Unlike film, gaming does not have one definitive awards show. This year, SXSW decided to try its hand at hosting one, and the results were encouraging. The Inaugural SXSW Gaming Awards celebrated a variety of games from a wide range of developers, complete with good humor and a pleasant mix of high- and lowbrow comedy.
Although the show was well-attended and held in good spirits, the recent death of Matthew Crump, who organized the show, did cast a slight pall over the proceedings. Crump was a fixture of both the Austin games development scene and the gaming portion of SXSW. As a firm advocate of diversity in video games, the organizers of the awards show felt it fitting to name the award for Cultural Innovation after him.
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The winners were as follows:
- Excellence in Gameplay Award: "Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons"
- Excellence in Art Award: "BioShock Infinite"
- Excellence in Animation Award: "Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch"
- Excellence in Technical Achievement Award: "Grand Theft Auto V"
- Excellence in Narrative Award: "The Last of Us"
- Excellence in Design and Direction Award: "Tearaway"
- Best Multiplayer Game Award: "Super Mario 3D World"
- Excellence in Gaming Marketing Award: "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag"
- Convergence Award: "Injustice: Gods Among Us"
- Excellence in SFX Award: "The Last of Us"
- Excellence in Musical Score Award: "The Last of Us"
- Texas Arts Achievement Award: "The Stanley Parable"
- SXSW Gamer's Voice Award: "Nidhogg"
- Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award: "Papers, Please"
- Game of the Year Award: "The Last of Us"
Most of the categories are self-explanatory, although there were a few puzzling award names. The "Convergence" award went to the best game made from licensed media. The "Texas Arts Achievement" distinction went to the best game from a Texas-based studio. The "Gamer's Voice" award exists specifically to honor indie games with small dev teams. The "Cultural Innovation" category honors games that highlighted cultural experiences outside of the "brown-haired heterosexual white male" experience common to most games.
"The Last of Us" from Naughty Dog claimed the most awards: four, including the coveted "Game of the Year" distinction. No other game won multiple awards. For a full list of nominees, check out the SXSW Gaming Awards page.
Between popular gamer hosts from iJustine and Smosh, videos from Rooster Teeth and G4 and an extended performance from the Cirque du Soleil, the SXSW gaming awards attracted a lot of talent and kept its audience entertained without insulting it.
Only SXSW can decide whether it will hold another awards show next year, but the program is off to a promising start.