I don't know when exactly it clicked in my mind that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was my Game of theYear. The beauty of running through vast open fields, populated by herds of mammoths, and their frost giant companions. The panic of having a dragon bear down on you from out of nowhere, knowing you aren't prepared to deal with the airborne menace.
But I have a good idea of when it truly clicked. A few nights ago I was showing my friends the game, and what you can do with the saw mills. Unluckily enough the wolf corpse had disappeared. So instead I killed half of a village to fuel my "lumber mill of death".
Watching corpses go floppity on a blade was one of the funniest moments I've seen in a game, and that it was entirely my doing made it even better. Skyrim is a true sandbox, with absolutely compelling gameplay to boot. The freedom it looses upon you as a player is astounding, and to do so in such a fully realized world, where any other developer would rein you in to see exactly what they wanted you to.
Skyrim is the true embodiment of what a Game of the Year should be. Incredible depth, freedom, and fantastic design that will lend itself to years of playability. Long after other games have died and collected dust, this one will still be going strong.
But that's not to say other games haven't lit my passions aglow. Here's a quick list of those that made a lasting impression on me:
1) Battlefield 3 - I've never been the biggest into multiplayer shooters. BF3 didn't change that, but it showed me that there is much more out there than CoD or Halo. It's empowering to run through a city in a tank laying waste. And completely frightening running away and cowering from an attack chopper you have no hope of besting. Whatever your needs, BF3 suits it.
2) Deus Ex: Human Revolution - One of the most fleshed out, beautifully realized worlds I've ever seen. I'm not a huge familiar in the Deus Ex world, having only played DE2; but after seeing this I can only sit back and hope they continue to come back to this well. The freedom of choice is amazing (for the most part), and you rarely feel punished for playing a certain way. I'm a huge fan of Ghost in the Shell (the manga more than the anime); and saying this story is just as good as that classic is a high compliment indeed.
3) Street Fighter 3: Online Edition - There's nothing quite as satisfying as going back to a long lost love. SF3 is that long lost love. There's not much I can say about it to show why it's in this list. The beautiful 2d sprites, the perfectly balanced gameplay, the depth to the game in and of itself. What truly made is stand out was having my friend Damian visit me, and we fired up this old flame, and were transported back to when I had just barely graduated high school in 2005. There truly hasn't been a game this year to match such a pleasing experience. And I doubt there will be for a long time to come.