PlayStation action epic God Of War Ragnarok has dominated the BAFTA Games Awards, winning six of the 14 awards it was in the running for.
The action adventure, with its stunning landscape, Norse gods and monsters, won best animation, audio achievement, music, while its stars – Christopher Judge and Laya DeLeon Hayes – won best performer in a leading role and best performer in a supporting role respectively.
Judge, who also starred in Stargate SG-1 and Bane, told Sky News his win felt surreal, saying: “I’ll be 60 next year and to get this when I thought my career would be winding down, it’s a dream come true. I waited 35 years for this part, and it almost seems unfair that I’m getting gifts because I got a gift of this part.”
He said his BAFTA, which follows his best lead actor win in December at The Game Awards in LA, will be going in his office, explaining: “I’m actually having a little case made for this incredible run [of award wins] and so it will be prominently displayed at all my Zooms now.”
Calling her win “the highlight of my life”, DeLeon Hayes – who had initially received some negative fan reaction to her casting in the game – told Sky News: “I hope that this moves the needle forward for more black characters, more characters in Norse mythology, and here in the God Of War franchise, of course. I feel grateful and hopeful that this is a step in the right direction.”
Following the success of its precursor, God Of War, which was the highest rated PlayStation 4 game for the majority of 2018, the stakes were high for the team behind its success.
The game also took EE game of the year, the only award voted for by the public.
The game’s animation director, Bruno Velazquez, told Sky News: “Without the fans, the people out there playing our games, we wouldn’t be here. This is why we work so hard to make the game, so that people will enjoy it.”
The game’s composer Bear McCreary also wrote the music for Amazon’s Lord Of The Ring series, while Irish artist Hozier wrote and performed an original song called Blood Upon The Snow.
Role playing game Elden Ring – a collaboration with Game Of Thrones creator George RR Martin – took two awards – best multiplayer and best original property.
But in a David and Goliath twist, it was a small title created by a small freelance team which bagged the night’s top award – best video game.
BAFTA Games 2023: Cementing gaming into mainstream culture – By Martin Kimber, gaming reporter
The BAFTA Gaming Awards 2023 hammered home the undeniable reality that gaming isn’t the purview of nerds in their mother’s basements anymore.
Unsurprisingly the much-lauded title God Of War Ragnarok stole the show by claiming multiple BAFTAs, cementing the game’s position as the community’s favourite single-player role play game. Even star of the upcoming Star Wars game title Jedi Survivor, Cameron Monaghan, told Sky News in a press junket last year that God Of War was his favourite game to unwind with.
According to Statista the gaming industry is estimated to reach $396bn worldwide in 2023, often out-performing blockbuster films and platinum records. This year’s ceremony reflected that growth with a widely viewed ceremony on streaming site Twitch, as well as attention from the mainstream media.
Celebrities such as Munya Chawawa and the Inbetweeners star James Buckley, leant their credence to the artform by awarding several accolades. Despite losing his voice, Chawawa presented an olive branch from traditional media to the fast-growing sector.
This year’s organisers catered their audience of young, socially conscious players, paying particular heed to their sense of social justice felt widely among the gaming community.
The industry promotes and employs thousands of actors, artists, writers, composers, coders, producers and directors, and the BAFTA Game Awards successfully pitted indie studios against A-list publishers.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has championed the UK’s gaming industry for months in stump speeches and the BAFTA Game Awards fired the starting pistol on this year’s London Games Festival, flying the city’s flag in the most successful immersive artform in human history.
Whether London remains Europe’s most popular city for games investment in the coming years post-Brexit remains to be seen.
Vampire Survivors – described by the team who came along to collect their prize as “frolics and fighting”, also won best game design.
They put the retro game’s success down to its addictive nature, saying: “It’s so easy to pick it up. You can play it for five minutes and then it’s like four and a half hours later… but then you just carry on.”
The work of a solo developer – and one of the most popular video games of 2022 – creator Luca Galante quit his full-time job to work on it.
Speaking to Sky News after his win, he said: “We’re just 15 developers, turning up to work nine to five and having fun.”
Rollerdrome – an action game which mixes roller-skating tricks and fighting with multiple weapons – won best British game. Partly inspired by films Rollerball and Running Man, the team have likened it to “Doom on roller skates”.
The video game industry is worth hundreds of billions of pounds globally and is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK. With many turning to gaming during lockdown, it’s a hobby that has only increased in popularity over recent years.
With adaptations of games like The Last Of Us, The Witcher and Arcane (the first video game adaptation to win a primetime Emmy) achieving both critical and commercial success – many see this as the time for gaming to truly step into the mainstream.
Inbetweeners star and keen gamer James Buckley, who was presenting an award on the night, told Sky News: “Traditional media is now starting to realise that there’s such a huge marketplace and audience for video games… That they are beautiful stories as well, the narrative, it’s all there to make a really great show out of this world.
“And I think they’re starting to realise, if we do this properly, you know, don’t just try and use a video game to piggyback off the name and try and put something out, but actually sit down, and write something, create something around this, [they’re] coming up with amazing stuff for television and film. It’s an exciting time.”
The awards, hosted by Frankie Ward, celebrates the games of the past year, and was held at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and also livestreamed on Twitch.
The prestigious BAFTA Fellowship was presented to Japanese gaming industry veteran Shuhei Yoshida.
The Bafta Games Awards is part of the London Games Festival, which runs until 8 April.