The Digital Culture beat predicts the 2023 Game Awards – The Michigan Daily

The Oscars. The Grammys. The Emmys. The Booker Prize and now, from The Michigan Daily’s very own Digital Culture Beat, we’re here to bring you all of our predictions and evaluations of what will win and what SHOULD win at Geoff Keighley’s perplexing passion project: The Game Awards 2023 (except for sections we felt unqualified to discuss because we were unable to play every single game nominated due to the college grind). 

Game of the Year

Let’s be real here: There are only two contenders. As divisive as that statement may be, if we take into account the current awards circuit track, Game Awards history and, of course, the undisputed qualities of the games — the battle is between Baldur’s Gate 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. These are two standard-raising landmarks in gaming history with Zelda advancing its open-world/action/adventure/puzzle genre far into the future and Baldur’s Gate 3 being so revolutionary it started a discourse on how high expectations for developers should be. If Zelda wins, it will succeed its predecessor Breath of the Wild as a former Game of the Year winner. However, unlike Breath of the Wild, the slightly-less-than-stellar story of Tears of the Kingdom and its reusing of an old map will likely cost it against Baldur’s Gate 3’s more complex narrative and superior customization systems.

WILL WIN: Baldur’s Gate 3

SHOULD WIN: Baldur’s Gate 3

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best Game Direction

However, Tears of the Kingdom is the top pick for this award. Alan Wake II, Baldur’s Gate 3, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Super Mario Bros. Wonder — these are massive games with so many ideas infused that the directorial cohesion sags under their weight. Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) and series producer Eiji Aonuma (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD) were extremely conscious of not overwhelming their similarly gargantuan game with too many choices, preferring simplicity and flexibility over complexity causing rigidity. In doing so, they rightly deserve to receive a second Best Game Direction award after their 2017 win for Breath of the Wild.

WILL WIN: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

SHOULD WIN: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best Adaptation

While it is a bit of a shame that the always-underrated medium of animation — represented here by the imperfectly adapted “Castlevania: Nocturne” and the many plottedThe Super Mario Bros. Movie” this year — is overtaken again by HBO’s “The Last of Us,” the win is decidedly deserved. From its perfect pacing from premiere to finale, its revolutionary Queer representation and the exceptional adaptation of its all-too-relevant themes in persisting through a pandemic, “The Last of Us” set the bar sky-high for all video game adaptations with the sincere hope it won’t be the last of its kind.

WILL WIN: The Last of Us

SHOULD WIN: The Last of Us

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best Narrative

Alan Wake II. Do I need to explain this to you? I’m not even sure if I can explain Alan Wake II to anyone. Here’s the best gaming YouTuber Dunkey trying.

WILL WIN: Alan Wake II


Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best Art Direction

Alan Wake II is one of the most nominated games this Game Awards season, with eight nominations. It continues the series’s grimdark style but with more cinematic shots and a beefier lighting engine that always makes games a hit with judges. The game plays around with lighting both in its aesthetic and gameplay — light is used to heal, explore and ward off enemies. It runs on Remedy Entertainment’s Northlight Engine, which won the studio an Art Direction award in 2019 with Control and is known for powering games that have near-movie levels of cinematography. Alan Wake II follows in the footsteps of The Last of Us Part II by putting realistic lighting and character art on top of more stylized backgrounds, though that work is often obscured from the player by darkness. The ample darkness throughout the game hurts more than helps in this category — that, and the fog present throughout the game obscures a lot of the potential unique style the game could have had and makes it blend into any given lineup of survival-horror titles.

Hi-Fi Rush, on the other hand, embraces the exact opposite aesthetic. I love it when studios take risks, and in the case of Tango Gameworks’ Hi-Fi Rush, big risks lead to big rewards. When looking at the nominees for Art Direction, this one immediately stuck out for its stylization. It doesn’t take inspiration from graphic novels so much as its visuals shout “graphic novel” at the top of their lungs. It exchanges the shallow “wow” factor of realism for charm and character. Hi-Fi Rush uses tools like perspective-based line weight and exaggerated keyframes to blend the feel of next-gen game animation with the jarring colorful impact of a comic panel. 

As an artist, I am always impressed by anything that can create a chaos of textures, overlays and fast-paced action in a simplified, harmonious aesthetic; it is often a harder job than modeling something directly from life and concealing the boring bits with “atmosphere” (but no shade to the grimdark enjoyers, seriously). The cartoon style doesn’t feel like an animation crutch but rather the feature it is. From a gameplay perspective, the visuals work to connect the rhythm-based mechanics to the racing and the game’s explosive, alt-rock soundtrack. The multicolored star explosions and bouncy animation are exactly how I imagined the visualization of a Nine Inch Nails song. Hi-Fi Rush has everything you want from an Art Direction winner — style, grace and the willingness to go a little crazy. It would be a welcome departure from the more serious styles that The Game Awards have favored in the past. Admittedly, this prediction is as much genuine appreciation for Hi-Fi Rush as it is spite for the sentiment that video games need to hop on the gray and beige bandwagon to be taken seriously as an art form, but regardless of what happens, I hope to see more studios follow in their footsteps and add a little pizzazz.

WILL WIN: Alan Wake II


Daily Arts Writer Lin Yang can be reached at

Best Score and Music

While Viking metal isn’t particularly to my taste, the musical segment is one of the highlights of Alan Wake II. In “Herald of Darkness,” the lyrics are delightfully campy and corny in exactly the way you’d expect from a musical number in the middle of an unsettling horror mystery like Alan Wake II. The guitar shreds like there’s no tomorrow. Outside of said musical segment, tracks like “Prayer at the Gate” use theremin-like instrumentals and airy, high-pitched vocals to contribute to the mysterious, “Twin Peaks” vibe the game shoots for. Most of the soundtrack heavily relies on licensed music, and quite a bit of it is emotional pop-rock. Some tracks, like “Lost at Sea” and “Superhero,” feel like they were written for radio rather than a game, but Remedy Entertainment makes them fit well.

Baldur’s Gate 3 has a fantasy adventure orchestral soundtrack that wears its inspirations on its sleeve. The tracks have plenty of emotional range, from the fragile, almost mournful beauty of the gentle piano on “I Want to Live” to the triumphant back and forth of baritone vocals and the horns on “Nine Blades.” The entire soundtrack captures the immersive and in-depth tabletop roleplaying game-esque world in which the player finds themself engrossed.

Final Fantasy XVI has a similar orchestral style, but rather than Lord of the Rings-type compositions, it feels more like a brand of its own, scoring clashes of overwhelming firepower that are commonplace in JRPGs, where you often find yourself killing a god in the finale. “Titan VS Shiva” has a beautiful and memorable motif in the vocals that feels straight out of Dark Souls. “Lunar Serenade” repeats that same motif over a delicate piano arrangement, ringing out with reverb. Every boss theme has such range and intensity that you can’t help but get sucked into each fight just listening to them.

Hi-Fi Rush works so well because of how immaculate every aspect of its style is. Hi-Fi Rush’s gameplay is designed around the soundtrack’s rhythm, so it isn’t just fitting that the game’s soundtrack is rock and roll and keeps your foot tapping the whole time you listen, it is integral to the game’s identity — and what a sleek and sexy identity it is. Jet Set Radio Future is to hip hop, graffiti and anti-cop sentiments as Hi-Fi Rush is to rock ‘n’ roll and cyberpop, and against wherever Silicon Valley and artificial intelligence seem to be headed these days. Speaking of cyberpop, Hi-Fi Rush is pop everything. The art pops. The gameplay pops. And, of course, the music pops.

Though the soundtrack mostly is or is reminiscent of alt-rock from the 2000s and early 2010s, like Zwan’s “Honestly,” or the Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” a few tracks shake things up a bit. “Fizzith (Roquefort Boss Theme)” takes from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, distorting it, adding some kickass drums and of course opening with the iconic “DUN DUN DUN DUN!” “What the Future Holds” is a touching indie rock tune with gentle guitar strumming that feels much more sentimental compared to the normally fast-paced, punchy tracks to come before it. While Alan Wake II makes good use of licensed music, Hi-Fi Rush is explicitly elevated by it, making for a flashy and unforgettable gameplay and listening experience that’s sure to put a smile on your face.

WILL WIN: Alan Wake II

Although Alan Wake II and Final Fantasy XVI are strong contenders for the best soundtrack, each for their own reasons, I believe Hi-Fi Rush outdoes them both. The Final Fantasy XVI soundtrack, while quality, is a bit familiar to the style of the games that precede it. Meanwhile, Baldur’s Gate 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom have solid soundtracks, but music was never one of their strongest points. Hi-Fi Rush knows it’s hip. 


Daily Arts Writer James Johnston can be reached at

Best Performance

While there are a few traditional actors here who no doubt delivered their own strong performances, Yuri Lowenthal (Prince of Persia) has been in this voice-acting game for two decades and deserves recognition. His performance for the original Marvel’s Spider-Man spanned the entire spectrum of happy-go-lucky to heartbreaking, and for the sequel, he shredded his throat to fit (all 19 inches of) Venom’s monstrous voice. Lowenthal brings heroes to life, and it’s high time he gets his due.

WILL WIN: Yuri Lowenthal, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

SHOULD WIN: Yuri Lowenthal, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Innovation in Accessibility

The nominations under the Innovation for Accessibility award all prove worthy of being nominated, but there are a few that blow this category out of the water based on the opportunities they provide for more players to have enriching and accessible experiences. Hi-Fi Rush, Diablo IV and Mortal Kombat 1 all provide standard accessibility support for the most part but fail to make accessibility innovative or memorable for users. Hi-Fi Rush provides the basic accessibility support features (font size customization, colorblind mode, difficulty settings and controls customization) that should be mandatory for all games, but doesn’t push further past that line. Like Hi-Fi Rush, Diablo IV has a lineup of the expected features, but it fails to provide support for users who may need to slow down gameplay when fights become too intense. Mortal Kombat 1’s highlight is the extra audio feedback for certain audio cues, which breaks the barriers of audio impairment, but the game still falls flat in terms of gameplay accessibility features for other sensory experiences. 

On the other hand, Street Fighter 6, Forza Motorsport and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 put a huge emphasis on accessibility throughout many of the features in their settings. Street Fighter 6 changes the world of fighting games by offering dynamic controls for users who may have fine motor skill impairments. With three different control types of fighting (classic, modern and dynamic), users can decide if they want their buttons to perform multiple tasks or have a separate action for each one. With training modes, practice guides and audio accessibility options, I could see why people might consider Street Fighter 6 as a winner for this award, but like Mortal Kombat 1, it is inconsistent with visual accessibility features due to providing no menu narration or captions. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 provides a huge quantity of features that enhance the user experience, making gameplay a more enjoyable experience for users who may need some assistance. The game offers a large variety of gameplay challenge modifiers and web-swinging assists, which simplifies repetitive actions and alters game speed. Sensory experiences such as vibrations, inverted controls, visual cues and camera sensitivity can be toggled on or off based on your preferences. However, the game is still waiting for a December 2023 update that will finally provide the addition of audio controls, including a screen reader, which should have been in the game at launch. 

I believe that Forza Motorsport exceeds expectations in the accessibility aspects of gaming, especially for a driving game. It provides the necessary accessibility features such as screen narrators, visual accessibility, audio settings/descriptions and remappable controls. The game not only provides driving assistance for users who might need it, but it also offers blind driving assistance, which fully transforms the gameplay experience for visually impaired users. Multiple visually impaired users have demonstrated playing the game, feeling elated that they are capable of playing a game from a genre that has traditionally been all about visuality. There is nothing more innovative than a game that prioritizes its users and opens a world of possibilities for a greater audience. 

WILL WIN: Forza Motorsport (Turn 10 Studios/Xbox Game Studios)

SHOULD WIN: Forza Motorsport (Turn 10 Studios/Xbox Game Studios)

Daily Arts Writer Lynn Sabieddine can be reached at

Games for Impact

This is the category for which I feel the worst not having played every game that was nominated. Each of these games seems downright amazing, and they have all been added to my wishlist. I have always loved this category, as it’s where we see the games that developers have poured their own stories and life experiences into, games that players can resonate and connect with. 

Even with that admission, I wholeheartedly believe that Venba should and will win in this category. Using a beautiful storybook style, Venba shows you the life of a Tamil family who immigrates to Canada and raises a son who is all too excited to buck the culture of his parents to fit into Western culture. You experience this changing relationship by cooking different dishes, each one presented to you like a puzzle. With amazing sound design and a gorgeous art style, Venba is a look at the tender relationships between food, culture and family. The few hours you spend with it manage to say much more about humanity than nearly any of the other big-budget games being nominated for other categories. 



Senior Arts Editor Hunter Bishop can be reached at

Best Independent Game

I played a lot of indie games this year, but the only one that made it on this list was Cocoon. When Dino Patti and Arnt Jensen, the creative duo that formed Playdead (the studio behind the phenomenal Limbo and Inside), broke up, I was upset by the amount of potential that had been lost. I saw some of that potential reappear last year in Somerville, developed by Patti’s new studio called Jumpship, but it felt like a game living in the shadow of the greatness that came before it.

Cocoon was directed by another key member of the Playdead team who left just after the split. Jeppe Carlsen, who also served as director for Limbo and Inside, has taken the atmospheric charm of those two games and infused it into one of the coolest bug-based sci-fi environments that I have ever seen. The art style, environmental design and soundtrack all blend to make wandering around a perfect balance between awe and curiosity. Add to that some of the best puzzles that I have seen in a game since Portal 2 and you’ve got a perfect contender for indie game of the year (and possibly my personal winner for game of the year).

However, knowing all the praise I have heard (both online and from my peers) about Dave the Diver, I do not doubt that it will win this category. I haven’t had the time to lose myself in this game yet, but it’s on my must-play list for Winter Break. I hope that you add Cocoon to yours.

WILL WIN: Dave the Diver


Senior Arts Editor Hunter Bishop can be reached at

Best Action Game

In the too-broad category of “action” games, we can see a few interesting matchups. Dead Island 2 and Remnant 2 represent the with-friends archetype, encouraging a less serious, more casual form of engagement. On the other side, refined single-player experiences like Hi-Fi Rush and Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon present a much more singular set of takeaways. For my money, the category for best action game this year should go to Armored Core VI. The careful use of repetition, the excellent art direction and the murky, unclear story use action in inventive ways to build the game’s underlying theme of dehumanization in warfare. Through all this, the game feels as though it has something interesting and profound to say about the internal contradictions of violent art, which asks us both to care and to discard a piece of ourselves to enjoy it completely.

Despite this, the safe choice for best action is Hi-Fi Rush, which blends character action and rhythm into a deeply charming package. It’s all right. I enjoyed it just fine. It cashes in on the immense goodwill of the Jet Set Radio nostalgia wave, earning it acclaim from pretty much everywhere. It’s a solid game, though a bit too safe and more than a bit too long, but those strike me as the kinds of issues that are easily disregarded on a show like this. 

Remnant 2 may take a come-from-behind win, but only if the awards panel is looking to buck the rule of single-player winners in this category. Its action is a logical merging of third-person shooter and Souls-esque bosses, though it failed to leave much of an impression on me.

If Dead Island 2 wins this category I will eat a shoe live on camera.

WILL WIN: Hi-Fi Rush

SHOULD WIN: Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Daily Arts Contributor Holly Tsch can be reached at

Best Action/Adventure Game

This category is a two-way divide between the best balance of both action and adventure. When it comes to breakneck action, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has superior systems in fighting and web-swinging traversal when compared to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s slower, survivalist-styled combat and machined movement. In terms of “adventure,” both games have massive map-spanning journeys through the Kingdom of Hyrule and New York (where the Rat King rules all) — but compared to the several high-octane sequences of Spider-Man 2, Zelda is still outmatched with its more relaxed journey and comparatively fewer comparable sequences. The issue with these nominations is that the largest strengths of Zelda come from its qualities as an immersive sim, while Spider-Man 2 fits the genre of action/adventure in a much neater way. However, since Zelda is more likely to sweep its categories this year, it will likely live up to the legend in taking home this award too.

WILL WIN: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

SHOULD WIN: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best RPG

Baldur’s Gate 3. You wanna contest me on this? Do you think it will win Game of the Year and then not win its genre category? Get outta here.

WILL WIN: Baldur’s Gate 3

SHOULD WIN: Baldur’s Gate 3

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best Fighting Game

This is, undeniably, a two-horse race, with both Netherrealm Studios and Capcom releasing new games in two of the most iconic fighting game franchises this year; both Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1 follow unpopular installments in their respective series and are a return to form for these two sleeping giants. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see either game win here, Street Fighter 6 feels like a more complete and polished experience, and this could be the factor that edges it out over its longtime competitor. 

Street Fighter 6 has a very pleasing blend of tradition and innovation — its street-art aesthetic takes inspiration from the Street Fighter III games while still being uniquely realistic, and almost every returning character has received some sort of major mechanical rework that keeps them familiar but fresh. Although Mortal Kombat 1 also brings some interesting new ideas to its series — rebooting it for the second time — ultimately it’s far less ambitious in both mechanical and aesthetic terms, and didn’t quite have the impact that Street Fighter 6 did. Features like the World Tour mode mean that Street Fighter 6 is a much more compelling single-player experience than any other fighting game, and modern controls alongside effective tutorials make it an approachable and easy-to-pick-up game in a genre that is often neither. 

Another aspect that The Game Awards are likely to consider is each game’s presence as an esport, and this is something that Capcom has been focusing on ever since Street Fighter V, but even more so now — Street Fighter 6 launched with a $2 million prize pool for its first Capcom Pro Tour series, and has been generating insane entrance numbers at every major competition it has been featured in, shattering every fighting game competition record when it comes to sheer popularity. In terms of the “Best Fighting Game” category, Street Fighter 6 has everything a judge could want and more. 

WILL WIN: Street Fighter 6

SHOULD WIN: Street Fighter 6

Daily Arts Contributor Ariel Litwak can be reached at

Best Family Game

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is going to be another clear-cut victory for Nintendo here; it’s tailor-made for a chaotic couch co-op multiplayer experience and this is the only category where its late release in a sea of top-tier games doesn’t leave it seeming a bit outmatched. However, Pikmin 4 was also tailor-made to be more accessible to a wider audience, for children and parents alike to guide each other through the game and to duke it out in Dandori battles. Its sacrifice of several strategy elements in favor of a more family-oriented experience should be recognized, but unless a Super Mario sweep is in the works and it claims many other awards, Pikmin 4 will get buried.

WILL WIN: Super Mario Bros. Wonder

SHOULD WIN: Pikmin 4

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best Sim/Strategy Game

Fire Emblem Engage’s first strategic choice happens before you make any moves when it beats the “blue-haired protagonist” allegations by introducing its blue-red hair-colored bishoujo player character instead. As previously noted, it’s Pikmin 4 that leaves behind a strategy to serve a wider audience — but it’s also the return of a Nintendo franchise that was dormant for a decade (besides the goddamn phone game). In that period, the Fire Emblem franchise did put out two more games (excluding the two spin-offs and one remake): Fire Emblem Fates and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latter of which won Best Sim/Strategy Game and Player’s Voice Award during its year. Even if it isn’t superior in strategy, this category will likely be Pikmin 4’s chance for its time in the sun.

WILL WIN: Pikmin 4

SHOULD WIN: Fire Emblem Engage

Digital Culture Beat Editor Saarthak Johri can be reached at

Best Multiplayer

Historically, the Best Multiplayer category has been dominated by shooters — up until Among Us permanently altered reality in 2020. This year, then, is quite interesting, as no traditional multiplayer shooters were nominated.

Party Animals is another wacky multiplayer game but isn’t the phenomenon that Fall Guys or Among Us were a few years ago, and I don’t think it’s had the impact to merit a win here. Super Mario Bros. Wonder was also nominated for Best Multiplayer and Best Family Game, which is interesting — modern 2D Mario games do have remarkably good multiplayer, but this isn’t a focus of Wonder.

To me, the winner here is clear — Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the most innovative games to come out this year, and its multiplayer is no exception, simulating the Dungeons and Dragons campaign experience. Just like in real D&D, you can only play when the host is available and, ideally, when the rest of your party is available as well. This is one of those games where the multiplayer and single-player experiences differ significantly, and where neither is necessarily better or worse than the other. Diablo IV doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a Best Multiplayer winner, either, and isn’t as impressive an achievement as Baldur’s Gate 3, but I nonetheless wouldn’t be surprised to see it win.

My pick for the best multiplayer experience of the year has to be Street Fighter 6, which is a breath of fresh air after years of disappointing online modes in fighting games (looking at you, Bandai Namco). The netcode is immaculate, and the time it takes to start a match is significantly lower than in most fighting games (though this is mainly because of how big Street Fighter’s player base is), and in my hundred-or-so hours spent playing it, I haven’t experienced any random disconnects or other major issues. I’m not the type of person to care about avatar customization or social features in fighting games, so I can’t speak to the quality of these aspects of Street Fighter 6’s online, but they seem to be something that Capcom is focusing on. 

WILL WIN: Baldur’s Gate 3

SHOULD WIN: Street Fighter 6

Daily Arts Contributor Ariel Litwak can be reached at

Best Esports Game

When I started playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with my roommate last year, the idea of a sequel was still mostly made up of rumors and supposed leaks. The announcement of Counter-Strike 2 in March was a great surprise, but it also came with the question of what a new game in the series would mean, especially when it was revealed that there would be no new maps at launch, just versions of existing ones re-built in Valve’s new Source 2 engine.  

Counter-Strike 2 may not currently have the most content out of the games on this list, but it is a damn fun time. Although the first few months were frustrating for some, Valve has continued to deliver a slew of updates to address these issues. Apart from those hiccups, the work the developers have done shows just how much they care about the player experience: The revamped textures for maps look great, the sound design is more intuitive than before and the new volumetric smokes allow for some clever ways to play. Counter-Strike 2 might be nothing more than a fresh coat of paint for Counter-Strike at the moment, but the things Valve has refined make it a great experience to play. The move to the Source 2 engine also means that there is even more potential for new official maps, creating a very promising future for Counter-Strike. 

WILL WIN: Counter-Strike 2

SHOULD WIN: Counter-Strike 2

Senior Arts Editor Hunter Bishop can be reached at

Source link

Ellis Wilder

Hey there! My name is Ellis Wilder, and I'm a student at the University of Calgary. When I'm not hitting the books, you can usually find me writing articles for sports and travel blogs. I've always had a passion for exploring new places and experiencing different cultures, so I love sharing my travel stories with others. Whether I'm hiking in the Rocky Mountains or exploring a new city, I always try to capture the essence of the places I visit in my writing. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy reading my articles as much as I enjoy writing them!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button