Despite the setbacks of the coronavirus, the Bafta Games Awards prove that video games are still as vital

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FForgotten inside by the devouring coronavirus pandemic, most of us are drawn like butterflies by the glow of our television screens. Video games are particularly well placed to take advantage of locking; they can be purchased, downloaded and used, all from the comfort of your own home. They require large chunks of time, sometimes overlapping the time equivalent of whole movie franchises or even long-running TV series in one game.

Video games also offer a sense of proxy evasion that no other medium can match. Through a mechanical control pad, players are released from their physical confinement and are free to roam the streets or the cosmos as they please. It is through this lens that reports on the surge in the gaming industry’s coronavirus are generally framed.

The Bafta Games Awards, the annual ceremony celebrating the industry’s greatest achievements of the year, are taking place via livestream tonight, with Dara O Briain poised to host. The nominations are a recognition of the game’s powerful breakout allure – and the skilled craftsmanship that takes place on the stages. But more than that, they represent an acknowledgment that the game is more than just unadorned entertainment – that it can have a deeper and more meaningful purpose, especially in times of hardship.

The complete list of nominees is vast and varied, covering everything from monstrously popular battle royale games such as Fortnite and Apex Legends to independent gems like Planet Zoo. However, several games stand out from the crowd: Stranding death and Control, who, with 11 nominations each, broke the record for most Bafta nominations in a single game.

Stranding death, created by Metal Gear Solid author Hideo Kojima, is a PS4 game that speaks only in our time. The game tells the story of Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus), a delivery man who travels the post-apocalyptic United States to connect people using a futuristic Internet-like network.

It’s a single player, but players are able to build things like bridges, roads and ladders and place them in the online world so that others can use them; in both the message and the method, Stranding death intuitively explores isolation and connection to the digital age. The reaction to the game has been fully divided, with many people discouraged by its slow, exploration-oriented gameplay and its clunky, clunky dialogue in jargon (a possible reason why it was not nominated for the best game) , but when Stranding death clicks is transcendent.

Control is a slightly more conventional action game, developed by Remedy Entertainment, located entirely in a Tardis-style government building occupied by the Federal Bureau of Control. As the new office manager, Jesse Faydon, you must rid the building of a sinister paranormal threat known as “The Hiss”, using a living, physics-defying firearm.

It’s a great game, mixing beloved science fiction tropes like The X-Files with a solid amount of his own invention. And, according to Mikael Kasurinen, ControlFrom the director, it is of particular relevance now. “We wanted to bring some realism to the supernatural phenomena, to make them feel like complex disasters that can be crippling, large and unexpected,” he said, “largely reflecting real disaster scenarios like oil spills or, yes, pandemics. “

“It also relates to the fundamental principles of the human condition,” he continued, “and is linked to what we live in the world today. We see different behaviors in the face of vast unknown forces – there is fear, anger, greed, heroism. “

” However, Control also shows the value of measured consideration: treat the unknown with respect, take your time and be careful, and you will understand it. Also, wash your hands. “

Sam Lake, one of the game’s authors and creative director of Remedy, agrees. ” In Control, we are stuck, desperately trying to stop this force from spreading further, trying to find a cure. I would also say that the view of this story is that there is always hope. It is not too late to fix things. “

Video games can indeed inspire hope. It’s an idea that resonates in another nominated project for Bafta: the radically impressive role-playing game of ZA / UM Disco Elysium. In Disco Elysium, you live in a drug and smoking police detective who is investigating a lynching near a union of dockers in Revachol, a fictional town in an alternative reality, similar to Earth.

Norman Reedus and Léa Seydoux in Hideo Kojima’s sci-fi death tale

Among Disco ElysiumCountless influences are Cardboard Computer’s point-and-click masterpiece Kentucky Route Zero, artists such as Rembrandt and Ilya Repinand David Simon’s TV paragon Thread. You can see ThreadThe legacy of the game’s political insight into the relationship between its two main detectives, even among Revachol dockers, who passively recall the Baltimore longshoremen of the second season of the HBO series.

As you can imagine, Disco Elysium is a weight game and is mature in a way that outperforms most adult video games. This should not be off-putting, however. Aleksander Rostov, Disco ElysiumThe art director of ’’ says, half-joking, “the notion that this game is somehow cynical or bleak is enemy propaganda. It’s the most promising game we’ve ever made. “

Rostov spoke to me with Helen Hindpere, the game’s main editor, Disco ElysiumSeven Bafta appointments. “I have some thoughts on this,” he said of the success of the match. “One of them is the contemporary political situation. With the rise of not-so-real fascists in America, the hiccups that socialism experienced, the failure of Labor in the UK in the last election, people are like, ‘oh, there is a game that is relevant to modern times in a way that games generally do not. “”

What does it mean for a game to be relevant? Disco Elysium contains superficial echoes of current headlines – for example, hidden in the expansive mass of the backdrop is the revelation that the gaming world has suffered a deadly pandemic, giving rise to areas of socialist utopia. But creators, like the game itself, keep the focus on a bigger picture, on broader socio-political and emotional perspectives.

“I think it talks about disconnecting people,” says Hindpere. “Because everyone feels quite disconnected from the political establishment. We are all extremely connected people. I guess our players are also extremely online. So they understand this quick, ironic but still very politically worried attitude about this game. ”

“What the coronavirus has done is show us the wealth gap between people,” she said. “Right now, we mainly have white-collar workers who can work from home, everything goes normally, and then it is only the people who work on the front lines for us – who maintain society – who are in danger. In Disco Elysium, Revachol is incredibly working class. If the [coronavirus] the crisis was to happen in Revachol, it would probably be played out in the same way. “

Two police detectives go up in smoke in ZA / UM’s remarkable RPG ‘Disco Elysium’

Some people, of course, might back away from the perceived heaviness of Disco Elysium. You only have to take a look at the record sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons last week – and the overabundance of criticism applauding its speed – to realize that there is a public appetite for head relief in the sand of relentless news headlines.

And, for their part, the Baftas also recognize games like these. Untitled Goose Game, the unlikely hit of 2019 in which you control a wandering goose causing mischief in a small English village, is shortlisted for four awards tonight, including for the best game. Its simple gameplay belies respect for daily social order ; with players everywhere trapped inside the self-isolation, Untitled Goose Game is a vibrant reminder of how things were.

Likewise, four nominations went to an elegant, family-friendly British game Knights and bikes, developed by Foam Sword. Its creators, Moo Yu and Rex Crowle, note the appeal of the game – “exploring new and exciting environments while staying inside.” But, Crowle insists: “In his themes, he also tries to respond to some of the harshest realities faced by isolated rural communities.” Escape is not necessarily forgetting.

Although many people turn to these types of games for comfort and entertainment, there is still great comfort in a game like Disco Elysiumsays Hindpere, who tackles the issues we face head-on and with great thought. ” Disco Elysium it also treats a lot of mental health issues, ”she says. “Anxiety, depression, all those voices going through your head. “

“In some ways it depends on the person. But I have been personally in many difficult places and for me it has always helped. It is much more difficult to be in this dark place and to feel that nothing in the culture reflects it. “

The award ceremonies are far from creative value, but they offer a useful insight into the zeitgeist, a way to understand what types of art are considered valuable and why. Rostov even describes the ZA / UM appointments as “getting out of the video game ghetto into the real cultural scene – Baftas is something my mother knows about”. This year, the Bafta appointments are a timely reminder that there is deep value, that understanding can be just as liberating as escape.

Bafta Games award ceremony can be arranged broadcast from 7:30 p.m. on all major social platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Twitch

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