BAFTA Games Awards 2015
With each year that passes, the impact of the BAFTA Games Awards grows in prominence. What initially felt like an offshoot from the film and television industry back-slapping has now grown into an equally important celebration of the best in games from the past year, complete with a glitzy ceremony now livestreamed to the masses via Twitch. But what about the backstage gossip, the behind-the-scenes peek, the inner workings of the mind of Tim Schafer? Luckily, The Digital Fix was there to find out…
Held at Tobacco Dock, a converted warehouse complex near Wapping, the 2015 BAFTA Games Awards handily took place immediately next to EGX Rezzed. While convenient for many developers and games journos, it did mean there was a bizarre but rather lovely crossover as fans made their exit from the halls of demo pods and screens, only to be confronted by the great and good of the industry lining up to walk the red carpet. Like any other BAFTA ceremony the dress code for the night was black tie; needless to say, you can’t stifle the unconventional creativity of game devs with a mere dress suggestion. Bright orange suits, pockets filled with plushie carrots or miniature facehuggers - all were present (handily hinting towards dev-team affiliations as well!).
Rufus Hound was on presenting duties for the night, introduced in a fun skit riffing on numerous game series and tropes. It allowed previous host Dara O’Briain a chance to hand over the baton as well, coaching Hound through the intricacies of the Konami Code. The show began with speeches from Anne Morrison, Chair of the Academy, and an opening number by Video Games Live singer Riva Taylor. The award for Best Music was the appropriate first gong, presented by Taylor and Bond composer David Arnold to the team behind Far Cry 4’s ethnic soundscape. Speaking with David Arnold, he revealed that he hasn’t played many games recently but that the soundtracks, in his opinion, just keep getting better and better. Collecting the Best Music award on behalf of ex-Red Hot Chilis drummer Cliff Martinez, the lead developer of the game said it was Martinez’ previous work on film such as Drive that made him the perfect choice for Far Cry’s unique soundscape. Far Cry 4 winning the award was the first surprise of the night. Granted, Destiny hadn’t even been nominated despite a brilliant score, but Alien: Isolation was hotly tipped for success, especially given the presence of composing duo The Flight in the BAFTA audience on the night.
By this point winners and presenters were trundling down the backstage red-carpet thick and fast. Ex-Rare bod Martin Hollis presented the award for Best Story to Naughty Dog for The Last of Us: Left Behind, collected by the gracious Ashley Johnson who voices Ellie in the game. We spoke to her way back at the press event for the launch of The Last of Us and she was equally as charming, insightful and gracious, carefully avoiding any hints towards a sequel but fully awed by the hugely positive response to the game. Johnson would go on to win for Best Performer later in the evening - a testament to her brilliantly nuanced delivery in an additional chapter we considered as essential as the game itself. Meanwhile, Hollis - director of seminal classics Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64 - reminisced about working with Grant Kirkhope, even going so far to reveal his nicknames ‘The Ape Man’ and ‘Monkey Boy’, noting that ‘Grant’ll kill me if he hears me say this!’ Oops.
Best Sports Game was another huge but rather pleasant surprise. Presented by Linford Christie - who confessed he hasn’t played a game in fifteen years but would love to see a new track and field title - the award went to Roll7 for the quite brilliant OlliOlli. Beating the likes of FIFA is no small feat, so it was in a state of advanced refreshment that we spoke to John Ribbons, Simon Bennett and Tom Hegarty. Still in shock at having met Linford Christie, the chaps were on form in batting down questions of working on a sequel. ‘We have been - it was released two days ago!’ they told one journalist, referencing the newly released OlliOlli 2. They also revealed the game was initially called OlliOlliOlli but it became too annoying to say - everyone would respond ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’
There was an audible gasp when Andrea Deck, presenter of the award for Best Artistic Achievement, revealed she was the voice of Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation to our huddle of oblivious journos. Prompting questions of a sequel (gracefully avoided), the music in the game (‘perfect for a horror game’) and a potential role in Neill Blomkamp’s movie sequel, Deck was enthusiastic but reticent to give too much information away. The winner of the Best Artistic Achievement award were another small development team triumphing over titans - in this case, the mammoth figures of Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4. State of Play Games wonderfully tactile approach to Lumino City - making physical models to photograph for the game - gave them the edge, the team eager to continue making unconventional yet beautiful games in the future.
Best Family Game naturally went to Minecraft (the console versions) while the team behind Monument Valley had no time for interviews given the sheer number of awards for which they were nominated. Winning for Best Mobile & Handheld Game, they had to quickly be shuttled back into the ceremony in case they won another. They went on to also win Best British Game, proving one of the most successful games of the night.
It was fantastic to see smaller projects also pick up awards - The Vanishing of Ethan Carter won Best Innovation for its pioneering environment capture technology while the charming Valiant Hearts won for Best Original Property. Never Alone picked up the Debut Game award while the ubiquitous Hearthstone won for Best Multiplayer.
By this point, the legend that is Tim Schafer was winding his way towards us, having just presented the award for Best Game Design to the Shadow of Mordor team. Upon reaching the horde of microphones and voice recorders, Schafer ordered the assembled group to ‘ask their question at the same time on the count of three’ and the jovial answers didn’t let up. Interesting tidbits included the confirmation that second part of Broken Age is very close - Schafer had been playing the Vita version on the plane in order to iron out the last few bugs. It’s still on track for Spring - Schafer asked when the last day of Spring officially was - and that it ‘won’t be out next week… but… y’know… maybe after that’. It’s coming, people.
Midway through the Schafer scrum there was a tumultuous outcry, a mixture of shock and dismay that came from the main ceremony and reverberated around the press room. Destiny had won Best Game - a controversial decision if ever there was one. A testament to its divisive gameplay, hearing the response from the massed developers was something you’d rarely hear in other industry. Whether it was worthy is up for debate, but it was Destiny’s only award of the night.
Rounding off the evening, Ian Livingstone presented David Braben with the BAFTA Fellowship - entirely earned - and that was it. It was a shame only the winners and presenters were offered for interview - Troy Baker, Melissa Hutchison and Adam Harrington were all in attendance - but it was an honour to meet some true gaming legends. It was one of the most surprising ceremonies of the year, leaving a diverse group of winners with a skew towards smaller projects. BAFTA has always nurtured new talent and one can only see immensely positive things forthcoming from the winners this time around. Here’s to 2016!