that is peddled (and, might I add, lapped up by the adoring public).
Yet judging by the maelstrom on Twitter and other social media sites that games critics frequent, BioShock: Infinite is not only not GotY, it’s the worst game of the year. Let the absurdity of this statement sink in: BioShock: Infinite is the worst game of 2013.
It’s not perfect, but for fuck’s sake, at least it’s different. Sure, there are plot holes, but it’s also one of the most ambitious and unique stories in a game to date. Yeah, the combat is flawed, it’s boring and repetitive, but you could say the same about pretty much every FPS out there. I’m not making excuses for BioShock: Infinite, but I also think it’s important to put things in perspective.
Was it overhyped? Definitely. Overrated? Probably. Is it the worst game of the year? Absolutely not, that’s just ridiculous. I respect that people have a right to their own opinions, but it makes me wonder: what else did they play in 2013? Surely they didn’t have the misfortune of toiling through some of the game that I’ve reviewed this year. Lucky them.
I understand that initial impressions of a game might change after spending more time with it, that in hindsight BioShock: Infinite doesn’t seem as good as it had in March. I’m all for thoughtful games criticism. By all means, rip the shit out of a terrible game, and give good games the criticism they deserve.
However, that’s not what’s happening here. This is sensationalistic nonsense, plain and simple. The majority of people aren’t even trying to back up their lofty claims. Espousing “controversial” opinions for the sake of it does not equate to thoughtful criticism.
Nor is black and white thinking conducive to thoughtful criticism. Best game of the year, worst game of the year, perhaps BioShock: Infinite is neither, and that’s okay. The whole GotY rigmarole encourages this type of shallow, polarizing discourse, prioritizing sensationalism (a headline, a tweet) over meaningful analysis.
And, let’s face it: GotY is largely in service of consumerism. For many publications, especially those that are PR mouthpieces, the “best” game is often code for the most popular game, or the game with the largest budget. Parents wondering what to get little Susie or Billy for Christmas need look no further: this here is the game of the year! And within a few months the studio will release its “game of the year” edition for added revenue.
But GotY season doesn’t have to be this way. This time of year is a period of personal, introspective reflection, and it could be an opportunity to celebrate with others the strides made over the past 12 months. It could bring people together over their shared passion, rather than tear them apart.