The Goodies 2020: Games Writer of the Year

by Team GGW

Awarding Games Writer of the Year marks the formal conclusion of #TheGoodies2020. Each nominee represents a different aspect about what, in our estimation, 2020 entails. This process, from beginning to end, is a celebration, and that celebration formally concludes with a “winner” being crowned here.

There are no losers at The Goodies. Each piece, publication, video, and author nominated deserves attention. Hundreds of other pieces do as well. We encourage you to share them. Highlight them. Uplift them.

Just as gamers may be frustrated by the pace media moves on from releases as it’s swamped by a deluge of new releases, we share the sentiment when masterful works are lost only to be found by some rabbit-hole years later, a work that endures but is forgotten. Good Games Writing runs these awards to celebrate these pieces. And we challenge you to celebrate your own; be they works you’ve created, or those you simply adore, it’s never too late to celebrate.

The nominees…

GAMES WRITER OF THE YEAR

KAT BAILEY is one of those writers who could be celebrated for many different reasons. At every juncture this year we’ve praised her work on sports games–we consider her the pre-eminent figure on that beat–but it grossly underrepresents her range. Consider if you will her meditation on Ghost of Tsushima which is in itself a reflection on open-world games. The piece isn’t exclusively negative about Tsushima but it lands intentional, thoughtful blows, shattering its fragile confidence. Bailey is also one of the figures we trust when it comes to RPGs, big and small, and her article on Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon‘s Switch release feels like a magazine article of yore. In that sense, Kat Bailey reminds us of the games media we grew up with, while boldly propelling herself, and the medium, forward.

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NICOLE CARPENTER doesn’t neatly fit any one box. We’ve come to know Carpenter as a strong reporter who can handle serious stories while also juggling in softer news, adding context that is often lacking elsewhere. So, too, can she deliver criticism, ranging from tentpole releases to more intimate experiences. There’s really no beat Nicole Carpenter can’t handle, except, perhaps, returning to her Animal Crossing island.

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YUSSEF COLE delivers incisive criticism. We’ve already lauded his work on Star Wars Squadrons in these pages–challenging what it means to be fascist in a game that attempts to paint its villains as inclusive–but it is representative of the depth Cole can deliver. The (then) current political moment is deftly woven into the criticism of the game. It’s something he pulls off in his criticism of The Last of Us Part II. Cole weaves in works reflecting on American exceptionalism into his takedown of the Call of Duty franchise, one that mischaracterizes the nature of American involvement in the Gulf, unironically casts heroes only for them to be cast aside by the forces they fight for, and otherwise lacks ideology.

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COURTNEY CRAVEN is but one person, one part, of Can I Play That?, a website dedicated to accessibility in gaming. Her reviews, in particular, have changed our views on what needs to be covered, on what’s important. Her PS5 review puts more focus on the DualSense than practically any other we’ve seen while also tackling baked in features like the system’s screen reader. Her Deaf/Hard of Hearing reviews have revealed new insights into game development that we’ve previously allowed ourselves not to notice. And her willingness to discuss chronic illness and how it impacts every area of life, including recreation, made us that much more willing to discuss our own similar challenges.

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ELISE FAVIS produces works that we find ourselves getting lost in. Her review/interview hybrid of Spiritfarer stands as one of the most interesting works we read in 2020 despite it looking, well, pretty average. It’s not, in fact, a review, but the way Favis knows her subject and appreciates it is fully on display, and the resultant interview sings. We had a brief fascination with Ooblets largely because of Favis’ work covering it, bugs and all, because again we were sucked in by the writing and framing of the piece. It isn’t all rainbows and lollipops, though, and Favis can pull together a breaking news story as she did when Montreal police investigated a hostage threat at Ubisoft Montreal.

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NATALIE FLORES is capable of delivering in depth insights into games like few others. When it came to The Last of Us Part II, Flores’ work included “a gender double standard“, a thorough examination of Dina through the eyes of those who brought her to life, motherhood, and seeing herself represented in the game. There were reviews–her best are done in the hyper-focused constraints at Fanbyte–but ultimately, Flores excels when she bares a bit of her soul and expands the minds of her audience as she does in one of the most important pieces of 2020.

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ARON GARST is a jack-of-all trades who can seemingly be found everywhere. When we talk about service writing–the people that track game updates on the regular for us–we think Garst. Fortnite, PUBG, CoD, whatever, Garst can handle it. He’s also one of the people we ascribe to being keenly aware of Among Us’ rise and writing some of the best pieces on it to date. That breadth of writing means when Aron Garst tells us enough is enough on the player front in CoD: Warzone, we listen. When he drops an Overwatch League profile we take notice. And when he explains the new hotness in games we pay attention.

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STACEY HENLEY has already won our ‘Best Feature’ award for her masterful examination of Cyberpunk 2077’s toxic marketing. But it’s fitting that on International Women’s Day she be named to this group as it was a piece on this day last year that began a change in our thinking that dawned on the realization this was going to be Henley’s year. That year is built on reporting of topics that won’t always get noticed, Genshin Impact guides, and surprising angles. And it’s built on work at Into the Spine like this fantastic piece.

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MICHAEL HIGHAM pours himself into his writing. You can see it in so many of his pieces but it’s especially noticeable when he’s talking Final Fantasy or Tony Hawk. He handles ongoing coverage of Among Us masterfully and his Xbox Series X impressions, benchmarking, and review were all stellar. It’s no wonder GameSpot continues to trust him with some of the biggest and heaviest reviews though he can still knock it out of the park with even something a little smaller.

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CIAN MAHER is forever linked to The Witcher 3 in our eyes. He’s its chief evangelist when he’s not promoting Guinness. And we mean that with all due love and deference. Seriously, have you seen this piece on the pub in Dishonored? If someone has a Witcher take out there it’s best you cross-reference the idea with his body of work. When he’s not Witcher-ing, he’s reporting on indies (we’re counting that last one as a Witcher piece, by the way) or dropping features with interesting angles. Cian Maher is all hustle all the time.

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Those are the 10 games writers we think embody the very best of 2020. There’s guides. Reporting. Criticism. Accessibility. Sports Games. RPGs. And The Witcher 3. It’s all there. These writers are our present and our future.

Our hats off to each and every one.

Little remains to be said about our winner except to say the future is bright. Daily news, service writing, in-depth criticism, and powerful features are all in Flores’ wheelhouse. We could spotlight more pieces, if you like: This Necrobarista review plays to her strengths just as this cautious approach to FF’s writing does. Her Bird Alone diary entries fascinated us almost as much as the game itself. This piece on romance in games is exquisite. Even her news reporting is buoyed by a unique point-of-view that enhances everything she touches.

For those reasons we are pleased to announce that Natalie Flores is the 2020 Games Writer of the Year!

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