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Golden Joystick Awards Report

UK DEVELOPER OF THE YEAR 1024x678 Golden Joystick Awards ReportUnbelievable really, that the Golden Joystick Awards is now into its 27th year. It’s been around longer than I’ve been alive, if anything it’s a testament to the strength of videogames and how it has grown and prospered since the gaming crash of the 80’s. This year saw some heavy weight titles pitting against each other, along with a few surprises by way of award winners.

The GJA was set in the lavishly expensive Hilton, Park Lane in London. It was some spectacle and in some regards a shame that the digital press couldn’t sit amongst the attendees and soak up the atmosphere of a glittery awards ceremony. We had a peek through the doors and it looked extremely posh, quite fitting really with the drinks prices at the Hotel which are £5.00 for a bottle of beer, so for a quick note about the Hotel, if you have deep pockets and your name is Fred Goodwin it’s a great place to go, otherwise prepare to take out a second mortgage. Without digressing we spent several hours prior to the live coverage of the award ceremony with Lee Kirton PR for Namco Bandai, he showed off extensively Tekken 6. Dee Dhanjal from Activision showed us DJ Hero, with limited hands on time, so we didn’t get to try it out unfortunately, though we’re working on getting a review out to you all.

Probably the most insightful of guests who arrived to speak to us and they were Future PLC employees; John Houlihan (Editor in Chief, CVG), James Binns (Publishing Director, Games) and Mark Cantwell (Associate Publisher for Digital Games Sites). We were given an open Q&A session to ask openly about getting into videogame journalism as a full time job. It was a refreshing talk which could pave the way for a new recruitment process, as many of us raised our concerns with Future’s current recruitment policy. For those that are serious about getting employed as full time games journalists there are two tips that were given to us, tout for freelance work by dropping down editors your latest pieces and also get the right academic qualifications.

There is hope for those like myself that could not afford an expensive University package, if you’re prepared to go out and get yourself, a big scoop interview or write engaging prose that attracts the attention of the editors, there is light at the end of the tunnel. One thing is for certain is that the standard recruitment practice of a one page CV and covering letter, simply will not get you short listed, unless you either have a flashing past in the games industry or have the academia that they require. I asked a question about those creating video pieces and where there route into the games journalism may lie. It was with that a deep admiration for Zero Punctuation’s Ben Yahtzee Croshaw became known by those at Future Plc. If you can stand up to the quality and humour that Croshaw can create then Future will definitely want to speak to you, as they are crying out for the next big video creator. So for where we originated (youtube) those that watch us from there, take note that creating videos does go further than building up a lousy commission partnership with Google. Send your creations for consideration!

After the Dee Dhanjal interview session we knuckled down for the awards ceremony and one of the most noticeable aspects of the awards is just how damn quick they are to finish. Sean Lock gave around a 10 minute witty introduction to the awards, with his relevant humour and then the ceremony went into over drive, no footage of the games, no speeches it was all a very rushed affair. Why was it rushed? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that the price for renting out several halls at the Hilton could have something to do with that. So, what about the awards? Well you probably know about the winners, or if you didn’t take a look at the replay of our live coverage.

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Some of the awards were certainly surprising, Activision had a big day winning multiple awards for Call Of Duty: World at War and the Guitar Hero: World Tour franchises. It’s an interesting trend of results which came as a surprise as we hear people bemoaning Activision’s business structure of making continual sequels. Questions of public’s judgement were certainly ringing bells of ‘contradiction’ and there certainly wasn’t any protest vote with Modern Warfare 2 as it cleaned up with the ‘one to watch award’. There was a common consensus between my fellow journalists that the ‘one to watch’ award is well and truly frivolous, it simply doesn’t have a place at an awards ceremony, considering the game hadn’t even hit the shelves during the voting process. Another agreement was that the public’s voting for Guitar Hero: World Tour as winner of best soundtrack was absolute bullshit, the fact it was even nominated was somewhat offensive, considering it has won on nothing more than a licensing grab/track compilation. If we had a choice it most certainly would have been EA/DICE’s Mirrors Edge, a game soundtrack that is deeply memorable from trailer to end credits.

Publisher of the year was won by Activision/Blizzard, despite a limited range of original titles spanning the vast amount of plastic peripherals & tacked on re-hashed releases had our minds simply boggling that Sony or EA were not awarded the coveted prize. It’s with these award announcements that affirmed Activision are, a long way from changing their business structure that has many level headed gamers in frustration. Amongst the refreshing results was the awards Bethesda picked up for Fallout 3, no one can deny the un-president technical achievement that was involved in creating the vast apocalyptic universe and to win the Zavvi Ultimate Game Of The Year award re-aligned me with the belief that not all the gamers who voted were insane.

I think the most amusing part of the awards was when Jagex won developer of the year for their massively popular free online game Runescape. They brushed aside other developers with their stronghold forum community who voted in their droves for the game. After meeting the lead designer ‘Mod Mark’ from Jagex we were glad they won, as his drunken condemnation of corporate wiff-waff had us in pure stitches, a real breath of fresh air at an after show party full of unrecognisable faces.

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Overall it was a great experience and a without a shadow of a doubt an successful night for Future Plc, the event broke the world record for most popular gaming awards ceremony with 1,223,646 votes. The awards show in my view needs some work, whether it be, a better structured format that doesn’t rush its way through the award winners, an additional lifetime achievement award and a 25% vote share amongst digital media & printed press. In its current format there is no real room for innovation to be awarded, no award categories for best indie game or DLC platform awards. With any luck the rest of the blogospheres feedback on the awards will bring changes that not only would be welcomed by games journalists, but by those that work in the industry themselves. At the moment the GJA is the Bafta of videogames, it has the potential to be the Oscars with a few modifications.

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