The 3rd Annual ELAN Awards
The 3rd annual ELAN Awards took place last Saturday at the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel and it was a real energetic, warm gathering of industry professionals coming together to celebrate 2008's best in not only video games, but visual effects and animation.
I grudgingly slapped on my swank golden tie and all-purpose dress suit to take in the evening's festivities. First up on the agenda was a little bit of pre-party mingling. There was friendly, close-knit feel to offset the classy surroundings. Sequestered on the convention level of the hotel, just outside the Pacific Ballroom where the dining and awards would take place, attendees of all stripes leisurely toured the concourse as they chatted and sipped from the plentiful flutes of sparkling champagne.
I myself made certain of always keeping a glass of bubbly in hand as I made my rounds. In my other hand was my camera, which I was sure to take many, many photos with......Alright, so the photo idea didn't pan out as expected. While I made certain to pack extra sets of batteries with me, I didn't expect all of them to have close to zero charge. Oops. Here gentle reader, is just one of the many trials and tribulations of your typical games writer.
Undeterred, I mingled my way into some interesting conversations, including a prolonged discussion of all things Fallout with a very poised, very enthusiastic young man who turned out to be Shane Plante, nominee and eventual winner of Best Student Animated Production for his short, Snared. I also traded some hellos with Offload Studios founder, Bill Henderson and his wife/co-founder Debbie. An extremely young company based in Abbotsford, BC, Offload Studios specializes in 3D printing and was responsible for producing the impressive award statuettes handed out to all the evening's winners.
It seemed like an eternity -- although that was probably my grumbling stomach talking -- before they finally opened the doors to the ballroom to kick off the main event. Guests made their way to their assigned seats. I lucked out and found myself sitting with Tiffany Chester, sister to ELAN co-founder Holly Carinci, along with her possé of friends and close acquaintances.
Then the lights dimmed, the loud speakers boomed in and the show was underway. Tom Kenny, the inimitable voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, took to the stage as host and really started the night off right with his high energy, improvisational skills and joke-laden opening monologue.
As for the awards, I won't enumerate every single one that was handed out that night, but I will stress just how completely Left 4 Dead and Valve dominated all the major awards, taking home statuettes for Best PC Game, Best Art Direction, Best Multiplayer and Best Video Game of the Year, among others. It was a near sweep, upset only by the likes of other heavy contenders such as Gears of War 2 and Fallout 3.
There were some rough spots to the ELAN show production this year. The presentation screen wasn't always clear and the demo reels became repetitive. Sound and overall cueing of segments could have used some more polish as some presenters found themselves getting cut off mid-sentence while a pre-recorded announcer read out the list of nominees for them. These were all minor hiccups that did little to damper the festive atmosphere of the show and only speaks to the fact that the ELANS is still a young event that is rapidly finding its feet and is growing each year.
As if to stress the point, many notable personalities were absent, chief among them Gabe Newell and Shigeru Miyamoto, who was inducted into the ELAN Video Game Hall of Fame. Valve staff writer, Chet Faliszek, accepted the numerous awards bestowed upon Left 4 Dead.
Overall, I had a blast at 2009 ELAN Awards. I very much expect it to increase in profile and impact as the show, and the video game industry as whole, matures.
The final tally of winners in the video game category are:
1. VIDEO GAME OF THE YEAR
Left 4 Dead
2. BEST CONSOLE GAME
Todd Howard, Game Director; Emil Pagliarulo, Lead Designer & Writer; Gavin Carter, Lead Producer
3. BEST PC GAME
Left 4 Dead
4. BEST CASUAL/ARCADE GAME
Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst
Big Fish Games
Pat Wylie, Adrian Woods, Chris Campbell, Producer
5. BEST MOBILE/HANDHELD GAME
Club Penguin :Elite Penguin Force
1st Playable Productios/Disney Interactive
Tobi Saulnier, Founder & CEO, 1st Playable Productions; Zhenelle Falk, Producer/ Designer; Andrew Carroll, Lead Programmer; Ian McConahey Stead, Lead Artist
6. BEST SOUND in a VIDEO GAME PROD'N
Mike Larson, Audio Director; Steve Jablonsky, Composer; Jamey Scott, Sound Designer; Joey Kuras, Sound Designer
Epic Games, Microsoft
Gears of War 2
7. BEST ART DIRECTION
Istvan Pely, Lead Artist
8. BEST GAME DESIGN
Left 4 Dead
9.OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL INNOVATION
Left 4 Dead