GOTY 2018: Best Storytelling


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!

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Best Storytelling: Florence

Mountains | February 14th, 2018 | iOS, Android

Runners-up: God of War | You Are Jeff Bezos

Love is fleeting, and love is rare. But when it comes into your life, it changes everything.

In Florence, developer Mountains shares the story of a young woman named Florence Yeoh and the complete arc of her relationship with Krish, a street musician. It takes about half an hour to play, start to finish, and not a single moment is wasted. It is the most effective and refined piece of storytelling we've encountered in a year with some truly groundbreaking narratives.

Florence is an entirely nonverbal story. No words are spoken, and none are written. Instead, the story relies on a set of simple actions that evolve and adapt as the story progresses. As Florence begins to fall for Krish, actions that used to require focus and patience fly by — she solves spreadsheet puzzles automatically, casual conversation bubbles are neatly filled in, and so on. And as things begin to fall apart, the pressure to complete speech puzzles intensifies, and the puzzle pieces that compose a bubble no longer fit as easily. It's a powerful metaphor that speaks to a deep, but rarely discussed, truth about falling in—and then out—of love.

Some of us didn't like how Florence ended, but regardless of the specific details, I think we all agreed that the arc was thematically satisfying. Florence undergoes a journey of discovery, of love and loss, and when we leave her we see that she has been enriched for having experienced this love, with all its soaring highs and debilitating lows. It's a story that is deeply relatable and refreshingly mundane, and it's told with such care and grace that it really manages to deliver a precious experience.

The runners-up are also exemplars of the best in storytelling technique and delivery we've ever seen. God of War reinvents a stale and troubling series in a profound way, and a key part of its success comes from the way it abandoned the cornball machismo and endlessly ratcheted stakes of its bloodthirsty and increasingly unremarkable prior games. In its place, we're left with a quiet, intimate, and expertly directed story of a man and his son grieving the loss of a loved one. This epic story that's told in a single uninterrupted camera take is, in the capable hands of director Cory Barlog, richly nuanced. We're treated to many moments of quiet stillness, with just the lapping of waves on a lake or spare leaves rustling in the wintry branches of trees to punctuate this journey's story beats. It is that rare game that understands that pathos exists in the small things, in the quiet space between the bombast. It is truly a remarkable accomplishment.

And You Are Jeff Bezos is remarkable because it asks a simple question: if you were mistaken for Amazon founder and one-time richest human in history Jeff Bezos, how would you go about spending his vast fortune as fast as possible before people try to stop you? It's a sharp, wry critique of income inequality, the absurdity of personal wealth and the outsize influence that Amazon's unchecked growth has wrought on our society, and it's some of the sharpest satire I've seen in any medium all year. — Nick Cummings