It's been a strange sort of year so far. We're just on the cusp of the holiday release blitz and I still don't have a real solid Game of the Year contender in mind. Normally I at least have a personal front-runner at this point, but this year seems wide open to me. The closest thing I've got in mind right now is Catherine, simply because we might be able to look back on this years from now as a significant milestone for the industry.
Catherine is a widely released multiplatform game about a relationship instead of an alien invasion or zombie apocalypse. It sold pretty well off the bat, too, with 200,000 in first-week sales, good enough to be Atlus' biggest US launch to date, I believe. It's a game that I can describe to non-gamers and they get it. The idea of a game like Catherine interests them because it doesn't fit their preconceived notion of what games are, and it offers a situation where the interactivity of a game instantly adds a new dimension that can't really be achieved by books or film. (Your objection is noted, Choose Your Own Adventure fans. Now sit down. Both of you.) So in addition to being a great (but flawed) game, Catherine has the added weight of being something potentially significant for the long-term health of the industry. It's the sort of market expansion that acts subtly now, but pays off hugely in the future because it expands people's notions of what a game can be.
What are the other candidates so far? I loved Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but can't picture myself pushing for that to even make the top 10 nominees for all the corners Capcom cut. Shadows of the Damned was a lot of fun, but I'm not sure how many people would consider that a serious contender for Game of the Year. Portal 2 was great. Maybe that would go on my list. What about Terraria? Jamestown? Could Minecraft be eligible since it's only been in beta since 2010 and hasn't technically seen it's official release yet? Will people remember in November that Killzone 3 and Little Big Planet 2 came out this year? Could Ghost Trick give the DS a dark horse contender?
I know it's early and there's a plethora of great games on the way in the coming weeks and months, but I don't think I've ever been this uncertain of how the GOTY discussions will play out this late in the year. I think Portal 2 may be the only game released so far this year that I would be absolutely shocked (shocked!) to see left out of the top 10.
So what are your picks for GOTY so far? No listing games that haven't come out! I already know what big games are on the way and have potential; I want to know what games you've already played this year that you think will crack that final top 10 nominees list.