Ready Nominator One: Best Video Game Special Hugo Award Category Announced for 2021

DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, announced today that a special Hugo Award category for “Best Video Game” will be included in the 2021 Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Awards — the oldest and most prestigious awards in speculative fiction, presented first in 1953 and annually since 1955 — honor the field’s literature and media as well as the genre’s fans. The awards are voted on by members of each year’s Worldcon.

“Since early 2020, many of us have spent more time gaming than we ever expected. This award will offer fans an opportunity to celebrate the games that have been meaningful, joyful, and exceptional over this past year,” DisCon III co-chair Colette Fozard said. “Video games draw from the same deeply creative well that has fed science fiction and fantasy writing and art for so many years. This innovative and interactive genre has brought us new ways of story-telling as well as new stories to tell and we are glad to honor them.”

There is no permanent Hugo Award category to recognize this interactive form of storytelling with which so many fans of the genre create and engage. A trial Best Interactive Video Game Hugo Award was attempted in 2006. Since that time, science fiction and fantasy video games have continued to evolve and generate intense interest from both reviewers and the wider fan community.

The DisCon III committee has chosen to create this special category for 2021 only, as provided for by the rules of the World Science Fiction Society. The Hugo Study Committee is also considering Best Game or Interactive Experience as a potential permanent category.

An eligible work for the 2021 special Hugo award is any game or substantial modification of a game first released to the public on a major gaming platform in the previous calendar year in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects. 

For these purposes, a game is defined as a work wherein player choice, interaction, or participation significantly impacts the narrative, play, meaning, or experience. A major gaming platform means that the game is available on personal computers such as Windows, Mac, or Linux computers (including, but not limited to, via Steam, Epic, itch.io, browser, or direct download), iOS, Android, Switch, PlayStation, and/or Xbox systems. This definition will be provided as part of the nominating and voting ballots. 

The DisCon III committee expressed appreciation to Ira Alexandre and the Games Hugo Subcommittee of the Hugo Study Committee for their work in gathering the necessary data and evidence to support the creation of this special award. (An earlier version of Alexandre’s idea was discussed in their 2019 File 770 post “A Hugo Award for Best Game or Interactive Experience”.)

Members of CoNZealand and DisCon III as of December 31, 2020 are eligible to nominate works for the 2021 Hugo Awards, including for the special category Best Video Game. Nominations open in early 2021. Only members of DisCon III are eligible to vote on the final ballot. More information on the Hugo Awards is available at The Hugo Awards official site.

Register for DisCon III here. Follow the con on Twitter at @worldcon2021.

[Based on a press release.]

27 thoughts on “Ready Nominator One: Best Video Game Special Hugo Award Category Announced for 2021

  1. Not a gamer myself, but I’ll be curious to see what gets nominated. And what information might be be put together for the Hugo packet.

  2. Laura: The Wertzone (Adam Whitehead) has a preliminary list of what might be eligible

    I note that he says this is the first time a Videogame Hugo category will be awarded. However, there was a Videogame category in 2006, but there were not sufficient nominations for the category, and it was scrapped. So a Videogame Hugo being awarded next year may or may not actually happen.

    But he does make a good point of the problems involved with trying to determine eligibility for games which have been modified or released on different platforms in different years.

  3. @Paul Weimer, what can you tell me about Hades? Is it a console game or a PC/Steam game? What sort of gameplay is it?

  4. I think everything I have been playing this year has been from my backlog, with no 2020 releases. Then I don’t really have up-to-date hardware, and like as not won’t be able to run some of the games that appear on the ballot.

  5. They have clarified that the current rule is that a game will be eligible in the first year of its release (so 2020 for these purposes), not for additional releases on other formats. So Death Stranding, as a 2019 PlayStation 4 release, would not be eligible in 2020 despite its PC release in that calendar year.

    Remasters will only be eligible if it is a significant change to the original game. Final Fantasy VII Remake, released in 2020, would therefore qualify (because it is a complete, ground-up remake of the 1997 original, not to mention an alternate-timeline version of the same story, acknowledged in the game itself), but the 2020 PlayStation 5 remake of Spider-Man, which is only a graphical polish of the 2018 PlayStation 4 original, would not.

    @JJ: I think there’s been a significant cultural and generational shift since 2006 and a lot more, younger people are now paying attention to the Hugos (not that that video games are solely the preserve of the young, of course, as a forty-something who’s been playing games since Elite on the BBC Micro in 1984) that weren’t back then. The quality and variety of games available is also much higher and greater today. You see a lot of SFF authors talking about video games, and I think it’s quite likely that a lot more people voting in the awards today have played at least a somewhat modern video game versus read a semiprozine or novelette.

    @David Shallcross: That’s the same issue with novels/novellas/films etc, but it’s a good point that people know those are going to be in the awards, so if they want to stay current for the Hugos, they’ll at least keep on eye on new releases for the entire year. Since we didn’t know this special award was going to exist until now, it might be a bit late for people to suddenly pour into 2020 games to get up to speed. Some of those games are huge.

    It’ll be interesting to see what gets the award: a powerhouse, big-budget title with a high profile (Last of Us II, FF7 Remake or maybe Cyberpunk 2077 if it hits its release date in a fortnight), or a really well-regarded indie title like Hades or Cloudpunk.

  6. @Cassy B: Hades is a PC and Nintendo Switch game (possibly coming to other consoles later). It’s an isometric action game like Diablo, but it’s much smaller. It’s a “roguelike” game with the idea being that you play it again and again until you win or die, but both outcomes are valid because you carry forward your progression (skills, equipment etc) into the next play-through. The idea is you learn from each run through the game. Some people have completed the game dozens of times to unlock better weapons and skills. The game also has a storyline rooted in Greek mythology to explain why your character is locked into this repetitive cycle.

    Here is a reasonable review: https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/09/17/hades-review/

    An eligibility issue has been raised though: Hades was released in Early Access in 2018 and the rule is that the game has to be substantially different between EA and final release. For a lot of Early Access games that’s obvious (most of them are demos, lacking an ending and vast arrays of gameplay features) but for Hades, which you could play through and complete, it’s a bit less clear.

  7. Adam Whitehead: Thanks for the good information added in your comments.

    Last time the category was tried (2006) there wasn’t enough participation to make it work and you give sound reasons why it could succeed this time.

    I have two other concerns:

    Do Hugo voters bring a level of experience to this a category that matches their knowledge of text sff and art — will winning it be a meaningful honor?

    Actual game awards have a dozen or two dozen categories to reflect the wide variety of game types and technologies. Even the Dragon Awards have four! One Hugo category for all those apples, oranges, and papayas?

  8. Well, I can’t really see myself nominating in this category and probably not voting either, because I’m not a gamer, unless you count Pokemon Go and Candy Crush and the like.

    But it still will be interesting to see what the reaction is and what gets nominated.

  9. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 11/23/20 Not One Of These Pixels Will Scry For Me | File 770

  10. I still just can’t really see this working particularly well from a cost and access perspective. I’d love to be proven wrong; I love games, and they’ve evolved so much since I first played Sonic in the early 90s.

  11. Well overdue – this should work wit the larger group of people that have now come into the Hugo community in the last decade for whom Hanes are more just another strand of the genre. It may not be one everyone votes on but there are plenty of other categories where that applies at the moment.

  12. I haven’t played a lot of games in quarantine but I just ponied up for the latest World of Warcraft expansion. I had a bit of raid addiction going on during the Lich King era so I always try to keep one or two characters at max level in case I feel like re-embracing the lifestyle, plus occasionally I find myself longing to revisit some corner of the ginormous virtual world, like a mini-vacation, since I am avoiding taking real ones.

  13. @Mike:

    Do Hugo voters bring a level of experience to this a category that matches their knowledge of text sff and art — will winning it be a meaningful honor?

    I think it’s an interesting approach. Hugo voters might be more inclined to reward a game based on its SFF credentials and story more than its gameplay.

    I think with indie and small-profile games, winning will be a meaningful honour, mega-budget publishers probably won’t care so much, but that’s the same with the other categories (i.e. JK Rowling not bothering to even send a minion to collect her award for a few years).

    I have one friend who has already declared their new mission in life is to get Untitled Goose Game nominated for a Hugo. There was a two-goose version of the game released in 2020 so it’s arguably eligible, although I’m not entirely sure if the game is SFnal enough. No SF rational is given for the goose’s apparently phenomenal intelligence level in the game.

    Actual game awards have a dozen or two dozen categories to reflect the wide variety of game types and technologies. Even the Dragon Awards have four! One Hugo category for all those apples, oranges, and papayas?

    I can see that evolving further down the line with maybe some kind of category break for indie titles and mega-budget ones, but I think the old feeling that the Hugo Awards are primarily a literary prize (with additional media added on) will prevail and will stop them taking over.

  14. Actual game awards have a dozen or two dozen categories to reflect the wide variety of game types and technologies. Even the Dragon Awards have four! One Hugo category for all those apples, oranges, and papayas?

    As far as I remember (I never nominate or vote in those categories), two of the four Dragon Award categories are for tabletop and collectible card games, which would not be eligible anyway, since this special Hugo is specifically for videogames.

  15. Mike Glyer on November 23, 2020 at 4:05 pm said:

    Do Hugo voters bring a level of experience to this a category that matches their knowledge of text sff and art — will winning it be a meaningful honor?

    I think this is the most significant issue with the award

  16. As far as I remember (I never nominate or vote in those categories), two of the four Dragon Award categories are for tabletop and collectible card games, which would not be eligible anyway, since this special Hugo is specifically for videogames.

    Someone will no doubt be thinking of how to add those categories to the Hugos though 🙂

  17. Adam Whitehead: Sure, with a foot in the door – having one game Hugo — people will helpfully suggest how to fix the coverage by adding more game Hugo categories.

    But there we risk the tail wagging the dog. There are just four text fiction categories — and that’s the award’s center of gravity.

  18. Best series is still too new, only in its fourth year. Also, while the winners have all been good choices, the finalists in the series category sometimes show that Hugo voters just aren’t big series readers.

  19. @Cassy B I see Adam beat me to answering the question.(and thanks, Adam)

    the Early Access issue is a good one, because of the rules you cite. This is a whole can of worms because of the commonness of things like Early Access and betas and DLCs. Does the latest Civilization 6 DLC make Civ 6 eligible, or just the DLC eligible, for example? It does provide a whole slew of potential game modes and change the base game. Does that qualify? Boundary decisions!

  20. I do wonder how effectively one is able to compare games. With the written awards I make an effort to read most or all of the novel nominations, slotting the shorter fiction in where I can. Definitely now that we’re up to 6 per category and with family commitments this isn’t always possible.
    Suppose there are 6 video games to assess. Even assuming I have the right hardware to get access to each, then when new each might well be on the order of £50 for an AAA console game. Each might take a dozen hours of gameplay for a fair comparison. I don’t have the time or the money for that, and can’t see a voting packet including a download code for the new Horizon game or the like.
    In the end it’ll be back to “I’ll vote for the one of the six I’ve actually played”.

  21. @Nickpheas, while I share your concerns, I should note that before the Hugo packet was instituted (and THANK YOU, Hugo administrators, for that!) that’s essentially the way I voted on the short fiction. I could buy or borrow the novels from the library, but often had no access to the novellas or novelettes. “Well, I’ve read THAT one and it was good” was often the only way I could vote.

  22. “This is the best nominee I saw in the category last year” is a perfectly valid way to vote, and many Hugo Awards have been given on that basis.

  23. @bill sure but if everyone is doing that, then the award just goes to the one that most people have played. The sheer scale of indie versus AAA gaming is probably on par with indie versus blockbuster films. Eg, Hades (a massive indie success from an already-popular developer!) has sold 1 million copies in just over 2 years (the bulk of which were in its Early Access phase on Steam); Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (part of a Zelda spin-off franchise, though supposedly it’s canon, or at least initially it’s based on canon from Breath of the Wild) sold 3 million in 4 days.

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