Can anyone actually play enough games to pick the GOTY?

As 2022 draws to a close, the annual tradition of picking a GOTY is upon us. While there were a lot of games getting delayed this year, when looking back on the big releases like Elden Ring, God of War Ragnarök, Horizon Forbidden West, Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3 and more, it was a pretty stacked year for me personally.

A lot of great indie games came out this year as well, like As Dusk Falls, Citizen Sleeper, Cult of the Lamb, Immortality, Neon White, Rollerdrome, Scorn, SIFU, SIGNALIS, Stray, Tunic, and V Rising. And in addition to those, there was the boom of Vampire Survivors and The Backrooms followers, Tarkov-likes such as The Cycle: Frontier and Marauders, and the comeback of the Overwatch franchise.

I couldn’t be happier about having all these games to choose from. But putting aside the obvious of the sheer number of games that come out in a year, the number of live service games that will theoretically be operating for years to come is also steadily increasing. As a gamer and editor in games media, it’s an enormous amount of content to keep up with.

I aim to spend around 1,500 hours gaming over the course of a year, but that isn’t enough to cover all the hit releases. That anxious feeling that comes with not being able to keep up only increases by the year. Others in the industry probably feel the same way. Only so many people will have the money and time to comprehensively play the year’s games from AAA to indies.

This led me to wonder if there was even any point to selecting or voting for a GOTY, because ultimately, each person can only select from the games they’ve played. The Game Awards 2022 nominees just got announced, and although it’s accepting user votes, I can’t help but wonder how many of the potential voters actually played all of the nominated titles. Choosing a GOTY feels more and more unattainable as the medium diversifies.

Because there’s a limit to how much a single person can game, our editors on the Japanese version of the site generally divide up who will be playing and covering which games. But in doing this, whether the GOTY for our website is selected by team member’s votes or by discussion, only the small subset of games most of the team played will be viable candidates.

In recent years, the Japanese version of AUTOMATON has been using a vote among editors and writers to decide the GOTY, separate from each of their “personal favorite games.” But I have doubts over whether this is the optimal way. In an extreme example, a writer may have only played one of the five options nominated for the year meaning that’s the only game they can choose. A game getting a GOTY vote in that manner doesn’t really feel right. It becomes a matter where the game that the most people played wins.

Of course, it’s the same with other media like movies and music where one person can’t hope to keep up with everything. But compared to movies or music, one game takes up much more time to experience. This leaves a big gap in the range that a single person can cover and means there’s less overlap between what multiple people have covered. On top of that, there’s also the permeation of live service games which also need to be taken into consideration.

Even the definition of Game of the Year varies from person to person. Is it simply the most entertaining game? Is it the game that left the biggest impact, made the biggest innovation, had the highest production value or was the most topical?

As for The Game Awards, they do provide short explanations as to what each award category represents.

At any rate, whether it’s a large website or industry group, the GOTY selection process has its limitations which can’t be ignored. Selecting the best game for a specific genre based on votes from gamers well versed in that genre would preserve accuracy to a certain extent but selecting one GOTY across all genres is a whole different ball game.

I suspect there aren’t many people who can comprehensively play enough games across all genres to confidently pick a GOTY. With that being the case, maybe it’s best to limit the scope of these awards.

Translated by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese text