So, the Game Awards, eh? If you're reading this, you probably already know that COD: Mobile ended up being crowned the best mobile game of the year. Its victory came across as one of the few duds in an evening of otherwise passable, and occasionally even deserving, winners.
In any other year, I likely wouldn't question the decision. But 2019 has been a time of exciting change for parts of the mobile games industry, with the advent of Apple Arcade and, uh, Google Play Pass. Apple's current ability to provide smaller developers with the funding and reassurance they need to launch on mobile has resulted in over a dozen GOTY contenders arriving in these last few months alone.
Even in a world where Apple Arcade never came to fruition, it still would have been a great 12 months. Cast your mind back to February and you've got Memory of God's The Stillness of the Wind, a humane and affecting title that achieves its power through purposefully unconventional gameplay and its creator's genuine empathy for their challenging protagonist.
April gave us the excellent Distraint 2, a brutal odyssey into the wider impact of our own struggles to survive in a system that allows for the easy dehumanisation of others. April also saw the release of Photographs, another thematically difficult title that makes great use of your mobile device to tell a series of uncomfortable and illuminating tales.
Along came Ordia in May, the "one-finger flinger". It's much more recognisable as a traditional mobile game experience, with a great central mechanic that it's able to explore to the fullest extent. Immortal Rogue was another one that absolutely nailed its refined, mobile-friendly gameplay, offering one of the best roguelike loops of the year on any platform.
Most recently, we had Sam Barlow's discomforting detective thriller, Telling Lies. Quite why this didn't even garner a nomination is beyond me. I mean, it's a well-reviewed follow-up to one of the most acclaimed indie games of the decade, boasting terrific performances from a recognisable cast of Hollywood talent and a compelling, twisty, and personal tale of paranoia. What? Why? How?...
The point is that we've seen so many quality games of all types on mobile that the jury's decision to shrug and pass it off to something like COD: Mobile feels incredibly half-assed. Other nominees include What the Golf?, Grindstone, Sky: Children of Light, and Sayonara Wild Hearts. All great games, all very deserving winners.
And their loss is doubly frustrating when we continue to see strides forward in other categories like Best Narrative, Best RPG, and especially Best Independent Game of the Year.
None of this is to say that Call of Duty: Mobile is a bad game: it's not. I just think it was a tone-deaf choice in a year of genuinely interesting alternatives.
Obviously nobody (besides apparently me) takes the Game Awards that seriously. Every year we see the recurring joke about them being an extended ad, which is becoming truer over time. But during what is supposed to be "gaming's biggest night of the year", I think it's fair to want and ask for better.Vote for YOUR Game of the Year in the Pocket Gamer People's Choice Award 2020