GOTY 2016: The "Video Games are Weird, Right?" Award (formerly the Hideo Kojima Award for the Hideo Kojima-est Design Decision)
This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are ten awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!
The "Video Games are Weird, Right?" Award: Let It Die
Grasshopper Manufacture | December 3rd, 2016 | PlayStation 4
Runners-up: The entirety of Superhot, Mafia III's epilogue
The inherent interactive and mechanical nature of video games means that the more realistic they get, the more off they can feel. Some developers choose to ignore this and continue their dramatic (often melodramatic) and somber tones regardless of bugs, player agency or the uncanny valley. Other developers look at this weirdness and decide to embrace it, to play a big glowing arrow next to it and say, “Hey, look at this stupid, weird thing in this game!”
While such design can be found in the West, it’s a bit more wholeheartedly embraced by Japan. We created this award for Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima. Nobody has demonstrated a level of comfort for acknowledging the very odd nature of video games like the man who pioneered swapping controller ports to prevent your mind from being read by a psychic mercenary, setting your game clock ahead in time to cause a World War I-era sniper to die of old age, or, of course, Fultoning everything. That said, Goichi Suda, a.k.a. Suda51, may be be a close second.
The latest game from Suda’s Grasshopper Manufacture, Let It Die, introduces its mechanics to you by way of a skateboarding grim reaper who wears random pairs of sunglasses and speaks with a California Latino accent. He is Uncle Death.
As you proceed through the game’s introductory dungeon, you’re unfortunately killed in a cutscene. A second later, Uncle Death decapitates your attacker with his scythe and grinds down a rail on his exit before kicking up his skateboarding to reveal the title card. This is to show the player that dying is an inevitable part of the game.
Also assisting the player is the Mushroom Magistrate, a woman whose mind has been permanently damaged by years of mushroom abuse. She also sells stickers. Kommodore Suzuki is a seeming Japanese-Russian cosmonaut/equipment vendor with a Hitler moustache. Meijin is a pro-gamer providing advice between rounds of an unknown fighting game to the player in the arcade where Let It Die is also being played on a hologram projecting beetle. And Naomi Detox is the arcade clerk who is utterly disinterested in video games, hates mushrooms and provides quests to the player.
The point is, that as a free-to-play roguelike it would’ve been easy to be cynical about Let It Die but the trappings work in such a delightfully insane and fascinating way that keeps it interesting and fun. It’s nice for Grasshopper to finally create a game that fits its original style while actually being fun to play. — Tyler Martin