Gimmick Awards 2020 – Worst Direction Write-Up

Inspired by the baffling Best Direction category from Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards, our first category for our Gimmick Awards 2020 is Worst Direction. By and large, the rank and file of game companies are incredible people. Hard working, talented, and pushing themselves beyond reasonable human effort to follow the direction given by leadership.

But what if that direction isn’t worth all that effort? What if all these people working themselves to the bone are doing so in service of a bad vision? That’s Worst Direction, right there.

The Winner (Loser?)
Last of Us Part II

At the end of the day, the game that inspired this category took home the title. The talent behind much of Naughty Dog is unassailable. Graphics, animation, technical achievement, the people that make up Naughty Dog are astonishingly talented and hard-working. And for The Last of Us Part II (among other titles), they were led by Neil Druckmann, a self-absorbed equivocating director with trash politics and terrible ideas.

Druckmann’s vision took all that talent and pushed it towards making a hateful game. It’s hateful in its content, mishandling queer issues, misogynist in its treatment of women, and upsettingly obsessed with gratuitous violence. But it’s also hateful as a creation, on a fundamental level. It stands for a studio that has ignored reports of harassments and abuse, pushed its employees to the breaking point with crunch and unreasonable demands, and then is even so audacious as to joke about these facts in the game. The Last of Us Part II is an ICON of how talent is mishandled and abused by this industry.

The Runners-Up
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Ubisoft has had a bad year. Well, that’s not true, actually. They’ve had a GOOD year. They’ve put out games that sold well and made announcements people were excited about. And all the whistleblowing and reports of harassment and abuse coming out of the publisher have mostly been swept under the rug. Playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, there are some choices made that I don’t particularly agree with, but the game is not too objectionable.

I think all the people at Ubisoft who worked on this game should be proud of their work. And I can say this because the director isn’t there anymore. They were fired for their part in the PLAGUE of abuse that has been running rampant in Ubisoft for years. Literally speaking, it’s hard to get much worse direction than a director who gets fired before the game comes out for being abusive. Shoutouts to The Last of Us Part II for being even more toxic I guess?

Cooking Mama Cookstar

Dude, I don’t even know where to begin. What a bizarre situation. I was honestly looking forward to this game. I like Cooking Mama! It’s not the most revolutionary series, and my expectations were pretty low. Just a Cooking Mama game on the Switch. Ok, I’ll take that! I kinda didn’t get that, seeing as the owners of Cooking Mama swore off this game and said it had no right to exist?????

Playing it, it’s an ok Cooking Mama game, I suppose. It runs badly, pushing the Switch to the point of being red hot despite being a really unimpressive game visually. A lot of its audio is ripped from YouTube videos of previous games. It doesn’t really have any new ideas. But it plays the way you’d basically expect. So why was there this surreal legal battle surrounding it?

The owners of Cooking Mama wanted it gone. The studio that made it said no, and released it when they were told not to. Then they proceeded to sell physical copies on their own site against the protests of the Cooking Mama series owners. People came up with all manner of conspiracy theories about it: it was always online, it was a bitcoin miner, it was a fishing scam. None of them were true, but they were attempts to make the bizarre situation understandable. Now, many months later, the mystery remains. What the hell was going on?

We may never know.

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Congratulations? to our winners for our first category. This is only the beginning, though. Please stay tuned for 14 (!!!) more categories throughout the week! And if you want to hear how we came to these conclusions, make sure to check out the Gimmick Awards 2020 Discussion podcasts over on the Scanline Talks podcast feed! See you next award.

A big thank you to Zwimmy (@zwimmy on Twitter) for our Game of the Year art!