Lucas Pope, though not in attendance at the awards, dominated the stage. Papers, Please, Pope's brutal game about playing a border crossing guard in the fictional communist nation Arstotzka, won both the Most Innovative and Best Gameplay awards. Speaking with Joystiq via email after the awards, Pope shared his thoughts on why his game seems to resonate so strongly with players.
"It puts players in an unfamiliar position and asks them to make difficult decisions with no easy answers," said Pope. "The subject matter is unique enough to get people interested, so the challenge for me was to hook them early with the core gameplay, then build on that with an interesting story."
Most Significant Impact, the award given to games about social issue that also encourages players to develop empathy and respect for the subject, went to Electric Funstuff's The Mission US: A Cheyenne Odyssey. Mission US simulates life for the Northern Cheyenne tribe as it confronted the institution of Native American reservations in the 19th century.
The Games For Change Game of the Year award was given to The Fullbright Company for Gone Home, their divisive first-person adventure. Steve Gaynor and Karla Zimonja accepted their award in a brief video message which, as the ceremony's host put it, may have been the first ever selfie acceptance speech.
Papers, Please and Gone Home both received year-end accolades from Joystiq and numerous other outlets. Lucas Pope offered some insight into why games that address social issues are gaining traction amongst players.
"I think the changing audience is related to generations and technology," explained Pope. "I grew up playing games my entire life so they're a natural form of expression and entertainment for me. I don't necessarily look to games for only straight up fun times, and I'd say most of my generation is the same way. At the same time, the tools and resources to create games have exploded in the last five years. It's much easier now to make smaller games that reflect personal experiences. With more games like this being made, there's naturally going to be an audience to play and enjoy them."