Ask Thomas Allen, the executive director of the National Academy of Video Game Testers and Reviewers, why their annual awards are important, and you'll get an impassioned monologue that touches on everything from the purpose of the game enthusiast press to the industry's rampant "sequelitis." The core of the NAViGaTR awards is much simpler, though: they're voted on by the people who play games the most.
The awards, which cover 55 categories, are voted on by 640 game testers and reviewers. "I think they have more of a trained eye at looking for the polish in games," Allen said last night at the 11th annual NAViGaTR Awards' nomination ceremony in Los Angeles. "There's so many good games every year, and getting it down to five in each category, that's tough. We really appreciate having both perspectives for the awards."
Actress Tara Platt, who's done voices for Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Saints Row: The Third and more, was enthusiastic as she announced the nominations in each category. "Having testers that play games and really understand the designs of the games from the inside out is a very different way of looking at it," she said. "I think it's really exciting that the NAViGaTR awards exist so that the games that have really pushed the boundaries and pushed technology can be recognized. I think it's important."
"In this industry, people play games but they don't know who really does the stuff, unless you're either already famous before you get involved, or you know, uh, Tim Schafer," said actor Yuri Lowenthal, excited about being nominated for his supporting performance as Tobias Nebbins in Catherine.
"The [Spike TV Video Game Awards] are, you know, for air time and selling advertising, and showing famous people who aren't really associated with the gaming industry," he continued. "This is much more for people who test the games and play the games, and I think it's a much more honest—if you'll excuse that—much more honest way of choosing the games."
The winners will be announced at PAX East in Boston at the beginning of April. The nominations include 13 for Uncharted 3, 12 for Modern Warfare 3, 10 for L.A. Noire and Rayman Origins, 9 for Portal 2, 8 for Catherine, 7 for Dead Space 2 and Little Big Planet 2, 6 for Bastion, and 5 for Arkham City, Deus Ex and Bulletstorm. Check out the full list of nominations on the next page and decide for yourself whether the NAViGaTR awards are indeed a more "honest" take on the gaming industry than other award shows, as Lowenthal believes. "I was in, you know, 50 games last year," he said, "and I could not steal a ticket to the VGAs."