The Game Awards 2021: A Strong Show That Still Doesn’t Care Nearly Enough About Workers

After an unsurprisingly weak 2020 event, this year’s Game Awards felt like a proper celebration again, but plenty of underlying issues need to be dealt with as soon as possible.


The gaming industry has worked hard to regain a sense of normalcy since the pandemic started, and it all has paid off big time this year: many studios have put out amazing releases in 2020 despite the limitations the last 21 months or so have put on productions as complex as video games, and the “event schedule” has felt much tighter and satisfying (given the circumstances) this time around. Geoff Keighley’s 2021 Game Awards extravaganza kind of represented the gaming world we’re living in right now — it feels good to be fully back and regain lost strength, but we need to talk about crucial matters too…


The big elephant in the room this year was Activision Blizzard’s gigantic mess of workplace abuse and sexism, a toxic culture that has been cultivated across different studios and positions within the gargantuan publisher for years. Since they’ve been exposed (and many key figures have walked out), plenty of big-name partners such as Sony and Microsoft have told Activision execs they expect them to make big changes, as in… releasing more than just measly generic statements. Investors have put additional pressure on the company as well, and the bravest of the studios’ workers are organizing walkouts and trying to unionize. It’s not looking too good for the company that owns Call of Duty and Blizzard’s highly profitable IPs, but no one should forget about this matter until impactful changes are made. We personally refused to review Diablo II: Resurrected a few months ago, as Blizzard currently lies at the center of the turmoil. Of course, Call of Duty is Activision’s flagship franchise at the moment, but we’re also aware of the uphill battle the Sledgehammer folks have fought during the bulk of the pandemic, so we did review Vanguard after careful consideration.


Geoff Keighley remained neutral for as long as possible, as he’s a showman first and foremost, plus Activision figures are part of the Game Awards’ spine. But he couldn’t go on rambling about the future of the games industry and the positive values the medium promotes while also neglecting its ugliest side — he finally said last week that Activision wouldn’t be a part of The Game Awards 2021. Understandably, Keighley put out the most sterilized statement possible, but at least he acted. Moreover, the show kicked off with a rather serious monologue by him that reminded us of all the bad shit going on (and the pressing need to improve and be better) before we could have fun.



However, Keighley and his team quickly ruined the “good faith momentum” they had going on with the release of the first teaser trailer for Star Wars Eclipse right after that speech — the game’s being developed by Quantic Dream, another company hit by a sizable wave of abuse allegations and claims of a problematic internal culture. Lucasfilm Games will have to deal with plenty of negativity in order to promote the game in the coming years, and the timing of its debut during the ceremony was absolutely tone-deaf and made the impressive, gorgeous CG preview a bit of a downer. The organizers really fumbled the bag there.


Among all the (good) musical performances and an unbearable amount of small, disorganized ads, we got plenty of cool trailers and reveals. Many of them were, as usual, for games (big and small) already announced, but there were a fair amount of surprises and stuff we suspected was gonna be shown sooner rather than later, plus Sonic 2 and Halo got trailers in the film/TV side of things. Star Wars Eclipse generated lots of buzz on social media, mainly due to its all-new setting for Star Wars video games: the High Republic era, a period that’s only been mined in books and comics so far, with the Disney Plus series The Acolyte soon bringing it to TV. Besides that game, these were the biggest reveals and previews of the night:


  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes from the creators of the Friday the 13th game (a game with its ups and many downs) and promises yet another horror-themed asymmetrical multiplayer experience. The trailer only sets the tone, with gameplay nowhere to be found. A new film is arriving on Netflix on February 18, too.
  • Homeworld 3 is happening thanks to Gearbox, who acquired the IP and released hefty remasters of the original space sim/strategy games in 2015. Blackbird Interactive, who handled the 2016 prequel Deserts of Kharak, is developing the title.
  • The Expanse will end next month, but Telltale Games, who already have plenty of experience with TV properties such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, will be telling their own story set within that universe.
  • Hellblade 2 unleashed a lengthy gameplay segment that felt even more cinematic and immersive than anything in the original game, which isn’t surprising, as developer Ninja Theory is now handling Microsoft-level money after its acquisition in 2018.
  • Monolith Productions, one of the most versatile studios around, is handling Wonder Woman for WB Games. This was a total surprise, as rumors about the project hadn’t surfaced, plus the developer had remained silent ever since they were done with the post-launch content for 2017’s Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The teaser was brief and didn’t show any gameplay, but we’re guessing it’s been in development for a few years now.
  • WB Games also took the chance to debut the first-ever gameplay from Rocksteady’s upcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. We saw an in-game story trailer earlier this year, but now we’ve got an idea of how the game actually plays. The publisher is now committing to a launch sometime in 2022.



  • Alan Wake is back! Remedy Entertainment surprised everyone with the announcement of Alan Wake 2, currently set to launch in 2023. The titular character appeared in Control, Remedy’s latest game, setting up a shared universe focused on the paranormal, but the sequel has taken a bit longer to materialize. Legendary writer Sam Lake also confirmed this will be Remedy’s first venture into full-blown survival horror, so don’t expect a completely familiar experience.
  • Studio MDHR has finally given the long-awaited Cuphead DLC The Delicious Last Course, first announced in 2018, a release date: June 30, 2022. We wouldn’t be surprised if, after four years, this expansion is almost sequel-sized.
  • Alongside the trailer for the second Sonic film, SEGA shared a first look at Sonic Frontiers, which looks very much like Breath of the Wild but make it Sonic. I’m down with that.
  • Focus Entertainment and Saber Interactive (World War Z, Evil Dead) wowed everyone by unveiling the least likely Warhammer game sequel ever: Space Marine II. Tyranid hordes are now the main enemy, and its blood-soaked, third-person action looks splendid. The first installment was developed by (typically RTS maestros) Relic Entertainment and published by SEGA, who recently released an Anniversary Edition free for all owners of the game.
  • Dune is making a video game comeback too! And, unsurprisingly, its return to the gaming world will be a 4X RTS title aptly called Spice Wars. Funnily enough, I recently wrote a piece elsewhere about the need for new Dune video games, so this one put a smile on my face.



  • From Software gifted fans a story-focused CG trailer for Elden Ring, the highly anticipated action-RPG in the vein of the Dark Souls series. They always release one or two trailers like this one, and they’re always beautiful and epic. February 22 is the launch date, and I’m pretty sure fans (such as myself) couldn’t handle another delay.
  • ARC Raiders comes from Embark Studios, a Stockholm-based studio formed by ex-DICE devs, and promises post-apocalyptic multiplayer action against evil robots. It might not sound very original, but its large-scale environments and off-beat aesthetic look very refreshing. It’s coming in 2022, and we can’t wait to see more.
  • The Matrix Awakens, a free interactive UE5 tech demo for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, had been announced in advance (and could be pre-loaded), but Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss introduced it to viewers and let everyone know it was available to play right after the ceremony. I’ve already played the thing, and it’s a mind-blowing ultra-realistic graphical showcase that you have to experience firsthand. Trust me, videos and streams don’t do it justice. Hopefully, game studios will be able to harness all that untapped power in the coming years to craft full-scale triple-A experiences that border photorealism.



Hazelight Studios’ lovable co-op adventure It Takes Two took the big “Game of the Year” prize home in one of the show’s biggest twists in recent memory. Competition was strong, and most people were looking at Deathloop, Ratchet & Clank, or even Metroid Dread as the likely winners, but EA bagged the win with one of their smaller studios. Filmmaker-turned-developer Josef Fares, a Game Awards icon by now, and his team have been relentlessly trying to innovate in the realm of co-op adventures for years now, and it’s great to see an “underdog” title get the biggest level of recognition possible.


Among the much-discussed “snubs” was Deathloop winning “Best Art Direction” over the other four, more stylish competitors. I mean, it looks great and has a strong style, but the general opinion is that the other picks felt way more visually refreshing and unique. Kena: Bridge of Spirits nabbing “Best Indie Game” was a head-scratcher as well, since other nominees such as Inscryption and Loop Hero came up with more out-of-the-box experiences with way less resources, plus Kena got the “Best Debut Indie Game” award too. It was also disappointing to see the hosts blast through plenty of smaller categories in order to cram more ads and previews into the show. The Game Awards won’t feel like “video game Academy Awards” until they stop feeling like a big fat commercial. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all tuning in for the reveals and trailers above everything else, but let’s show and give the folks behind our favorite games the love and respect they deserve. And by that I mean the actual people that make them and not just the visible heads. I’ve got more recurring complaints, but I already covered those in last year’s recap article, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record.


Check out the full list of winners below:


Game of the Year

Deathloop – Arkane Studios
It Takes Two – Hazelight Studios
Metroid Dread – MercurySteam, Nintendo
Psychonauts 2 – Double Fine
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – Insomniac Games
Resident Evil Village – Capcom

Best Game Direction

It Takes Two
Psychonauts 2
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Best Narrative

It Takes Two
Life is Strange: True Colors
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Psychonauts 2

Best Art Direction

Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Psychonauts 2
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
The Artful Escape

Best Score/Music

Cyberpunk 2077
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
The Artful Escape

Best Audio Design

Forza Horizon 5
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Resident Evil Village

Best Performance

Erika Mori, Life is Strange
Giancarlo Esposito, Far Cry 6
Jason E. Kelley, Deathloop
Maggie Robertson, Resident Evil Village
Ozioama Akagha, Deathloop

Games for Impact

Before Your Eyes
Boyfriend Dungeon
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Life is Strange: True Colors
No Longer Home

Best Ongoing Game

Apex Legends
Call of Duty: War Zone
Final Fantasy XIV Online
Genshin Impact

Best Indie Game

12 Minutes
Death’s Door
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Loop Hero

Best Debut Indie Game 

Kena: Bridge of Spirits
The Artful Escape
The Forgotten City

Best Mobile Game

Genshin Impact
League of Legends
MARVEL Future Revolution
Pokémon Unite

Best Community Support

Apex Legends: Escape
Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Final Fantasy XIV Online
No Man’s Sky

Best VR/AR Game

Hitman III
I Expect You to Die 2
Lone Echo II
Resident Evil 4
Sniper Elite VR

Innovation in Accessibility

Far Cry 6
Forza Horizon 5
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
The Vale: Shadow of the Crown

Best Action Game

Back 4 Blood
Chivalry II
Far Cry 6

Best Action/Adventure Game

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Metroid Dread
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Resident Evil Village
Psychonauts 2

Best RPG

Cyberpunk 2077
Monster Hunter Rise
Scarlet Nexus
Shin Megami Tensei V
Tales of Arise

Best Fighting Game

Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles
Guilty Gear -Strive-
Melty Blood: Type Lumina
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl
Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown

Best Family Game

It Takes Two
Mario Party Superstars
New Pokémon Snap
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
WarioWare: Get It Together!

Best Sports/Racing Game

F1 2021
Fifa 22
Hot Wheels Unleashed
Forza Horizon 5
Riders Republic

Best SIM/Strategy Game

Age of Empires IV
Evil Genius 2: World Domination
Microsoft Flight Simulator

Best Multiplayer Game

Back 4 Blood
It Takes Two
Knockout City
Monster Hunter Rise
New World

Content Creator of the Year


Best Esports Athlete

Chris “Simp” Lehr
Heo “ShowMaker” Su
Magomed “Collapse” Khalilov
Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev
Tyson “TenZ” Ngo

Best Esports Coach

Airat “Silent” Gaziev
Andrey “ENGH” Sholokhov
Andrii “B1ad3” Horodenskyi
James “Crowder” Crowder
Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun

Best Esports Event

The International 2021
2021 League of Legends World Championship
Valorant Champions Tour: Stage 2 Masters
PGL Major Stockholm 2021
PUBG Mobile Global Championship 2020

Best Esports Game

Call of Duty
League of Legends

Best Esports Team 

Atlanta FaZe, Call of Duty
DWG KIA, League of Legends
Team Spirit, DOTA2
Sentinels, Valorant

Most Anticipated Game

Elden Ring
God of War: Ragnarok
Horizon Forbidden West
The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild