The Game Awards 2020: An Indulgent and Disjointed Celebration of Gaming

This year’s Game Awards ceremony was, for better or worse, exactly what we expected.


In a year marked by the global COVID-19 pandemic, video games have thrived. People have spent more time than ever inside their homes, and that means turning to streaming services and video games as the main source of entertainment. The industry made a ton of cash. Some of the most anticipated games of the past few years finally hit shelves. And the next generation of consoles also arrived in the form of Xbox Series S/X and PS5. It’s a good time to be into video games.


Geoff Keighley, famous game journalist-turned-guru, has put a lot of work into bringing companies, celebrities, and players together in a time of crisis. There’s no denying that. From the innovative but fragmented Summer Game Fest to this month’s Game Awards, Keighley and his partners managed to salvage the usual circuit of events and conferences. And we thank him for that. The ceremony, which took place on Dec. 10 and aired live from three different audience-less locations, included a number of special guests and some musical performances that certainly elevated the whole videoconference-heavy ordeal.


The ugly side of this year’s coin has been crunch and problematic practices inside major AAA game studios. Naughty Dog caught a lot of flak from ex-employees who denounced problematic behaviors inside the company and an unhealthy amount of work hours during the development of The Last of Us: Part II. CD Projekt Red bosses crunched their way through the calendar in order to deliver the long-gestating Cyberpunk 2077 (which missed the deadline for 2020’s awards) in time for Christmas. Ubisoft workers pulled back the curtain on years and years of sexism, harassment, and abuse across different studios of the French developer-publisher. It goes on and on. Video games are cool, but the industry behind them sure as hell ain’t. This platform offered a chance to politely condemn these wrongdoings and the very nature of the work put into massive productions under the current model of organization and development cycles, a chance to call for something better. But we got a lot of publicity and applauses instead of that.



Then there’s the issue of filling most of the night with random special guests from the movie industry. I get it, video games are an audiovisual medium which shares a lot in common with cinema. But does a celebration of gaming really need external validation for the sake of it? For an industry so concerned with becoming “respectable” and “a valid art form”, it sure spends of a lot of time asking for outside help. Gamers all over the world don’t need Gal Gadot or Christopher Nolan (yes, really) telling them games are an amazing vehicle for storytelling. They already know it. And the medium already has its own legends and icons. We should give them that space and attention. We need to know more about the people behind the games, much like we do with cinema.


Among the usual onslaught of game reveals and announcements, there were some biggies:


  • Final Fantasy VII‘s Sephiroth was announced as the latest fighter coming to Nintendo Switch’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
  • A new Perfect Dark is coming from Microsoft’s The Initiative studio. Talk about a blast from the past!
  • Back 4 Blood, which is pretty much an unofficial Left 4 Dead 3 made by… the creators of Left 4 Dead, arrives next summer. Also: gameplay demo here.
  • The first gameplay trailer for Fatshark’s Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, a follow-up to their Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide co-op shooters/brawlers.
  • A new sneak peek at the much-anticipated fourth Dragon Age game. No title or further info until the Maker knows when.
  • Ark 2 received a cinematic reveal trailer starring Vin Diesel because why not. Let’s hope this online adventure is more polished than its predecessor.
  • A new Evil Dead game which hopefully won’t be a rushed cash-in.
  • The new game from Josef Fares (“f**k the Oscars” dude) and Hazelight is It Takes Two, and it looks super fun and imaginative.
  • Oddworld: Soulstorm is finally aiming for a spring 2021 release date with its new trailer.
  • The Gates of Oblivion need to be closed again in the first teaser for next year’s The Elder Scrolls Online expansion.
  • Mass Effect is back with a sequel to the third game’s bonkers ending. With a team of veterans working on it, let’s hope for the best after the disappointment that was 2017’s Andromeda.


Unsurprisingly, The Last of Us: Part II, which garnered global acclaim back in June, won the biggest prize of the night and became “Game of the Year” despite some fierce competition. It also nabbed more awards, including “Game Direction”, which is kind of sad. I already mentioned Naughty Dog’s problems with crunch culture in this article, and watching Neil Druckmann receive that prize felt bad. He’s an amazing director and writer, don’t get me wrong, but directing goes (or should go) beyond that. Developers should feel comfortable working on incredible projects like these, and all the walkouts and bad publicity that have hit the studio over the last couple of years scream the opposite. Something is broken inside Naughty Dog (and many other big studios), and Druckmann’s growing control over the company is worrying. Many veterans walked out under his watch, and maybe he’s not the best boss, or maybe the studio as a whole has become too obsessed with delivering the best of the best since the release of the first The Last of Us. We don’t know the whole story, but we certainly shouldn’t reward success built on unwilling sacrifice.


Hades, one of this year’s indie sensations missed the big rewards but won the “Indie Game” and “Action Game” awards, which should bring even more attention to it. Somehow, it lost “Art Direction” to Ghost of Tsushima (which is also pretty). Among Us snuck in and nabbed the “Mobile Game” and “Multiplayer Game” awards after taking the world by storm and destroying uncountable friendships. Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that Half-Life: Alyx deservedly received the “VR Game” award after being left out of the big leagues.


Check out the full list of winners below.


Game of the Year

The Last of Us Part II – Naughty Dog (WINNER)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Nintendo
Doom Eternal – id Software
Final Fantasy VII Remake – Square Enix
Ghost of Tsushima – Sucker Punch
Hades – Supergiant Games


Game Direction

The Last of Us Part II – Naughty Dog (WINNER)
Final Fantasy VII Remake – Square Enix
Ghost of Tsushima – Sucker Punch
Hades – Supergiant Games
Half-Life Alyx – Valve


Most Anticipated Game

Elden Ring – From Software/Bandai Namco (WINNER)
Halo Infinite – 343/Xbox Game Studios
Horizon Forbidden West – Guerrilla Games/SIE
God of War Sequel – SIE Santa Monica/SIE
Resident Evil Village – Capcom
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel – Nintendo



The Last of Us Part II (WINNER)
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Ghost of Tsushima


Art Direction

Ghost of Tsushima (WINNER)
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
The Last of Us Part II


Score and Music

Final Fantasy VII Remake (WINNER)
Doom Eternal
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
The Last of Us Part II


Audio Design

The Last of Us Part II (WINNER)
Doom Eternal
Half-Life: Alyx
Ghost of Tsushima
Resident Evil 3



Laura Bailey – Abby, The Last of Us Part II (WINNER)
Ashley Johnson – Ellie, The Last of Us Part II
Daisuke Tsuji – Jin, Ghost of Tsushima
Logan Cunningham – Hades, Hades
Nadji Jeterm – Miles Morales, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales


Games for Impact

Tell Me Why (WINNER)
If Found…
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
Through Darkest of Times


Ongoing Game

No Man’s Sky (WINNER)
Apex Legends
Destiny 2
Call of Duty: Warzone


Indie Game

Hades (WINNER)
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Spelunky 2


Debut Indie Game

Phasmophobia (WINNER)
Mortal Shell
Raji: An Acient Epic


Mobile Game

Among Us (WINNER)
Call of Duty Mobile
Genshin Impact
Legends of Runeterra
Pokémon Cafe Mix


Community Support

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (WINNER)
Apex Legends
Destiny 2
No Man’s Sky


VR/AR Game

Half-Life: Alyx (WINNER)
Marvel’s Iron Man VR
Star Wars: Squadrons
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners


Innovation in Accessibility

The Last of Us Part II (WINNER)
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Watch Dogs Legion


Action Game

Hades (WINNER)
Doom Eternal
Half-Life: Alyx
Nioh 2
Streets of Rage 4


Action/Adventure Game

The Last of Us Part II (WINNER)
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Ghost of Tsushima
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order



Final Fantasy VII Remake (WINNER)
Genshin Impact
Persona 5 Royal
Wasteland 3
Yakuza: Like a Dragon


Fighting Game

Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (WINNER)
Granblue Fantasy: Versus
Street Fighter V: Champion Edition
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows
Under Night In-Birth
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[cl-r]


Family Game

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (WINNER)
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
Minecraft Dungeons
Paper Mario: The Origami King


Sim/Strategy Game

Microsoft Flight Simulator (WINNER)
Crusader Kings 3
Desperados 3
Gears Tactics
XCOM: Chimera Squad


Sports/Racing Game

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (WINNER)
Dirt 5
F1 2020
NBA 2K21


Multiplayer Game

Among Us (WINNER)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Call of Duty: Warzone
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout


Content Creator of the Year

Valkyrae (WINNER)
Alanah Pearce
Jay Ann Lopez


Esports Athlete

Heo “Showmaker” Su (WINNER)
Ian “Crimsix” Porter
Kim “Canyon” Geon-Bu
Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro
Matthieu “Zywoo” Herbaut


Esports Coach

Danny “Zonic” Sorensen (WINNER)
Dae-Hee “Crusty” Park
Fabian “Grabbz” Lohmann
Lee “Zefa” Jae-Min
Raymond “Rambo” Lussier


Esports Event

League of Legends World Championship 2020 (WINNER)
Blast Premier: Spring 2020 European Finals
Call of Duty League Championship 2020
IEM Katowice 2020
Overwatch League Grand Finals 2020


Esports Game

League of Legends (WINNER)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive


Esports Host

Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere (WINNER)
Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez
Alex “Machine” Richardson
James “Dash” Patterson
Jorien “Sheever” Van der Heijden


Esports Team

G2 Esports (WINNER)
Damwon Gaming
Dallas Empire
San Francisco Shock
Team Secret