GOTY 2017: Best Character
This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are 10 awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!
Best Character: Mae Borowski, Night in the Woods
Infinite Fall | February 21st, 2017 | Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Runners-up: Aloy, Horizon Zero Dawn & Kokichi Oma, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
One of the factors I weigh when I'm coming to the Silicon Sasquatch GOTY Bargaining Table is which games best represent the epoch we're currently living in.
I read the news pretty fastidiously, and I can usually tell which way the wind's blowin'. I've seen more protests first-hand this year than I have in my life, which probably speaks more to my lack of prior engagement than of any major tidal movement in the world. Things aren't great, and it's not like they're just suddenly bad; it's that, for the first time in a while, it's now impossible for most people to ignore.
I think games—like other media—are most impactful when they recreate and teach us about real human experience. In 2017, no game resonated with me and the way I see the world like Night in the Woods did. And no character personified the struggles, idiosyncrasies, fears, and aspirations of my generation like Mae Borowski, the game's protagonist.
Mae's a cat in her early 20s who drops out of college and moves back to her small, working-class town to stay with her parents while she...figures things out? She's not very clear on it. And from that point on, the choices you make through Mae affect the relationships you develop, the fraying social fabric of Possum Springs, and the lessons you take away from the game.
Mae's character is strikingly well-defined and brilliantly written, conveying a personality that just feels so authentically post-teen that I was often dumbfounded. It felt like I was reading the very thoughts I'd had a decade ago, verbatim, time and time again. Mae's return home reminded me of all the other times I stumbled and felt lost in my early 20s: that term in college when I dropped half my classes and filled the void with weed and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion; job-hunting for months after graduation from my mom's house; the times my friends and I took garbage from construction sites and the side of the road to build decorative monstrosities for the parties we hosted. The weird things we do to try to establish ourselves in the world—to do more than survive.
As the game's tagline says: "At the end of everything, hold onto anything."
It's that feeling of camaraderie and excitement in the face of overwhelming uncertainty and chaos that defines Night in the Woods, and Mae is a brilliantly conceived avatar for exploring that space. And in a year where class struggle and cartoon-villain-caliber political machinations have defined our lives, I found Mae to be exactly the guide I needed to process the world I find myself in. — Nick Cummings