Our penultimate day of awards for The Free Cheese Game of the Year 2017 brings us the awards for:

  • Best Story
  • Most Surprising
  • Best Marketing
  • Favorite Free Cheese Moment
  • Favorite Industry Moment

Best Story

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Since the beginning, video games have told stories. At varying degrees of complication and intricacy, games give us a reason to want to play them. As a group of individuals who play a lot of games, the story is what gives us reason to finish a game and see it all the way through.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is the Best Story this year because of its ability to draw us in and trickle moments to us until the great reveal. We were attracted to the game because of the question, “What happened?” Once we entered the world, the game did a masterful job at answering the question while asking several more. It wasn’t just what the story was, but how it was delivered to us. Even those who haven’t played the game can listen to the details of the plot and find themselves fascinated.

It doubled as entertainment and parable for our own modern lives. We won’t stop pushing technology forward, but where will that inevitably take us? As we continue to struggle with the greatest questions in life, Horizon: Zero Dawn gives us a version of our future that doesn’t seem too farfetched.

Runners Up: NieR: Automata • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Most Surprising

NieR: Automata

This category is designed to recognize the game that caught us off guard. It, for one reason or more, was something we weren’t expecting and we were delighted by its outcome.

NieR: Automata is the epitome of this category. When the demo first hit PlayStation 4, we vaguely remembered some announcement at a Square Enix thing at E3. We downloaded it for reasons unknown and were immediately hooked by its gameplay. PlatinumGames, the developer, had a recent string of mediocrity. It seemed like every few months, there was another title by PlatinumGames being announced and often they were tied with existing properties. The fatigue seemed to set in as we were less and less impressed by the output of one of our otherwise favorite studios. Enter NieR: Automata to change the story.

Even more than its importance in the history of its developer, NieR: Automata does so much with its story and characters, its gameplay, and even its reveal of creator Yoko Taro to us that surprised us through and through.

Runners Up: Doki Doki Literature Club • Everything

Best Marketing

Nintendo Switch

A debut category for 2017, Best Marketing is the award for what made us excited to spend money. We’ve said all week long how big this year has been for video games, so it was important that games were able to catch our attention and get us eager to play.

We found that Nintendo Switch had the best marketing this year. It began in January with the big reveal of the console. We saw a glimpse of it during the first reveal in October last year, but January gave us all of the details we had been waiting for. It was like a miniature E3 in the dead of winter.

Then, we got invited to go play the Switch at an event in DC. As some of the first to go hands-on with the machine, we were able to really see the potential for the console and solidify our decision to pick one up.

Throughout the launch of the console and the subsequent months, Nintendo didn’t stop delivering. There was something new and something big to play every month. There were Nintendo Direct presentations that detailed future releases and kept the excitement for Switch going. After the unfortunate foundering of the Wii U, the fact that the Switch is selling as well as it is is a true testament to the marketing and word of mouth that’s been created for the console.

Runners Up: Super Mario Odyssey • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Favorite Free Cheese Moment

The Hammer (Hitman)

Every year we like to look back at some of the stuff that we’ve done. A lot of the content we create is finished and thrown out into the ether as we move onto the next thing. This category gives us a chance to revisit those moments and revel in them for a while.

The highlight for us this year was the discovery of the Hammer in Hitman. It started as we were recording a Now Playing for the game and stumbled upon a hammer in the level. It was no different than any other item, except in every way.

The first throw into the back of some unsuspecting security guard ended with the crumbling of his weight by way of the physics in the game. The combination of the way the hammer flew, the sound it made on impact, and our reaction to it all quickly triggered similar fluids in each of our heads.

We’d go on to create the series, Hitman with a Hammer, where we’d play through the game once a week. It became an add-on to our podcast in some ways, but with us just hanging out playing Hitman. Every time we found the hammer in a new level it was punctuated by long bouts of our hooting with excitement. It’s such a silly and strange moment but one that makes us smile whenever we recall it.

Runners Up: Paperboy (Retro Spotlight)Nintendo Switch Event in DC

Favorite Industry Moment

Xbox Backward Compatibility

Have we mentioned that a lot of games came out this year? Indeed, it’s true. In fact, a lot of games came out today. And yesterday. And a lot more came out last month. Creators now have the ability to create and put their work out onto so many different platforms. Accessibility is at an all-time high but how are these things being preserved? We live in a throwaway culture. Social media has trained us to think in short bursts of impermanence and we believe everything should be free. We consume a lot but we don’t really digest anything anymore. We get what we need and move onto the next thing in line.

It’s what made Microsoft’s announcement of Xbox Backward Compatibility at E3 so important and our Favorite Industry Moment of 2017. The preservation of this industry is necessary. So few are taking steps to ensure that the history of video games is being maintained. Xbox making the call to include original Xbox games on Xbox One’s backward compatibility list is exactly what every console manufacturer and platform holder needs to be doing. Many of the games that were created before digital storefronts were created are going to be lost to time. Thanks to licensing agreements that didn’t predict the availability of everything always, a lot will be relegated to piracy of these games just to see them survive. It’s one way to preserve something, but Xbox’s commitment to releasing these games on a modern platform finds a way to give money back into the hands of the original creators. Sure, not in all cases, but it’s showing that we care.

We believe that this is integral to the ecosystem that we live in and wish that every company would follow suit. Even if only a small percentage are going to ever see or use this stuff, it’s important to keep it alive.

Runners Up: Nintendo Switch January Presentation • Rocket League on Nintendo Switch

Posted by Joe Dix

Joe is the creator of The Free Cheese. He eats a lot of pizza and takes thousands of pictures of his pugs Oswald and Earl every day.

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