2014 Calvin Awards: Best Videogame

By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis

February 10, 2014

Heads says you're going to love this game.

Historically, first person shooters have dominated the category of Best Videogame. Previous winners include Borderlands 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Halo: Reach, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Halo 3, Gears of War and Resident Evil 4. Independent of individual play mechanics, each of these titles possesses at least some elements of an FPS game. During the eight year voting history of this category, only one title without FPS elements has claimed victory. That upset occurred five years ago when Super Smash Brothers Brawl was our obsession of the year. Stating the obvious with regards to our staff’s videogame behavior, we have a type. 2014’s voting throws a lot of preconceived notions out the window, only not the main one.

In a year where a lot of different titles received relatively similar levels of support, there was a single frontrunner. The obvious choice for Game of the Year is exactly the one we selected. Bioshock: Infinite, a game I consider to be the most brilliant achievement in the history of videogame storytelling, was the consensus choice as Best Videogame. In the process, it received over half of the first place votes. In fact, a couple of voters only listed one game on their ballots, presumably because Bioshock: Infinite is that much of a triumph as an immersive gaming experience.

What does the staff of BOP love about Bioshock: Infinite? Our tastes in videogames do not always mirror our other entertainment desires. Sometimes, blowing stuff up is the perfect stress reliever at the end of a long day. Alas, Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games somehow found a path that triggers our brains even as we enjoy reckless individual combat in the clouds.


The key to this unlikely accomplishment is the cloud world of Columbia. Like Rapture before it, Levine and his co-workers focus on the minutiae of the environment, thereby enhancing the interactivity of the gaming experience. Columbia is a fictional exploration of a civilization that expands upon the themes of America after segregating itself away from the rest of the world.

A visionary named Comstock ostensibly rejects the United States while celebrating the ideals of the founding fathers of our country. He is an elitist xenophobe and quite the racist to boot. He always happens to be a decorated war hero who had a dream about how to build floating buildings that can remain in the clouds. Once that dream was realized, he became the de facto ruler of the new country.

Bioshock: Infinite places the player in the role of Booker DeWitt, a confused gambler seeking to negate a debt. His task is to retrieve a non-player character named Elizabeth, and she proves to be the key to the playing experience. Elizabeth is coded to react to all the new discoveries of the surrounding environment. Having been locked away as a de facto prisoner for years, Columbia is just as new and impressive to her as it is to the player. Unlike most videogame NPCs, however, Elizabeth is a useful resource rather than an impediment. She showers the player with gifts such as coins, health and ammo. In the process, Elizabeth becomes less an artificial construct and more of a companion for whom players inevitably form an emotional connection.

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