As one of the video game industry's most prestigious annual events draws to a close, its awards ceremony will be broadcast live online from 10PM PST (2AM GMT) on February 18.
The DICE Summit in Las Vegas culminates in the 13th annual Interactive Achievement Awards where industry notables confer coveted accolades upon each other, and the event will be streamed via the Independent Film Channel's website.
Award winners are determined by a secret ballot of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' members, themselves drawn from different specializations within video gaming.
Many big games of 2009 are in line for honors: Assassin's Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dragon Age: Origins, Modern Warfare 2 and Uncharted 2 are familiar faces appearing in multiple categories, not least in the group nominated for Overall Game of the Year.
Three musical games are present in the nominations for Family Game of the Year: The Beatles: Rock Band, LEGO Rock Band, and Guitar Hero 5 join Nintendo's incredibly popular Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resort.
There's room for smaller companies at the AIAAs as well, as Amanita Design's Machinarium is one of the contenders for the Art Direction award. The independent Czech company initially drew critical praise for its two Samorost games, both available to play for free online, and then released this latest intruiging puzzler last year.
Social networking is also made part of 2009's accolades, as popular Facebook games Bejeweled Blitz, Farm Town, Restaurant City, and FarmVille are all nominated for the Social Networking Game of the Year award.
October's Borderlands had been given the kiss of death by one prominent industry analyst, as its launch date was perilously close to that of sales juggernaut Modern Warfare 2 and another of the year's big sequels, Assassin's Creed II.
However, Borderlands' irreverent, pop-culture referencing, and over-the-top approach to video gaming clichés won it a loyal and enthusiastic following and is regularly touted as the poster-child for additional downloadable content, with a third batch of extra missions expected to crash-land in March.
At the IAAs, it finds itself in the running for the Role-Playing Game award, along with massively multiplayer Champions Online, the epic Dragon Age: Origins, innovative DS title Bowser's Inside Story, and the rock-hard Demon's Souls.
It's also a surprise contender for the Online Game Play award, as is FarmVille, and the two find themselves in the company of Uncharted 2 and hot favorites Left 4 Dead 2 and Modern Warfare 2.
Brütal Legend, a comedy rock caper starring the voice talents of Jack Black and directed by influential game designer Tim Schafer, is up for awards in five categories including Outstanding Character Performance and Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction. Though the game may not have immediately taken off at retail, its caliber has certainly been well recognised by industry experts.
For consumers, Brütal Legend's appreciation could come at no better time, as it is now that the game's price is reaching bargain levels.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, nominees for the Casual Game of the Year are by no means throwaway or shallow games, but are included because their unconventional excellence or innovative design gave them a more wide-ranging appeal. Last year's winner Braid is testament to that.
Drawn: The Painted Tower is a slick point-and-click adventure, Flower is a chilled-out petal piloting game, Flight Control is an easy to learn and hard to master plane landing finger-fest, Plants vs Zombies takes the now familiar tower defense genre and makes it fun again, whilst Scribblenauts will make an in-game equivalent of almost any object that a player can spell out.
So although many of the most well-known games of 2009 will be receiving well-earned plaudits once again, there are a fair few hopefuls who are being accepted on merit alone. With a bit of luck, savvy consumers will be rescuing those titles from local stores' bargain bins in the days and weeks to come.Reuse content