The 2024 Nebula Award for Game Writing

Baldur's Gate 3 takes home the Nebula for Game Writing

The 2024 Nebula Award for Game Writing
Baldur's Gate 3. Source: Press Kit.

The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) gives its annual awards called the Nebulas at a conference each year. I had the privilege of attending the Nebula conference in person the past two years, with the 2023 show in Anaheim, California, and the 2024 show not far away in Pasadena.

Video games and their developers participate in the Nebulas as well, with a chance to receive accolades for the many rich stories we enjoy in the interactive medium. In 2023, Elden Ring won the award for best writing in a video game, facing competitors such as Stray, Horizon: Forbidden West, and Pentiment. I was lucky to meet the developers of Stray at the conference, though the teams don't need to attend in person to receive their awards.

The nominees

For a game and its team to become a finalist, enough SFWA members and conference attendees need to submit their nominees, and after submissions, the same parties vote on their favorites among them. While sometimes an indie underdog will receive enough votes, such as Evil Hat Productions game Thirsty Sword Lesbians in 2021, AAA titles also tend to enter the fray.

You can view the nominees and winners from previous years on the SFWA official website under the "Best Game Writing" category. The 2024 contenders included Alan Wake II, Baldur's Gate 3, Dredge, Ninefox Gambit: Machineries of Empire Roleplaying Game, Chants of Sennaar, and The Bread Must Rise.

[RA]The 2024 Nebula Award for Game Writing
2024 Nebula Awards screen before the ceremony started. Source: Author.

What makes the criteria for game writing to qualify for such an award? Members tend to nominate stories that promise immersion, logical if not orderly narratives, a fairly difficult level of gameplay, and emotional storytelling. When Hades won in 2020, it was praised for the difficulty spikes that made the eventual victories that much more rewarding, but it was also an artful, story-rich game. Spiritfarer, another 2020 nominee, received many commentaries about how its narrative explored the nature of death.

The winner

Considering its track record, it should come as little surprise that Baldur's Gate 3 won the 2024 Nebula Award for Game Writing. Baldur's Gate 3 received plenty of praise and word-of-mouth hype within days of release and even won Game of the Year at the Game Awards. Tumblr posts shared appreciation for the animation style and character dynamics, with screencaps of favorite moments.

Many players praised the immersive gameplay and narrative choices that can drastically impact your experience, and how you can decide to become a savior or a selfish being. And yes – players can pet the dog companion, Scratch. When you have these all-around benefits, you can see why Baldur's Gate 3 knocked it out of the park.

Baldur's Gate 3. Source: Press Kit.

The joy of nomination

Even without winning, a game receiving a finalist nomination shows not only how well-received it was, but how many people it clearly impacted. From a practical standpoint, it builds a developer's cred to win such an award and can open the game and its creative team up to networking opportunities. And emotionally, it's payoff for years of hard work, coding, and beta-testing.

Not all of these stories change lives necessarily, but they provide moments of joy and catharsis that players can remember and carry into their own experiences. Not all impactful games can be nominated or victorious, but the ones that make it this far have impacted the many people who love them. And that love means the teams did their job, and made a story that fans want to spend hours with.


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