Unpacking is One of the Biggest Game Awards Snubs

The Game Awards 2021 are just around the corner, and speculation is running high as players and journalists alike try to guess the winners. The nominees for the awards were announced last month, after being chosen by a jury panel consisting of representatives from 103 media outlets. However, Unpacking, an Indie title that made waves this year, is curiously absent from the list.

With average scores in the mid-80s on Metacritic, Unpacking is one of the most impactful independent video games to release in 2021. The game won over critics and fans alike with its combination of relaxing, zen gameplay and slow-burning story. Despite this, it's failed to make it into the five nominees for the Best Indie category of the Game Awards 2021, leading many to wonder why it has been snubbed.

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Nominees for Best Indie Game at The Game Awards 2021

Unpacking may not have made the list for Best Indie Game, but the five titles that did include Twelve Minutes, Death's Door, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Inscryption, and Loop Hero. Each of these titles scored great reviews in 2021 and certainly represents some of the best indie games of the year. However, not all of them were as well-received by fans and critics as Unpacking was.

Despite its unique gameplay design, thriller title Twelve Minutes has drawn criticism both for dragging in the mid to late-game and for its handling of domestic violence without proper content warnings. Unlike Unpacking, Twelve Minutes failed to break the 80 mark in its Metacritic score for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. This makes it particularly odd that these critical opinions would have been ignored while choosing nominees for the Best Indie award.

Similarly, Kena: Bridge of Spirits didn't garner quite the same level of critical acclaim as Unpacking in terms of Metacritic score. Although it was generally well-reviewed, many critics pointed out a lack of originality in the gameplay mechanics, something that indie games often focus on. Despite this, Kena: Bridge of Spirits has picked up three nominations at The Game Awards 2021, for Best Art Direction, Best Debut, and Best Indie. While every game nominated for the latter category is a great indie experience, the idea that Unpacking didn't deserve a single nomination is hard to credit.

Why Unpacking Was Snubbed at The Game Awards 2021

There are a few different reasons why Unpacking may have been snubbed at The Game Awards 2021. The first is simply that the game was too short to match up to its more lengthy rivals. Unpacking can be completed in less than three hours, a quick experience even compared to other indie titles. Nominee Loop Hero clocks in at around 25 hours, while Kena: Bridge of Spirits offers roughly 10 hours of gameplay. A short game isn't necessarily a inferior one, but if it came to breaking a tie between two well-received titles, length might have been the deciding factor. In fact, length may have been even more relevant if cost was considered. Unpacking is priced at $20, a higher than average sum for a 3 hour indie game.

The other reason that Unpacking may have been overlooked at the Game Awards 2021 is its niche gameplay loop. Although indie games often explore unusual gameplay mechanics, Unpacking's simple puzzles may have left jurors considering it too niche for nomination. The unusual gameplay is more about atmosphere and relaxation than telling a story or challenging players, and a perceived lack of mass-appeal might have been enough to see Unpacking edged out, leaving it the biggest snub of The Game Awards 2021.

Unpacking is available for PC, Switch, and Xbox.

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John Higgs (483 Articles Published)

John has been writing about videogames for almost a decade, and playing them for almost three. His greatest passion is for Grand Strategy and immersive RPGs, but he's dabbled in pretty much every genre out there.

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