Categories may be expanded or contracted from year to year, so these descriptions may refer to a group of categories. Categories are available in list form for convenience, but final categories are as they appear on the entry form.
For substantially original animation, including cinema scenes, traditional animation, Japanese anime, cut-scenes, in-game character animation, or object/environment animation.
Outstanding Art Direction (Period, Fantasy, Contemporary)
For detailed or aesthetically dramatic scene, set, or landscape design that appears during mostly interactive portions of a game.
Outstanding Camera Direction in a Game Engine
For the programming, design, and use of camera movement to enhance an interactive activity within a game, including movement that either takes place during interaction or provides another view of an immediately preceding action that was controlled by the player.
Outstanding Character Design
For the design of a character’s physical form, emphasizing the face and body and including hair style or mechanical accessories, but not costume.
Outstanding Control Design
For the effective use of a standard or specialized controller in the design of a game’s two-dimensional, limited 3D (i.e. railed), fully 3D, or VR control system, also known as a “control scheme.”
Outstanding Control Precision
For the accuracy, responsiveness, and hit detection of a game engine as the player controls the interactive portions of a game.
Outstanding Costume Design
For the design of a character’s costume and its detail, with little regard for the character’s physical form or hair style.
Outstanding Gameplay Design
For the design of a game’s premise, layout, character-environment relationships, planned pacing and/or development of the interactive experience within the game, and other creative ideas that are implemented through programming, with little emphasis on the form of the environment unless it has a direct and significant impact on game play.
Outstanding Direction in a Game Cinema
For the creative use of camera angles, movement, and timing to convey the ideas presented in a cinema or cut-scene.
Outstanding Direction in Virtual Reality
For cohesive guidance of the player’s attention, experience, investigation, or interaction within VR.
For deep systems of attributes, collisions, editors, or user resource management.
Outstanding Graphics, Technical
For outstanding achievement in the programming of in-game visual effects and other technically challenging graphics work.
Outstanding Lighting/Texturing Effects
For the depiction of light in an environment, including the use of filter-like imaging effects, the effects of light passing through or on objects, and the dramatic use of shadows.
Outstanding Dramatic Score
Dramatic scores tend to have full orchestration, somber or yearning or powerful or triumphant. Music accompanied by the spoken word/language of a modern culture or society, real or fictitious, is considered a song and therefore not eligible as music. However, original music with ancient Latin or similar vocals is eligible, because the vocals do not function as words in all practicality.
Outstanding Light Mix Score
A light mix is a lighter mood, often comedy or cartoony or rock and roll.
Outstanding Song Collection
For the recognition of song collections (with required music and lyrics) that appear in a game and have a significant impact on the overall enjoyment, mood, or experience.
Outstanding Song, Original or Adapted
For the music and lyrics of an original song or substantially altered song that, in its game form, has not been previously produced or published.
Outstanding Sound Mixing in Virtual Reality
For sound design of aural experiences delivered through a VR headset.
Outstanding Sound Editing in a Game Cinema
For outstanding achievement in editing sound to picture in a non-playable portion of a game, where the player is unable to generate sound or manipulate its timing.
Outstanding Sound Effects
For outstanding achievement in the depiction of natural or artificial sounds, particularly ambient sound that can not be manipulated.
Outstanding Use of Sound
For outstanding achievement in the programming, timing, and layering of sound elements, including the dramatic use of silence.
Outstanding Performance (Lead, Supp, Comedy, Drama)
Four awards are given for individual achievement in game-exclusive voice acting, honoring lead and supporting roles in games classified as comedy or drama.
Outstanding Writing in a Comedy
For outstanding achievement in writing a screenplay, scenario, executed treatment, and/or dialogue, with particular emphasis on the development of comedic characters and stories.
Outstanding Writing in a Drama
For outstanding achievement in writing a screenplay, scenario, executed treatment, and/or dialogue, with particular emphasis on the development of dramatic character-driven or plot-driven conflict.
Awards are also given for outstanding games taken as a whole in genres identified as Classic Revival, Franchise Action, Franchise Adventure, Franchise Family, Franchise Role Playing, Original Action, Original Adventure, Original Family, Original Role Playing, Fighting, Puzzle, Racing, Rhythm, Simulation, Special Class, Sports, and Strategy.
Game of the Year
The crown jewel of all these awards is, of course, Game of the Year. Interestingly, academy voters often split their vote so that a Game of the Year winner does not necessarily also pick up its applicable genre award.
Category changes since 2001
Categories canceled, modified, or replaced are: Original Musical Score, Voice Performance (for lead, for supporting, for sports games), Writing (for dialogue, for story), eSports Game, Original Puzzle Game, Franchise Puzzle Game, Innovation in Game Play, and Innovation in Game Technology. The Honorary Awards are also inactive. Replacement categories actively recognize performance, writing, and music in comedy and drama. Fighting, Racing, and Sports were no longer divided into franchise and new IP categories beginning with the year awarding work in 2023.