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2019 Game Developers Choice/Independent Games Festival Award Winners Revealed

by Rainier on March 20, 2019 @ 9:53 p.m. PDT

God of War was honored with the prize for Game of the Year at tonight’s 19th annual Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony during the 2019 Game Developers Conference.

Sony Santa Monica & Sony Interactive Entertainment’s epic reimagining of the intense action/adventure series God of War tells a new story of the immortal god Kratos, now a father teaching his young son to survive in a brutal and unforgiving world. The acclaimed title earned accolades for its mature narrative, dazzling visuals and refined combat gameplay. An archive of the award ceremony, as well as the full presentation of the Independent Games Festival Awards (IGF Awards), can be viewed here.

The sincere and emotional exploration of young love, Florence, earned developer Mountains two awards tonight, for Best Debut and Best Mobile Game. The game uses clever interactive story elements to sew together various scenes of the birth, maturation and denouement of a love story. Developer Beat Games also took home two awards for its game Beat Saber, for Best VR/AR Game and the Audience Award. Beat Saber is a compelling and active VR rhythm game in which players use motion controllers to slice blocks to the sweat-inducing syncopations of music.

The full slate of winners of the 2019 GDCAs also includes Best Technology winner Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games, which presents a meticulously realized open-world environment of the waning days of the Wild West. Lucas Pope’s 3909 won Best Narrative for Return of the Obra Dinn, for the game’s exploration of a series of mysterious murders set aboard the namesake ghostship. 2018 IGF Award winner, Celeste, by developer Matt Makes Games, returned to the awards podium with their win for Best Audio, cementing the inspiring platformer’s reputation for its musical presentation. The stunning platform-adventure game, Gris by Nomada Studio, earned the award for Best Visuals for its colorful artistic flourishes. The Award for Best Design went to Into the Breach developed by Subset Games, a strategy title whose minimalist pixel art aesthetic belies the deep tactical and engaging gameplay that has earned it countless fans. Nintendo’s Labo won the Innovation Award, honoring the revered Japanese publisher for its (literally) out-of-the-box title, which allows users to combine the versatile Switch hardware with self-constructed interactive toys and games made from cardboard.

The Game Developers Choice Awards honor the very best games of the year, and was created for and voted on by developers. Winners 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 veteran game developer Rieko Kodama, recognizing her for her trailblazing and continuing legacy in game design, which spans more than three decades of work on some of the most beloved titles in SEGA’s classic games library, from Phantasy Star through Alex Kidd to Skies of Arcadia and beyond.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to esteemed writer and director Amy Hennig, whose decades-long career in game development began in the Atari 7800 era and includes roles as creative director and writer of Naughty Dog’s acclaimed Uncharted game series. The award recognizes Hennig’s varied career, with professional experience as a digital artist, animator, game designer and especially in the last two decades, as a writer and director of acclaimed adventure titles with strong narrative and character elements.

“The Game Developers Choice Awards represent the most refined games of the year, and the sheer variety of games honored tonight showed that games can still represent wholly new and unique creative visions,” said Katie Stern, General Manager of the Game Developers Conference. “A number of independently developed titles like Celeste, Gris and Florence helped prove how internal or deeply personal turmoil can make for massively appealing games for millions of fans. While games like God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 capture our imagination with poignant moments juxtaposed against epic tales of staggering scale and technical prowess. We embrace and accept all these amazingly creative works, and we’re proud to recognize these nominees and winners alike for the imagination and hard work that brought them here.”

The Game Developers Choice Awards winners are:

  • Best Audio:Celeste (Matt Makes Games)
  • Best Debut: Mountains (Florence)
  • Best Design: Into the Breach (Subset Games)
  • Best Mobile Game: Florence (Mountains)
  • Innovation Award: Nintendo Labo (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • Best Narrative: Return of the Obra Dinn (Lucas Pope / 3909)
  • Best Technology: Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games)
  • Best Visual Art: Gris (Nomada Studio / Devolver Digital)
  • Best VR/AR Game: Beat Saber (Beat Games)
  • Audience Award: Beat Saber (Beat Games)
  • Game of the Year:God of War (Sony Santa Monica / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Pioneer Award: Rieko Kodama
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Amy Hennig

Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Best Independent Game at the 21st 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 2019 Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

In addition to the Grand Prize, Return of the Obra Dinn also received top honors for Excellence in Narrative. Return of the Obra Dinn is an innovative and uniquely stylized murder mystery from Lucas Pope, creator of 2013’s acclaimed Papers, Please, which took home the IGF Seumas McNally Grand Prize during the 16th Annual IGF Awards. The full presentation of the Independent Games Festival Awards (IGF Awards), can be viewed here.

Overall, the 2019 IGF Awards featured an eclectic and impressive group of winners. Excellence in Visual Art winner Mirror Drop, from developer Ian Lilley, is a psychedelic 3D puzzle game where players maneuver a reflective sphere in a world full of mirrors, over-saturated colors and infinities. The Excellence in Audio award went to Arbitrary Metric’s Paratopic, a horror-tinged adventure game that experiments with non-linear, fragmented storytelling. Opus Magnum by Zachtronics, the open-ended puzzle game where players design and build machines to carry out alchemical processes, earned the Excellence in Design award.

The Nuovo Award, which honors the title that makes jurors ‘think differently about games as a medium,’ went to developer Cassie McQuater for Black Room, a browser-based narrative game about falling asleep while on a computer connected to the internet. Players are put into the role of an insomniac on the verge of sleep, moving through shifting states of consciousness, joined by a cast of classic female video game sprites while they move through hallucinatory, pixelated landscapes.

The Best Student Game Award was given to Bahiyya Khan, Claire Meekel, Tim Flusk and Abi Meekel for their work on after HOURS, a full motion video (FMV) game about a night spent alone with a young woman suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder and experiencing the world from her unique perspective. The Audience Award was given to the hand-crafted navigation puzzle game, ETHEREAL by Nonsense Arts developers Nicolás Recabarren and Tomás Batista.

The ID@Xbox Gaming Heroes Award was awarded posthumously to Jerry Lawson, inventor of the first cartridge-based home video game system, for his contributions to games and the industry. Finally, the alt.ctrl.GDC Award for the title nominated as the best from the GDC 2019 on-site showcase of alternative control schemes and interactions in games, went to the co-operative ship-sailing survival game, HOT SWAP: All Hands On Deck by Peter Gyory and Clement Zheng.

All IGF titles, including both finalists and winners, are playable for any GDC pass holder at the IGF Pavilion located on the GDC Expo Floor in San Francisco's Moscone Center through Friday, March 22nd.

The winners of the 21st annual IGF Awards are:

  • Excellence in Visual Art ($3,000): Mirror Drop (Ian Lilley)
  • Excellence in Audio ($3,000): Paratopic (Arbitrary Metric)
  • Excellence in Design ($3,000): Opus Magnum (Zachtronics)
  • Excellence in Narrative ($3,000): Return of the Obra Dinn (Lucas Pope)
  • Nuovo Award ($3,000): Black Room (Cassie McQuater)
  • Best Student Game ($3,000): after HOURS (Bahiyya Khan, Claire Meekel, Tim Flusk, Abi Meekel)
  • Audience Award ($3,000): ETHEREAL (Nonsense Arts - Nicolás Recabarren and Tomás Batista)
  • ID@Xbox Gaming Heroes Award: Jerry Lawson
  • alt.ctrl.GDC Award ($3,000): HOT SWAP: All Hands On Deck (Peter Gyory, Clement Zheng)
  • Seumas McNally Grand Prize ($30,000): Return of the Obra Dinn (Lucas Pope)
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