I know how awards shows work. I understand the dynamics behind the scenes of how certain things get nominated and win in their respective categories. With regards to The Game Awards, the games industry’s high-profile end-of-the-year celebration/hype-athon, I’ve been with media outlets that have participated in the process.
Nominations are determined by a panel of media outlets across the industry, and there’s a decipherable process that the public can easily look up. Critics and editorial staff get together to make decisions for their nominees and winners, and the results are reflective of the larger group. But there will always be limitations to what people can realistically play though in the calendar year.
So many games, some of which are considerably long, come out every year so we all have to pick and choose how we spend our limited amount of time. I simply never had time to play through every game I’m interested in each year, and it’s fair to say that’s the case for most people whether or not they’re involved in covering games.
As fans, it’s not worth getting heated about any of it because these are just nominations and awards at the end of the day. It’s cool to see your favorite games get the recognition we believe they deserve, but there are plenty of other things in this life to get worked up about, and I prefer to save my energy. So, this isn’t to cause any “discourse,” rather to give Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker its flowers in light of The Game Awards 2022.
Endwalker didn’t make the eligibility cutoff release date for the TGAs last year — even before getting delayed to the first week of December 2021. So naturally it would’ve been around for TGA 2022 consideration. Don’t get it twisted, seeing FFXIV continue to pop up in awards for best community and best ongoing game is great and well-deserved. We’ve seen how the game has evolved over the years and become the new standard-bearer for the storied franchise. And with each patch, Live Letter, and special event, we continually see how FFXIV and its community just isn’t like any other.
But thinking back to Endwalker itself, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more deserving standalone experience in the categories of best RPG, narrative, or music (okay maybe Xenoblade Chronicles 3, if you ask me) — hell, even game of the year considering what did get nominated.
FFXIV has long been held in high regard for its storytelling. And while each expansion came with a strong, contained story further supported by post-launch content, Endwalker was the one that brought over a decades-worth of narrative work all together in one fell swoop, capturing everything we’ve loved about FFXIV along the way.
The broad fantastical strokes of averting world-ending calamity set the stage, but the poetic writing and intimate individual stories of its beloved characters are what shined brightest. The different ways in which we handle grief, loss, death, and legacy personified in its multithreaded narrative. In RPG form, you see the struggle between despair and hope within individual people and see how they either rise, or falter, in the face of tragedy.
Endwalker is a display of how strong we can be with bonds forged through love, friendship, and respect, and that as long as we hold onto the memories of loved ones who have passed, we can still carry on their legacy ourselves. Powerful moments that inspire us in our real lives, characters we’ve seen grow, and wild revelations that stunned players who thought they’d seen it all. Endwalker is emblematic of all those things. It’s the gold standard for MMORPGs, yes, but it’s also a remarkable achievement in RPG storytelling.
If anything, FFXIV and Endwalker should be recognized for its music. All of those aforementioned moments that move you as a player are made possible by its soundtrack. I’ve always said this about FFXIV, that its music is inseparable from the experience. It’s a crucial piece of the narrative, which composer Masayoshi Soken and his team have done for several years now.
It’s not just that the soundtrack encapsulates and frames its pivotal moments, but its leitmotifs, melodies, harmonies, and whatnot carry the game’s history within the music itself to create evocative new songs. Hearing the remix of “Answers” in that stunning boss fight perfectly tied this moment to where it all began. “Flow” in all its iterations reflect the long journey you’ve been on how it has culminated in the main story.
Soken and his team also use diverse and specific instrumentation to create personalities for Endwalker‘s new regions that paint pictures of their cultures and set the tone of the zones themselves. There’s a reason composer and musician Alex Moukala assembled a bunch of creators along with a thousand-plus fans to sing along to “Close in the Distance” in a single music video. That shit brings tears to people’s eyes. Front to back, Endwalker is full of extraordinary music, but more than that, the bigger accomplishment is in how it uses that extraordinary music.
I understand why something like Endwalker doesn’t break into those categories as a standalone thing. To even experience the expansion, you need to have played 100+ hours of previous content (and that’s being generous). It’s a relatively high barrier to entry, and we can’t expect those who aren’t already invested to dedicate that time just because we say it’s worth it. It damn near took me eight months to get from A Realm Reborn to Shadowbringers.
In the context of The Game Awards, being a commonly played game goes a long way for nomination consideration, and there will always be perceived snubs anyway. But I can’t help but look at how some of the categories have been assembled this year and side-eye the results.
Again, I don’t want to put too much stock into an awards show or rile people up for something as low stakes as this. I just want to give Endwalker a little shoutout for what it accomplished outside of being an MMORPG, and how it deeply affected so many of us who played it.