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In a vain (or perhaps vein) attempt to establish a trend, I bring you the three things you really need to know about the AIAS Awards show held Thursday night in the Red Rock Ballroom at the Red Rock Resort beside Red Rock Canyon in Nevada:

  • Jay Mohr is a funny man.
  • Alex Rigopolous is a funny looking man.
  • Chris Taylor isn’t funny at all. Sorry Chris, but it’s true.

Jay Mohr, perhaps best known for his stint as host of NBC’s Last Comic Standing hosted the event, in spite of being apparently very ill, and, as they say, killed. There wasn’t a single thing that came out of that man’s mouth that wasn’t funny, and I respect him greatly for his commitment, and his willingness to share the moment with the game industry, not simply make fun of it.

Aside from Mohr’s valiant attempt to perform in spite of his illness, the evening was largely drama-free. There was the time when Mohr slammed his fist down so hard on the podium the AIAS logo fell off. And the time he was heckled by an award winner, who called him Matthew McConaughey. And the time he called Microsoft’s Shane Kim “that Asian Guy.” OK, so aside from Jay Mohr, there wasn’t much drama.

Ken Kutaragi and Mike Morehaim threatened to get all misty-eyed when they were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award and the AIAS Hall of Fame Award, respectively. And their misty-eyedness threatened to make the rest of us misty-eyed. There’s something about seeing a man finally recognized for a lifetime dedication to one brand, arguably the most successful videogame brand in the world. And in the case of Morehaim, who thanked his parents for forcing him to do the legwork to find out which console was the better buy – the Atari 2600 or the one he went home with, the Bally Astrocade – seeing a man responsible for launching the single-most successful videogame in the world get tears in his eyes thinking about his first console can’t help but make you a bit wet in the eyelashes.

But aside from those juicy bits of emotion-laden awkwardness, the evening was all business with a few surprises here and there. We had a three-way tie for first place, with BioShock, Portal/The Orange Box and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare each bringing in four awards, although Call of Duty 4 won the evening’s highest honor: Best Overall Game. But perhaps the most intriguing bit of business involved Rock Band, the clear audience favorite (the Rock Band demo unit in the convention center has had a line since the conference opened), winning Best Family Game (OK, sure), and the award for innovation, which, a source close to the Harmonix table tells me even they didn’t think they deserved.

The moment of the night: David Jaffe stepping up to the podium to present an award and discovering the microphone was too high for him to reach. “Anti-short people,” he muttered under his breath. Adding a “fuck you all” to the end of his pre-written dialogue.

The other moment of the night: the boys from Infinity Ward remarking, in awe, that they’d never won three awards in one night before, right before they won their fourth.

In all, it was a glorious celebration of excellence in game design. There was also an open bar, which, as we all know, is the key to any successful event. The complete list of winners follows, along with the winners of the Applause Meter Award for each category; the games that received the most applause when introduced. Oddly, this didn’t always predict a winner, and in some cases the games were presented so close together there wasn’t time for applause at all, so the distinction is largely meaningless and not at all scientific. But hey, I had to do something to pass the time. It’s not like I could play with my DS at the awards show.

Next Page: The Complete Awards Winners List

AIAS Awards Winners

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Hand-held Game of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Applause Meter Winner: Puzzle Quest

Family Game of the Year: Rock Band
Applause Meter Winner: Rock Band

Outstanding Achievement in Animation: Assassin’s Creed
Applause Meter Winner: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: BioShock
Applause Meter Winner: BioShock

Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering: Crysis
Whoa Meter Winner: Crysis

Outstanding Achievement in Character Performance: Portal
Applause Meter Winner: Portal

Outstanding Achievement in Story Development: BioShock

Outstanding Achievement in Gameplay Engineering: Portal

Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Downloadable Game of the Year: Puzzle Quest
Applause Meter Winner: fl0w

Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition: BioShock
Applause Meter Winner: God of War II

Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack: Rock Band

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: BioShock

Cellular Game of the Year: skate
Applause Meter Winner: Diner Dash 2

Roleplaying Game of the Year: Mass Effect
Applause Meter Winner: Mass Effect

Racing Game of the Year: Motorstorm
Applause Meter Winner: Motorstorm

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Outstanding Achievement in Game Design: Portal
Applause Meter Winner: Three-way tie: BioShock, Super Mario Galaxy and Portal

Outstanding Innovation in Gaming: Rock Band
Applause Meter Winner: Super Mario Galaxy

Adventure Game of the Year: Super Mario Galaxy
Applause Meter Winner: God of War II

Sports Game of the Year: skate
Applause Meter Winner: skate

Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year: Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
Applause Meter Winner: World in Conflict

Action Game of the Year: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Applause Meter Winner: None – the audience was stunned to silence by the vapidity of the presenters; two of the frag dolls, whose names failed to register, and whose IQs must have been lower than their necklines.

Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year: World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
Applause Meter Winner: Guess

Computer Game of the Year: The Orange Box
Applause Meter Winner: BioShock

Console Game of the Year: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Applause Meter Winner: Mass Effect (Although Rock Band was nominated, and had heretofore dominated the Applause Meter Awards, by this point in the evening, Rock Band Fatigue had set in, and the applause was dwindling.)

Overall Game of the Year: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

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