2013 Calvin Awards: Best Videogame
February 18, 2013
Each year, I announce the ten selections for Best Videogame and each year I chronicle how many of the titles are franchise sequels. This is more or less true in 2013, but only at the top of our ballots. We have three original licenses in the top 10; however, none of them finished higher than fourth place. In the 2012 awards, 80% of our nominees were sequels, but L.A. Noire, a new property, at least finished third. Perhaps we as a group have grown single-minded in our videogame obsessions.
Acknowledging our preference for sequels, one stood above all of the rest. In a shocking upset, it was neither Halo nor Final Fantasy-related. Instead, Gearbox Software’s opus, Borderlands 2, handily wins as our choice for Best Videogame of the year. All glory to the quip-masters at Gearbox.
Why do we love this game over all the rest? I could gush over the added depth and difficulty of the game. After all, taking any character up to Level 50 requires the type of time investment that people ordinarily reserve for online dating and long-con Nigerian Prince investment scams. A fair estimate is that a fully leveled character requires about 50 hours of game time. Now consider that there are five playable characters. In an era where the average shooter takes less than 10 hours to beat, Borderlands 2 is like a summer internship, only without the useful work experience.
Borderlands 2 also improves upon the original by introducing True Vault Hunter Mode. During a second playthrough with the same character, the enemies in Borderlands 2 level up as well, gaining strength and improved combat tactics. Many are the vault hunters whose egos have collapsed after their first boss fight in True Vault Hunter Mode. I can say with complete sincerity that I learned a few new swear words/terms after some co-operative online play. The tougher fights in this game make players angry.
All of the above is nice but my suspicion is that Borderlands 2 would not have won based upon its own merits. Instead, one key inclusion caused the staff members at BOP to celebrate the game above all others. That inclusion is named Tiny Tina. She is the world of Pandora’s most terrifying 13-year-old, an explosives expert who relishes chaos and carnage. I recently attended a Tea Party of hers, and it had so many crumpets it was like a Crumpocalyse. I realize that none of this makes sense if you have yet to play the game. I say with complete sincerity that an entire playthrough of Borderlands 2 is justified by the presence of Tiny Tina. If you want to see if I exaggerate, feel free to watch Tiny Tina videos on YouTube. You will not regret the decision. Tiny Tina is the character of the year, just as Borderlands 2 is our choice for Best Videogame.
As a wiser man than I once noted, history often repeats itself. To wit, Halo 3 was named Best Videogame in 2008 while Halo Reach was named Best Videogame in 2011. In 2013, Halo 4…finished second. Wait, how did that happen? Okay, now you probably appreciate how much our staff loves Tiny Tina.