It’s a tough life being a girl gamer… Last week we were invited to attend the Golden Joystick Awards to see behind the scenes, report on the day and spend time hanging out with fellow writers and award winners. Accompanying GGUK editor, this was my first time at the GJA’s and I’m already looking forward to next year.
With our best frocks and heels on, hair and make up done and handbags stuffed with mobile phone chargers and laptop leads, after meeting in the creamy white marbled lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel at Westminster Bridge, we started the day with a snoop around the second floor. Watching guys with Makitas put the last minute fixtures to the Nintendo Zelda display in the room that was also the location of the champagne reception, the scale of operations was instantly obvious and impressive with power points, spotlights and giant speakers abundantly hanging above us. Several stations with Skyward Sword demos were on offer and a giant statue of Link was the centrepiece whilst each Zelda title and corresponding console was displayed in museum like fashion behind Perspex cases, neatly lined in a row against one wall. Quietly keeping the fact that I am old enough to not only own each console but remember clearly each Zelda game as it was released to myself, we headed upstairs to the bloggers room – our sanctuary for the day.
Meeting and chatting to other journalists about their sites and the ceremony was one of my biggest highlights of the day. Discussing the awards and sharing our predictions, as messy tales of debauchery, revelry and robo-dancing from Golden Joystick Awards parties of the past were divulged was exciting and valuable until a lady with tight curly purple hair appeared with a clipboard and announced that Sonic had arrived. Yeah, we knew it wasn’t really Sonic – he’s always off somewhere else fighting Robotnik – but having my photo taken with the winner of Most Outstanding Contribution still had an air of glamour about it, even if Sonic did look better in blue tights than I did…
As the V.I.P. guests decked out in smart tailored suits or pretty silk party dresses left the champagne reception to take their place at their tables in the main hall, we made the most of the opportunity to play Zelda: Skyward Sword. In the heart of a dungeon area with a warm pastel colour palate, Link’s trademark pointed green hat bobbed along as we tried out the new Hook Beetle weapon which once launched can fly off, cutting through rope and hitting switches with a satisfying ching. Brandishing the Wiimote as a sword, it’s more intuitive than previous Zelda games as enemies parry and will strike you vertically and horizontally but the overall feel with its soundtrack and aesthetics instantly transports you to Hyrule.
Elsewhere, Game Radar’s Justin Towell was looking relaxed at the wheel. He spent all morning practising as he was attempting to crack the Guinness world record for a fastest lap time on the India Circuit in F1 2011. As he crossed the line in 1.20.38 he punched the air then a spiky haired bloke from Guinness thrust a shiny certificate into his lap. With a smile bigger than a Cheshire cat, Justin, who already holds the Guinness world record for the fastest time on Sonic the Hedgehog: Emerald Hill Zone Act 1 on Xbox360 at a breakneck 21 seconds, remained laid back as we bid him goodbye, leaving him to fend off interviewers and photographers.
In the main hall, after dinner chocs and coffee were being served as we prepared for the frantic pace of the main event – the awards. Earlier on in the day, we’d seen the winners list, a super top secret document which is released to members of the press doing online live coverage from the event. The speed and order as the awards were announced required nimble fingers and pin point accuracy in order to provide correct and up to date info to our readers via twitter feeds and the GGUK website. Host Seann Walsh kept the crowd in good spirits following his opening observations about Mortal Kombat, button mashing finishing moves, expertly and hilariously mimed whilst voice of the balls, Alan Dedicoat guided us through the categories. There were no thank you speeches on stage as the winners went backstage for fuller, reflective video interviews after they’d won meaning as soon as one set of winners had collected their heavy joystick shaped statue of golden wonder and left the stage, we were thundering on to the next award. A couple of exclusive trailer reveals gave us a chance to breathe and flex our hands before getting back to the winners roll call. Under the glittering lights of the beautifully decked out hall with crisp white table decorations, the great and good of the gaming world were genuinely supportive as each award was announced. There were a couple of surprises and gasps as Gran Turismo 5 swiped the Best Racing Award and Mortal Kombat took home Best Fighting Game. I was personally thrilled to see my fave game Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood be awarded Best Action Game and the entire room heartily applauded the Portal 2 team as they collected Ultimate Game of the Year.
Later on back in the bloggers room, the winners shared with us their reactions. It was interesting to hear EA describe Portal 2 as “a game for the discerning gamer”. With a record breaking 2.06 million votes cast, it was encouraging to see appreciation for excellent writing from ‘discerning’ gamers across the globe.
I totally understood that this was the one night of the year where those responsible for working damn hard on creating all the games we’ve grown to love over the past 12 months would want to celebrate and let their hair down. I’d decided earlier in the day to stick to the free bottles of Tropicana so I’d remember the party and I wondered just how quickly the good natured, tipsy warmth emanating from the main hall would disintegrate as the after party started. The glitzy dancefloor filled quickly and though the bar was heaving, the goodwill, networking and general mood was celebratory and happy. None of the excessive slurring, staggering and swilling of previous years happened around us and we left happy and tired.
As awards ceremonies go, it was fast and exciting. Seeing behind the scenes, walking the plush red carpets, getting instant reactions and celebrating success was a glamorous way to spend a day. Leaning from fellow writers and getting instant reaction from the winners was constructive and motivating whilst overall, it’s important and empowering that when the eyes of the world were on this incredible event, the UK showed that we know, love and can honour the very best games in fabulous style!
Huge thanks to everyone at Future Publishing and all other organisers of the GJA’s. Special thanks to GGUK editor Diane Hutchinson for being a fabulous mentor and party pal!