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2021 Game Developers Choice/Independent Games Festival Awards Winners Revealed

by Rainier on July 21, 2021 @ 8:21 p.m. PDT

Supergiant Games’ stylish roguelike Hades was honored by the game development community as the recipient of the Game of the Year award at tonight’s 21st annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA) ceremony.

The ceremony, which honored some of the biggest and most innovative games of the past year, took place as part of the 2021 Game Developers Conference (GDC). An archive of the award ceremony, as well as the full presentation of the Independent Games Festival Awards (IGF Awards), can be viewed here.

In addition to Game of the Year, Hades was the recipient of the Best Audio and Best Design Awards. The roguelike action dungeon crawler won praise and accolades for combining the best aspects of Supergiant's critically acclaimed titles, including the fast-paced action of Bastion, the rich atmosphere and depth of Transistor, and the character-driven storytelling of Pyre.

Developer Sucker Punch Productions took home two awards for Ghost of Tsushima, for Best Visual Art and the Audience Award. Ghost of Tsushima is a beautiful open world, action-adventure game where players control a samurai that must use the shadows and other less-than-noble techniques to save his home from Mongol invaders.

The full slate of winners of the 2021 GDCAs also includes Best Debut winner Phasmophobia by Kinetic Games, an indie horror game where players must enter dangerous haunted locations in order to gather evidence of the paranormal. Genshin Impact by miHoYo won Best Mobile Game, for the impressive open-world game full of slick combat and countless mysteries. 

The Innovation Award went to Dreams by Media Molecule for its game creation system, which allows players to create anything from games to gadgets, music to movies, puzzles to paintings and everything in-between and beyond. The Award for Best Narrative went to The Last of Us Part II developed by Naughty Dog, which continues the story of the critically acclaimed The Last of Us in a gritty revenge story set in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Asobo Studio’s Microsoft Flight Simulator won the Best Technology Award; in the game players can create their flight plan and fly anywhere on the planet, while navigating challenging weather conditions. Lastly, the Best VR/AR Game Award went to Half-Life: Alyx by Valve, the immersive, genre-bending virtual reality game set in the legendary Half-Life series.

The Game Developers Choice Awards honor the very best games of the year, and were created for and voted on by developers. Winners in all categories except the Audience Award and Special Awards are selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards-specific International Choice Awards Network (ICAN), which is an invitation-only organization, comprised of leading game creators from all parts of the industry.

In addition to the best games of the last year, the GDCAs also honor the dedicated individuals who have helped further the art, science and craft of video games with special awards. This year’s Pioneer Award, which recognizes breakthrough tech and game design milestones, went to Tom Fulp, creator of Newgrounds and trailblazer of the Macromedia Flash games that helped define a generation of indie developers. The advent of Newgrounds brought about an explosion of creations and gave a platform for independent developers’ Flash games.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to influential game designer Laralyn McWilliams, who holds 28 years of experience working across all genres, particularly on ground-breaking MMO games. The award recognizes Laralyn McWilliams’ video game career, in which she has led the design for award-winning adventure, social, strategy, simulation, platform, brawler, FPS and massively multiplayer online games. She was Creative Director for the ground-breaking MMO Free Realms at Sony Online Entertainment and was lead designer for the critically acclaimed Full Spectrum Warrior, the most nominated game of E3 2003. 

“We’re wowed to see so many creative and excellent titles released during the past year, which has been a difficult one for many, and we are proud to be able to honor them tonight,” said Katie Stern, who oversees the GDC as VP of Entertainment Media at Informa Tech. “GDC is about bringing the game development community together to celebrate the craft of video games, and there is no better way than to recognize the hard work and talent that made these games possible.”

The Game Developers Choice Awards winners are:

  • Best Audio: Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • Best Debut: Phasmophobia (Kinetic Games)
  • Best Design: Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • Best Mobile Game: Genshin Impact (miHoYo)
  • Innovation Award: Dreams (Media Molecule / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Best Narrative: The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Best Technology: Microsoft Flight Simulator (Asobo Studio / Xbox Game Studios)
  • Best Visual Art: Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Best VR/AR Game: Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)
  • Audience Award: Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Game of the Year: Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • Pioneer Award: Tom Fulp
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Laralyn McWilliams

Origame Digital’s Umurangi Generation won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the 23rd annual Independent Games Festival (IGF) Awards tonight. The ceremony, which honored some of the most innovative and excellent independent games of the past year, took place as part of the 2021 Game Developers Conference (GDC) virtual event. 

In addition to the Grand Prize, Umurangi Generation also won the Excellence in Narrative Award. Umurangi Generation is a first-person photography game set in a bleak future by Origame Digital. Following an impending crisis, players act as a courier for the Tauranga Express where they unlock a variety of photography lenses and equipment throughout the game. 

The full slate of 2021 IGF Award winners feature many notable and fan-favorite titles, including the Excellence in Audio award and Excellence in Visual Art award winner Genesis Noir by Feral Cat Den, a stylish noir adventure game where players explore the mysteries of the Big Bang and seek a way to destroy it before it kills their love. 

The Excellence in Design winner, Teardown by Tuxedo Labs, is a game in which players prepare the perfect heist in a simulated and fully destructible voxel world, using the environment to their advantage in the most creative way they can think of. The Nuovo Award, which honors the title that makes jurors ‘think differently about games as a medium,’ went to developer The Game Band for Blaseball, a baseball horror simulation game. In Blaseball, a full season and championship series of "Internet League Blaseball" is simulated. 

The Best Student Game winner, Local Space Survey Corps, LLC’s Vessels, is a character-driven story game where players experience atmospheric, environmental storytelling as they piece together clues on a ship reeling from a grisly death and spreading paranoia. Additionally, Arrog by Hermanos Magia and Leap Game Studios won the community-driven Audience Award, which is chosen by fans through a public voting process.

The winners of the 23rd annual IGF Awards are:

  • Best Student Game ($2,000): Vessels (Local Space Survey Corps, LLC)
  • Excellence in Audio ($2,000): Genesis Noir (Feral Cat Den)
  • Excellence in Narrative ($2,000): Umurangi Generation (Origame Digital)
  • Audience Award ($2,000): Arrog (Hermanos Magia and Leap Game Studios)
  • Excellence in Design ($2,000): Teardown (Tuxedo Labs)
  • Excellence in Visual Art ($2,000): Genesis Noir (Feral Cat Den)
  • Nuovo Award ($2,000): Blaseball (The Game Band)
  • Seumas McNally Grand Prize ($10,000): Umurangi Generation (Origame Digital)

The IGF was established in 1998 to recognize the best independent game developers and encourage creativity and excellence in independent games. 

The awards were livestreamed on the official Twitch channel for the Game Developers Conference (GDC) at and are archived both on Twitch and on the official GDC YouTube Channel.

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