New award celebrates video games as culture

New award celebrates video games as culture

Minecraft isn’t just a game, it’s a work of art — and that’s official.

That’s the verdict of judges at the UK’s GameCity event, which aims to celebrate video games in a cultural context. Though the festival, organized by Nottingham Trent University, has been running for five years, this is the first time it has held an awards ceremony.

The prize was not simply for the “best game” chosen by gaming industry experts as with most such ceremonies. Instead a secret expert panel chose a shortlist, and then a jury of non-gamers of a variety of cultural backgrounds were asked to decide which was the most “interesting, exciting and excellent.”

The panel included politician Tom Watson (who was something of a ringer, being a keen gamer when he’s not interrogating Rupert Murdoch), musicians Dave Rowntree and You Me at Six, actress Frances Barber, financial journalist James Crabtree, and comedian and author Charlie Higson.

The short list was:

  • Kinect-based rhythm and music “experience” Child of Eden;
  • puzzle game ilomilol;
  • noir-ish puzzler LIMBO;
  • cube construction sandbox Minecraft;
  • adult version of child classic Pokemon Black;
  • spatial awareness destroyer Portal 2;
  • old-school adventurer Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.

Announcing the winner, judges panel chair Jude Kelly said “Minecraft is the ultimate zeitgeist game that appeals on so many levels. The creative possibilities of this ever-expanding game are limited only by ones imagination.”

Ironically Minecraft won despite not having officially been released yet. Four million downloads in, it’s still technically in beta edition, with a formal release scheduled for next month.

Minecraft is somewhere between a true sandbox “open” game and a more traditional competitive game. The free edition simply allows players to build their own worlds using blocks of different materials. The paid version introduces a survival mode, where players must evade attacks from mobs during nighttime, while building resources are limited and players can only access a certain number of tools at any one time.

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