The Bafta Games Awards took place at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Thursday night, honoring 2021’s creative achievements in video games. It was the first time the ceremony was held in person since the pandemic and brought together the international video game industry to celebrate a range of titles – some with multi-million dollar budgets, others made by teams of less than 10.
The biggest winner of the night was PlayStation 5 sci-fi shooter Returnal, which took home accolades for its audio and music achievements alongside the prestigious Best Game award. The game’s lead actor, Jane Perry, also won the award for Performer in a Leading Role for her portrayal of space scout Selene. The performer in a supporting role was won by Kimberly Brooks, who played Hollis Forsythe in the psychedelic action game Psychonauts 2.
Many nominated games were developed under harsh conditions during the pandemic. “It was a really tough game to finish,” said a Forza Horizon 5 developer, winning the award for Best UK Game – one of many winners to show their emotions after a tough time for the industry.
Indie games did very well: The Artful Escape, a video game rock opera, won the Artistic Achievement award, and the heartfelt adventure Chicory: A Colorful Tale won in the family category. The entire eight-person team behind the indie photography adventure TOEM took to the stage to accept the prize for the first game.
No Man’s Sky, which was first released in 2016 to considerable controversy, won the Bafta for best evolving game, while Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart won for animation and technical achievement. Before Your Eyes, a game about the afterlife, won in the games beyond entertainment category, and the mysterious, unpredictable, and weird reviewer darling Inscryption took home the game design award.
The Game of the Year award, decided by public vote, was won by Unpacking, a touching and thoughtful game about moving and organizing belongings. It was picked up by the delighted and visibly surprised Tim Dawson and Wren Brier of Australian studio Witch Beam. The Unboxing also won Best Storytelling, beating bigger-budget competitors such as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and art-deco time travel game Deathloop. Despite receiving nominations in five categories, Deathloop won none. The other most nominated game, quirky, co-op adventure It Takes Two, won the multiplayer and original property categories.
A full list of winners can be found here.