2011 Aggie Awards

Best Writing - Drama: Gray Matter

 

 

There's a reason Jane Jensen is considered one of the finest authors ever to grace the adventure genre. From King’s Quest VI to the Gabriel Knight trilogy, her trademarks have been tight-knit, spellbinding plots; multi-faceted and compelling characters; thought-provoking, often mature themes and superb dialogue. But she’d been away from the genre a long time prior to her most recent endeavour, Gray Matter, a game marred by troublesome development delays that cast plenty of doubt on the success of the project. And while the game was indeed marred by some underwhelming production and design issues, the master storyteller proved she hadn’t lost her touch, as Jensen's deep, often touching, always sharp writing shone brightest among last year’s serious adventures.

The script’s most impressive achievement is its suspenseful ambiguity. Something strange is happening in Dread Hill House, home to the reclusive but brilliant Dr. David Styles, but players are left hanging until the very end between a rational, scientific explanation and a supernatural, metaphysical one. This cognitive uncertainty blends well with the game’s themes, like the difference between reality and illusion, and the power of the mind to influence the physical world. And then there are the characters, including street magician Samantha Everett as the other protagonist and the reluctant members of the Lambs' Club, each and every one of them richly detailed and skillfully crafted with distinctive personalities and interesting backgrounds to explore. And of course the dialogues are always believable and filled with references from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Harry Houdini, from Homer to Harry Potter. Overall, Gray Matter may not have been the masterpiece Jensen’s fans were ardently waiting for, but it is a marvellous accomplishment where it really counts, and is fully deserving of this year's Aggie for best dramatic writing.

Runners-Up: Gemini Rue, L.A. Noire, To the Moon, A New Beginning


Readers’ Choice: Gray Matter

 

 

Even without that Gabriel guy, once again Jane Jensen delivered a taut, riveting tale that walks the fine line between mystery and myth, as a rebellious young street magician helps a tormented neurobiologist in his potentially dangerous psychic experiments. The success of this haunting, emotionally-charged story is due largely to its compelling script, which you agree was the finest example of best dramatic writing last year.

Runners-Up: Gemini Rue, Black Mirror III, L.A. Noire, To the Moon


Next up: Best Character... the envelope, please!

Continued on the next page...



AD Gemini Rue can be purchased at:
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Gray Matter

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About the Author

Comments

MoonBird MoonBird
Feb 15, 2012

Why Gray Matter is there? And where is Black Mirror 3?

Miranna Miranna
Feb 16, 2012

I’m glad the reader’s choices were different (mostly) from the team’s. Not that I don’t like Portal 2, but really, you can’t compare it to other adventure games. It had a huge budget, to begin with, which wasn’t the case of Gray Matter, The Book of Unwritten Tales, or almost any adventure that came out this year…

Necrosis Thanatos
Feb 16, 2012

@MoonBird:  Since Gray Matter is clearly an adventure game and was released in 2011, it was a potential candidate for any of the Aggie awards.  Apparently, a majority of the AG staff and the readers who voted felt that the quality of its writing was the best among all other dramatic adventure games released last year.  Its inclusion here doesn’t seem to be all that puzzling.

As for Black Mirror 3, it appears that not enough of the AG staff nor this site’s readers felt it deserved any of the awards announced as of Wednesday, February 15, 2011.  Its exclusion does not seem to be a particularly deep enigma.

Oscar Oscar
Feb 16, 2012

I thought Gray Matter was 2010.

aimless
Feb 16, 2012

I totally see Stacking as the best concept.  Right on, staff.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 16, 2012

Gray Matter was released in Germany with an English language version in 2010, but our rules for eligibility require release in a major English language market (which didn’t happen until 2011).

smulan smulan
Feb 16, 2012

“Not that I don’t like Portal 2, but really, you can’t compare it to other adventure games. It had a huge budget”

- It shows that sometimes big budget produces good quality and sometimes small budget produces…eeh, good quality.

pfranzen
Feb 16, 2012

Glad to see an award for A New Beginning! Between this and Whispered World, Daedalic Entertainment is really starting to establish a pedigree for itself.

CoyoteAG CoyoteAG
Feb 16, 2012

I replayed Gray Matter a couple of weeks ago and I STILL have that freakin’ song in my head.

tsampikos tsampikos
Feb 17, 2012

Nice Award presentation. Nicely done!  Book of Unwritten tales earns the title of the best Adventure game of the year 2011. It was the logical and expected choce. The readers choices in some cases “corrected” the staff’s choices.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 17, 2012

Well, the reader vote shows a slightly more traditional leaning, but that’s hardly a surprise. All games are deserving winners, though, reader and staff results alike.

pfranzen
Feb 17, 2012

Man, what is with all the love for Book of Unwritten Tales?! It was a fine adventure game, sure, but marred by mediocre translation and voice acting, and nearly beaten to death by some of the most forced pop-culture references in a genre already strangled by them. If the game removed nearly all of them and stopped making fun of itself so much, it would’ve been so better off for it.

pfranzen
Feb 17, 2012

But beyond that—great awards presentation, as always, of course. I look forward to reading this every year.

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 17, 2012

As always I find readers’ choices more fair. 7 out of 17 in choise similarity is food for thought.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 18, 2012

Reader polls are ultimately popularity contests. Staff votes are not. Both are equally valid for what they are; neither has anything to do with other. Not much to think about beyond that.

rtrooney rtrooney
Feb 18, 2012

Nice to see To The Moon getting some well-deserved mentions.

seanparkerfilms
Feb 18, 2012

Wow! That’s a lot of love for Portal 2. Seeing as how I bought that game months ago, I should really get crackin’ on it.

PadanFain
Feb 19, 2012

A New Beginning was a much better adventure than Book of Unwritten Tales, both story and pacing-wise. I urge anyone who didn’t play to check it out. Whispered World also.

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 19, 2012

No they are not popularity contests and staffs’ aren’t more highly evaluated/appreciated because they derive from “the elit delegates”. That’s your opinion. They are equal not for what they are, they are equal just because they come from equal opinions.

LiK
Feb 19, 2012

Gray Matter was the Reader’s Choice? I’m kinda shocked. I thought it had a terrible story and a dreadful ending.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 19, 2012

Don’t put words in my mouth, dekaneas, especially when you’re incapable of doing so even remotely correctly. I most certainly didn’t say our votes were elite. I said they didn’t rely strictly on popularity (read: number of votes for games played by the most people). That’s simply a fact. And if you don’t think the likes of Gray Matter got far more reader votes than, say, To the Moon simply because far more people have played the former, you’re dreaming.

TechSmurfy TechSmurfy
Feb 19, 2012

Good point by @Jackal; I’ve been in the staff’s place of organizing yearly award events and know exactly how it is - @dekaneas don’t try to undermine their selections; if there weren’t for them, we WOULD be served reader awards for only the mainstream ones (even in the indie gaming spectrum).

It’s simple math nature. And if there are games that deserve more recognition and acclaim than what they already got, it’s for the far-more-experienced-than-us editors to grab these chances and balance the injustice gaps, in their own, but respected, subjectivity.

I’ll be sure to check out the winners posted in this article - as you can excuse me, I’m an old gamer and haven’t played a memorable adventure since… good ol’ Tex. Next in my play queue are adventures from the early ‘00s, so Gemini Rue and Gray Matter will have to wait a little bit.

Glad AG is alive and kickin’ though, I hate the whole game industry distorting traditional adventure and rpg genres into action-oriented gameplay. I guess they have to somehow justify the use of their multi-billion dollar hardware. We, on the other hand, don’t have to Smile

tsa tsa
Feb 20, 2012

The Aggies are a fun read every year, but every year it pains me to see that I didn’t play nearly enough adventure games to be able to have an opinion on any of the categories!

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Feb 20, 2012

A poll is complete and capable to produce coclusions when it covers all possible questions. You may refer to sales, marketing or even number of topics created, but if there wasn’t a question “which games of the list did you play?”, your popularity argument is ultimately an assumption and a logical leap. And as long as I can’t see such question in the poll, I can continue to dream.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 20, 2012

If you responded to the poll and didn’t personally play all 67 eligible games, you already know you’re believing a lie. So hey, whatever works for you, but as I said, no food for thought whatsoever.

subbi
Feb 21, 2012

It’s obvious that Dekaneas has no background in statistical analysis! There is no way that the average respondent has played all of the games. I’d be surprised if they, on average, have played more than 5 or 6 from the list. This indeed makes it nothing more or less than a popularity contest..i.e. only popular games were considered by the broaded group and likely gotten most of the votes.

Another thing altogether is whether the AG reviewers have played all or most of them…I would doubt that aswel, but between them they most likely covered the whole list in a reasonably fair manner….
100% objectivity does not exist!

Jackal Jackal
Feb 21, 2012

As a staff, all eligible games were played and represented by at least one person, but none of us played all the games personally, no. Some of us played very few. But that’s why we don’t make ours a purely democratic result. A very strong showing for some games only a few played in some cases counts for more than games with more votes for games played by far more people. It doesn’t happen all that often—there’s usually a good reason why the popular game are popular—but it’s the only way to at least partly level the playing field so all games have a chance.

Pumba!Ramba
Feb 23, 2012

Looks like the staff awards were more of a popularity contest since Portal 2 and LA Noire are crazy popular mainstream stuff, while Book of Unwritten Tales is an obscure genre game.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 23, 2012

Not around hardcore adventure gamers, it isn’t, which are the people who visit this site the most.

rtrooney rtrooney
Feb 23, 2012

This is such a tiresome argument. In a few weeks the Academy Awards will have been presented. Will the Oscars for Best Picture et al, as decided by the members of The Academy, match my personal selections? Highly unlikely. Does that make me a better judge of movies than them, or vice versa? Despite personal opinion to the contrary, no. I’ve also learned to live with the fact that To the Moon got an honorable mention rather than best in show. The results are what they are.



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