Celebrating the best the gaming industry has to offer in both talent and innovation, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) held the Seventh British Academy Video Games Awards on March 16. The awards are amongst the most prestigious in the video game world.
17 awards were handed out, including an Academy Fellowship award for game designer Peter Molyneux, best known for the action role-playing (ARPG) Fable series as well as God games like Populous and Black & White. The greatest award, best game, went to the ARPG multiplatform sequel, and blockbuster hit Mass Effect 2. Stealing its thunder, however, was PlayStation 3 exclusive Heavy Rain, winning the three separate BAFTA awards.
Though the experience of playing Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain is not without its faults, it did offer a powerful and highly-interactive detective thriller in a capacity the world has never before seen. Interestingly, both Mass Effect 2 and Heavy Rain used Quick Time Events (QTE), which are short on-screen directions for specific button combinations. However, in Heavy Rain these QTE prompts are an integral part of the story, and are used to create highly specific controls for each scene of the game. How these are performed or ignored shapes the progress of the story, meaning that there are numerous endings to the story. Making the game more interactive, multiple QTEs are often presented in the game, forcing players to choose specific paths that drastically alter the progress of the game. PlayStation Move support allows players to physically act out the QTE actions, adding a further layer of interactivity to the experience.
In an interview with the PlayStation Blog, Quantic Dream founder and CEO (and writer/director of Heavy Rain) David Cage revealed that the studio is hard at work on another game, but that it would not be a sequel. “We’re going to be exploring a different direction, which will still be very dark and still for adults, but completely different to Heavy Rain,” he said. “Our challenge is to satisfy our fans, and also surprise them.” He also stressed the importance of auteur theory for the future of gaming, and the need for the industry to trust the creative vision of the director. “I know no good stories written by 50 people.” Cage said. “If this industry wants to mature and evolve then we need to talk about emotions and work on stories that appeal to all people, not just hardcore gamers between the ages of 15 and 17. We have a much wider market out there just waiting to interact if we can go to them with the right ideas.” Cage’s thoughts are pretty divergent in an industry currently driven largely by market research and risk-minimizing to appease stockholders and investors.
At the BAFTA awards, Heavy Rain won the awards for Story, Original Music, and Technological Innovation, of which Cage admitted Story was the most gratifying to win. The game was also nominated for Artistic Achievement, Best Game, and Gameplay, and the public-voted GAME Award of 2010 (which went to Call of Duty: Black Ops). Both Call of Duty: Black Ops and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood matched Heavy Rain’s seven nominations, but each won only a single award. The win for Gameplay went to Super Mario Galaxy 2. God of War III topped Limbo for the Artistic Achievement award. The iPhone (and iPad) physics-puzzler Cut the Rope picked up the Handheld award, while Civilizations V beat out top nominees Fallout: New Vegas and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for the Strategy award.