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03 Mar 2011

This year's IGF awards felt more reserved than last year's. That's not to say the indie community was by any means unenthusiastic - in fact, I get the sense that indie developers appreciate their IGF awards a great deal more than commercial developers appreciate their GDCAs - but this year it felt like some of the aggressive passion was replaced by a sense of humility and in some cases a sort of raw emotion, as if indies are becoming more aware of the power this community has to change lives... including their own.

The indie story of the year is, of course, Minecraft, and notch and the Mojang team walked away with two IGF awards and three GDCAs. That spread is rather significant. Minecraft was until recently a one-man show, but that one-man show garnered both the Audience Award and the Seumus McNally Grand Prize in the IGF, and the Best Debut Game, Best Downloadable Game, and Innovation awards in the GDCAs. Perhaps more importantly, an indie game won more awards in the commercially-focused GDCAs than it did in the indie-focused IGF... and perhaps even more importantly than that, an indie game took the IGF grand prize while simultaneously unseating major commercial titles on the other side of the fence.

As notch noted in his acceptance speech for the Innovation Award, it's a pretty big deal for the indie sector that a game as fiercely indie as Minecraft won the Innovation Award specifically, over all the major commercial games it was pitted against. That is an extremely gratifying and legitimizing win for independent game development as a concept and as a community. It will be interesting to see how - or if - that affects the commercial game development sector in the coming months.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent took home three well-deserved IGF awards, including the Excellence in Audio award which, if you've played the game at all, you know is incredibly fitting. (If you haven't played Amnesia then you should stop reading this and go fix that right now. You can get it on Steam. It's a pretty special experience.)

The excellent Desktop Dungeons pulled off a surprise upset victory over none other than Minecraft (!) in the Excellence in Design category (!!). I cheered. Desktop Dungeons is a fucking brilliantly designed short-form roguelike, and as much as I love Minecraft and respect its own brand of progressive game design, I think Desktop Dungeons absolutely earned and deserved this award.

On the GDCA side of things, we didn't have a major sweep this year (like last year's "hey look Uncharted 2 won AGAIN" experience) but Red Dead Redemption clearly led the pack, with four GDCA wins including Game of the Year. Personally I'd have gone with Mass Effect 2, but at least Bioware picked up the well-deserved Best Writing award for that game. And Limbo won Best Visual Art, proving that the line between indie and commercial game development is becoming ever-blurrier.

I was disappointed at the lack of any awards for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but apparently I'm just a fanboy. Also, Super Meat boy got no love, and that just breaks my heart.

Also, what's the deal with not having a separate category for Best Soundtrack? It's all just rolled into Best Audio? What the actual fuck?

Anyway, here's the full list of award-winners in case that's a thing that you want:

IGF Winners

Best Student Game - Fract Technical Excellence - Amnesia: The Dark Descent Excellence in Design - Desktop Dungeons Best Mobile Game - Helsing's Fire Excellent in Visual Art - Bit Trip Runner Excellence in Audio - Amnesia: The Dark Descent Audience Award - Minecraft IGN Direct2Drive Award - Amnesia: The Dark Descent Nuovo Award - Nidhogg Seumas McNally Grand Prize - Minecraft

GDCA Winners

Best Audio - Red Dead Redemption Best Debut Game - Minecraft Best Writing - Mass Effect 2 Best Game Design - Red Dead Redemption Best Downloadable Game - Minecraft Best Visual Art - Limbo Best Technology - Red Dead Redemption Best Handheld Game - Cut the Rope Innovation Award - Minecraft Ambassador Award - Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie Pioneer Award - Yu Suzuki Lifetime Achievement Award - Peter Molyneux Game of the Year - Red Dead Redemption

Also, I'm pleased to report that there were no awkwardly offensive acceptance speeches this year, so I don't have to complain about anyone's tact. ;)

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gdc video-games