Just a little guy.
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Onward and upwards. Day three launches into the sky with the confidence of John, Ryan, Rose, and Niall soaring high only to be brought down by a hidden saboteur. On this day we discuss and determine winners for Best Multiplayer, Best Robot, Best Character, Worst Character, and Best Performance.
Best Multiplayer: Overwatch
Runners-up: Monster Hunter: Generations, Titanfall 2
Too often multiplayer is just a stand in for “wannabe eSport.” Even games solely focused on delivering a multiplayer experience resemble complicated ballets of cooperation instead of fun and competitive. Overwatch stepped out into a crowded space and declared their intent to take over. Overwatch delivered colorful characters that ooze personality, balanced gameplay, and a loot system that rewards your time with ridiculous skins, sprays, and emotes. It allows every kind of player to jump in a contribute to their team. If you rush in too often, maybe you’ll prefer the damage dealing tank Roadhog. If you like to hang back and snipe, Widowmaker or Hanzo would fit you well. Or maybe you just wanna help out, Lucio or Mercy would match up. Overwatch just melts together in a way only Blizzard could, with wonderful designs and deep mechanics that means new and veteran players keep coming back for more.
Best Robot: Dorothy Haze (VA-11 HALL-A)
Runners-up: Shitbot (Dreamfall Chapters), BT-7274 (Titanfall 2)
Surprisingly, 2016 delivered again on the robot front, offering up no less than eight exceptional examples of erudite electronics. However, the most interesting and charismatic has to be VA-11 HALL-A’s Dorothy Haze, a robot sex worker and close companion of protagonist Jill. In addition to injecting humor into the narrative, Dorothy commands an unforgettable presence and magnetic personality. She also transcends her potentially two-dimensional and dodgy character premise, becoming a real individual with a real heart and real motivations. Beneath her genuine enthusiasm for her job are deep anxieties over how she is perceived by her former foster mother, over what would happen if she is “replaced,” and over her existence as a robot in general. Dorothy’s position in life is a unique angle on questions of artificial intelligence rarely broached with any seriousness by futuristic narratives, and VA-11 HALL-A delivers the concept with aplomb. 34 years after Blade Runner posited the question of whether robots could be “more human than human,” Dorothy is proof that such inquiries are still worth discussing,- and that they can be addressed with both humor and pathos alike.
Best Character: Jill (VA-11 HALL-A)
Runners-up: Nanu (Pokemon Sun/Moon), Alex (Oxenfree)
From the first customer you serve, it’s immediately apparent that Jill is her own character with her own personal opinions, regardless of how well thought out they are. As the story goes on, and the world around her changes, Jill isn’t left behind. A person is the sum of their experiences, and seeing Jill warm up to the boisterous Dorothy, freeze up at bad memories, and continuously hate Rad Shiba all help piece together what kind of person she is. As you conversationally probe through the bar regulars’ lives, you’re also probing through Jill’s, and figuring out what kind of person she was or is becomes just as intriguing in itself. Whether she’s behind the bar or in front of it, Jill feels less like a character, and more like a person, and that’s exactly the type of person you’d want mixing your drinks, long into the night.
Worst Character: Jesse/Patton Oswalt (Minecraft: Story Mode)
Runners-up: Thomas Burke (Mafia 3), Ren (Oxenfree)
I’m not sure anyone expected Telltale’s take on a Minecraft story to be any good, but I’m also not sure anyone expected its main character to be just so vitriolically sinful. From the very first episode, even if you’re playing them as a “good” character, you can see what kind of shitbag Jesse is to everyone around them. Each subsequent episode only serves as a trail marker in the life of serial abuser Jesse, who continues to egregiously hurt friend and foe alike, all while wearing the moniker of “hero.” Even worse, Jesse’s lifelong companion, Reuben the pig, ends up being forced to give their life for Jesse’s sake, after hours of being beaten and berated, for no reason at all. The cherry on-top of this terrible terrible sundae is that the male version of Jesse is voiced by one of the smarmiest assholes of all time, Patton Oswalt, who really makes it clear this all had to be Telltale’s intention.
Fuck you Jesse. Fuck you Patton. Rest in Peace Reuben.
Best Performance: Rich Sommer as Henry (Firewatch)
Runners-up: Alex Hernandez as Lincoln Clay (Mafia 3), Jon St. Jon as Duke Nukem (Duke Nukem 3D: World Tour)
The measure of a truly great acting performance comes in its subtlety, the vague nuances of human behavior that make a good performance great, and there was inarguably no more nuanced and human a performances as Rich Sommer’s portrayal of Henry. The role of the every-man is a common one across media, but it’s the little things Sommer communicates in Firewatch that put him over the edge. He runs the gamut of emotions from depression to contentment, from anxiety and fear to genuine, real compassion and imbues the otherwise faceless Henry with personality above and beyond what an already excellent script calls for. Sommer helps makes Firewatch what it is, and deserves a fitting reward.