What makes a Game of the Year? Measuring up review scores is one often-cited way of going about it, but that doesn't quite do it. Review scores are, after all, first and foremost purchasing advice, seeking to answer the question "Is this game worth your time and money?" So what question does Game of the Year seek to answer? We'd put forth: "Is the industry most benefited by the release of this game?"
This year's contenders hail from nearly every established genre, and some are so innovative to have created genres all their own. Each and everyone has made significant contributions to the future of the industry, be it the emergent narrative found in Far Cry 3, the exhaustive multiplayer suite of Halo 4, the profound narrative in The Walking Dead, or the emotional resonance of Journey. But which rose above the rest? Read on.
Far Cry 3
Mass Effect 3
Max Payne 3
The Walking Dead
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
And the winner is... The Walking Dead
Yes, a licensed zombie game by the developer of those Sam & Max games is the best game of 2012. No, we didn't see it coming, either. We didn't expect to be immediately drawn into the crumbling world. We didn't expect to to think that the choice-driven gameplay would be incredible alluring. We didn't expect to find Lee Everett, convicted killer, to be interesting, complex and relatable. And we didn't expect to care for Clementine more than we had ever cared for a video game character.
Telltale's The Walking Dead is a triumphant leap forward for storytelling. Not just video game storytelling, mind you--all storytelling. The Walking Dead is a game that should inspire the industry, proving just how well the medium can be used to craft a compelling narrative even when it leaves big action behind. Though games like Journey, Dishonored, XCOM, and Halo impressed us in 2012, none were as powerful as Lee and Clementine's relatable tale of survival.