The Bafta Children's Awards 2018 was held yesterday and, in a rather wacky turn of events, gave the gong for best children's game to a mascot-themed turn-based strategy title heavily inspired by XCOM. Ubisoft's Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is certainly a high-quality game but, frankly, doesn't really seem to be a video game specifically for children.
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) November 25, 2018
It's not just me, either. The EU's PEGI rating board gave Mario & Rabbids a '7' rating, probably because of the slapstick violence, meaning the rating system doesn't consider it suitable for young children. You'd think that an 'all ages' rating would be a prerequisite for consideration in the children's category but, among the other nominees, Knack 2 also has a '7' PEGI rating. Speaking of those nominees, wow:
EVERYBODY’S GOLF: Development Team - Japan Studio, Clap Hanz/ Sony Interactive Entertainment
FRANTICS: Lau Koresgaard, Tim May, Claire Bromley - Napnok Games/ Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
KNACK 2: Development Team - SIE Japan Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
MARIO + RABBIDS KINGDOM BATTLE: Development Team - Ubisoft Paris & Ubisoft Milan/ Ubisoft
I'm not sure I've ever seen such an odd shortlist. Everybody's Golf for best kid's game, really? Frantics, a party game based around every player having their own mobile phone, is for kids? In this kind of company I have to admit Knack 2 is suddenly looking like Mr Tumble.
I don't want to wee-wee all over Ubisoft's chips, or indeed disparage any of these games. This just seems to be a bizarre roundup of titles that aren't really aimed at children, and in the case of the winner isn't even considered suitable for younger children. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Mario & Rabbids makes jokes like this.
Maybe I am Sir Herbert Gusset, wringing my hands and saying 'oh won't someone think of the children', but I'm not sure a game with gags about repressed daddy issues is the best offering for children that our industry can manage.
The BAFTA Children's Awards do roam across various media, so it's not like the event is particularly games-focused. There was another vaguely game-y winner on the night that seemed much more appropriate, with the 'Digital' category going to the excellent Hey Dugee: The Counting Badge (developed by Scary Beasties for the BBC).
A final reiteration: I don't have any beef with Mario & Rabbids as a game. It's a very fine game, as Kotaku's review will tell you.
But BAFTA's own description of the children's awards is that they represent "the very best in children's media, from programmes and films to presenters and performers, as chosen by BAFTA." In that context Mario & Rabbids really raises the eyebrows. Your mileage may differ but, for me, it shouldn't even have been near the shortlist. If 'chosen by BAFTA' is to mean anything in games, then the choices need to be a hell of a lot better-informed than this.