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Opinion: Why Peggle HD didn't deserve to win a BAFTA

Ports of classics shouldn't be considered
Product: British Academy Games Awards | Developer: British Academy of Film and Television Arts | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad, 3DS, PS Vita
British Academy Games Awards Multiformat, thumbnail 1
You could say that there was a certain amount of 'surprise' when Peggle HD picked up the award for the Best Mobile and Handheld title at last week's annual BAFTA Video Games ceremony.

Not that it's a bad game, you understand. Everyone with opposable thumbs knows what a cracking game it is, and its transition to iPad last year merely underlined what a fabulous, enduring title is really is.

But, we're talking about a game that was originally released in 2007, and has been ported to something in the region of 12 formats.

And not only that, its release on iPhone way back in May 2009 makes its inclusion in the 2012 BAFTA nominations slightly mystifying. You might have thought that would automatically disbar it from appearing, but apparently not.

Back in contention

Essentially, Peggle HD was nominated on a technicality, for it was released on iPad in August 2011, so may have been new to some players.

But, did anyone on the BAFTA Film Committee really consider the latest round of Blu-ray re-issues when they were figuring out the shortlist for the best movies? Of course not.

And yet Peggle HD somehow - very democratically - elbowed its way past Quarrel Deluxe, Magnetic Billiards, Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (another 'remaster'), Mario Kart 7, FIFA 12, Dead Space, Football Manager 2012 to name a few of the 15 titles on the original shortlist.

Even a casual observer of the handheld gaming scene must have raised an eyebrow at the result. I know I did - and I was one of the people on BAFTA's jury for the Mobile and Handheld award.

Tighter regulations

I doubt some of the folks on the panel will thank me for saying so, but the wrong game won - but, in a sense, it's not their fault. They just picked what they thought was the best game.

Ultimately, it's for BAFTA to draw up tighter regulations and not allow its prestigious awards to be left exposed by strange technicalities that make little sense to anyone involved in creating new games.

I spent much of the evening as mystified as anyone else, and was collared by Denki's Gary Penn (Quarrel) and the Pickford brothers Ste and John (the creators of Magnetic Billiards) to explain how on earth a game originally released in 2007 could have robbed them of 'their' award.

They took the result in the right spirit, and were good humoured despite everything, but in a wider sense, it felt like a bit of a travesty.

In raw business terms, winning a BAFTA could have catapulted either Quarrel or Magnetic Billiards back into the public eye, and led to them both getting the Apple royal seal of approval in terms of being featured prominently on the App Store.

Maybe both will get featured again, anyway. Being nominated at a televised awards ceremony won't hurt one bit, but in years to come no one will remember who missed out. Peggle HD scooped the famous BAFTA mask in 2012, and that's that.

Progressive attitude

In future, though, it's important for the credibility of the awards that this kind of aberration doesn't happen again. Awards should represent the best of all that is new, not who made the best use of extra pixels that year.

That said, it's not all bad news and spittle-flecked righteous indignation.

For the first time, BAFTA incorporated mobile into the handheld gaming sector, and increased the shortlist to 15 in an attempt to give more games a chance to shine. It also made a concerted effort to ensure that independent developers knew they could enter.

As a category, it stood out a mile in a year when the same eight blockbuster sequels seemed to be nominated for practically everything. Seeing the likes of The Nightjar duking it out alongside Mario and Zelda made things far more interesting for all concerned.

But, BAFTA should continue with this progressive attitude and continue to acknowledge that things are moving on at a frantic pace.

One category to house literally thousands of new handheld games means that an incredible amount of brilliantly creative titles didn't even get a mention. As fun as it was to judge handheld and smartphone games together, the pool is too large.

Focus on innovation

Furthermore, the experiences differ so markedly between portable devices that making a reasoned call on their respective merits is a major task.

Throw in price and budget differentials, and it becomes impossible to make a clear-headed decision over whether a $10 million Nintendo game is somehow better or worse than a $100,000 game designed by a husband-and-wife team.

Perhaps the best thing in the long run is to dispense with platforms entirely, and focus on things like innovation in all its forms - but, the problem you have there is that smaller games tend to get drowned out by the higher-profile, better-publicised offerings.

While BAFTA decides on the best course of action, the rise of creatively spirited game development in the mobile and handheld sectors continues to disrupt the status quo - and that can only be a good thing.

Kristan Reed is the editor-in-chief of Pocket Gamer, and was a member of the judging panel on this year's BAFTA Award for Best Mobile and Handheld.

Reviewer photo
Kristan Reed 22 March 2012
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